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The Crimson football team won the Rose Bowl in the leather-helmet days and famously tied Yale in 1968, and the Harvard rowers can hold their own against Oxford and Cambridge in the Henley Regatta. The school has placed first in the annual U.S. News & World Report academic rankings for five consecutive years.

But, until recently, Harvard has had little to brag about in basketball.

Then Lin emerged as an NBA star in 2011, when the Crimson also won a share of their first-ever Ivy League men’s basketball title. And, last year, they won the conference championship outright to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946. (They lost to Vanderbilt 79-70.)

The chances of a repeat were said to be doomed when Harvard’s senior co-captains withdrew from school last fall in the wake of a plagiarism investigation. But senior Christian Webster, who played little last year, and freshman Siyani Chambers emerged to lead the Crimson to a third straight Ivy title.

Harvard was such an underdog that only 4.5 percent of the more than 3 million brackets collected by Yahoo Sports picked Harvard to beat New Mexico. But the Crimson pulled off the biggest surprise of the tournament’s first full day, knocking out the Mountain West champions and earning the school’s first-ever victory over a team ranked in The Associated Press Top 10.

“They had a rough year, losing the two team captains and relying a lot on freshmen and sophomore players,” said Lin, who graduated in 2010 and never made it to the NCAAs. “It’s just pretty cool.”

And maybe now Harvard is, too.

“You could tell, even last night, just everyone saying `nerd, geek, whatever, whatever, whatever,’” Lin said. “All that stuff, they keep saying it and, yeah, it’s a joke. But I think eventually people will realize that even though you go to Harvard, you can still hoop.”


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AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan contributed to this story from Houston.