Revenge of the nerds: Harvard moves on at NCAAs

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Talk about revenge of the nerds!

Bill Gates is, like, the coolest guy on the planet. “Big Bang Theory” is the highest-rated show on television.

And, in the strangest twist of all, Harvard is getting ready for the next round of the NCAA tournament.

Being a geek has never been hipper.

Those brainiacs from the Ivy League whipped up big, burly New Mexico 68-62, taking down a third-seeded squad that went into the tournament as a trendy Final Four pick.

Time to reassess the world order.

Go with Harvard in their next game against Arizona on Saturday, no matter how big of a mismatch it seems on paper. Forget points per game and turnover-to-assist ratios. Looking at SAT scores and grade-point averages. My only regret is that MIT didn’t get an invitation to the 68-team field. I don’t even know if they have a basketball team, but if they did, I’d be picking them as well.

Full disclosure: My 14-year-old son is a total nerd. Revels in the title, actually. Was voted “Most Likely To Succeed” by his eighth grade class, but has no idea what’s going on in the NCAA tournament. When I told him Harvard had beaten the Lobos, his reply was, “That’s nice.” When I asked him if he knew what sport I was talking about, he said, “Nope.” Then he returned to reading his “Star Wars” book.

The Harvard players knew how significant it was. They didn’t even have to be brain surgeons to figure it out. Their university was founded in 1636, but this was the first time the Crimson had ever won a game in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s kind of nice to break the stereotype that we’re the nerdy kids and show people that we can play basketball as well,” Wesley Saunders, a sophomore majoring in sociology, said Friday.

Laurent Rivard, a junior guard from that basketball hotbed of Quebec and a player with some serious geek credentials (he’s majoring in computer science), also chimed in.

“Everybody at Harvard _ not just the basketball team, but everybody _ has talents other than being smart,” he said.

Maybe so, but the Crimson’s victory was among the biggest upsets in a tournament already filled with surprises before the second full day was even done. The biggest yet came Friday night, when 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast knocked off mighty Georgetown, a No. 2 seed. Nearly as notable was No. 13 La Salle, winning another for the little guys when it knocked off fourth-seeded Kansas State to give the Atlantic-10 a staggering five teams in the round of 32.

Not one, not two, but THREE 12th-seeded teams _ Oregon, Cal and Ole Miss _ also won their opening games. While it’s become common for teams to move on from that spot, for some reason, having all but one No. 12 make it through only added to the drama.

Sure, the cream will likely rise to the top by the time we get to the Georgia Dome in a couple of weeks, but all these upsets are sure making the first week of the tournament a whole lot of fun, a much-needed boost for college basketball after a lackluster regular season.

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