March 22, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Jerry Green

Ivy League the NCAA Tournament's only worthy Cinderella

Harvard pulled a first-round upset of Cincinnati on Thursday. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

OK, I might be the lone male in America who does not possess a bracket. A voluntary choice.

I consider bracketology to be the most nonsensical of all the “ologies,” including dermatology. The NCAA Tournament with Wofford and Mount St. Mary’s and Albany and Cal Poly and North Dakota State (oops) and Mercer (oops) is an annual absurdity. I consider this seeding business that overwhelms the viewers on television to be a sham.

And March Madness? With the best stuff in this ongoing basketball festival occurring in April!

It started once upon a time with eight teams. Now it is blown up to 68 starters.

Don’t these supposed student-athletes — the NCAA’s term — ever drop into a campus classroom?

Actually I know of one team that has students playing athletics. And now I’m not positive about that.

Harvard! (Oops again)

The real elite

I do know there are classrooms on the Harvard campus. I once sat in one. For one night. My buddy was in his final year at Harvard Law. I was in my only year of graduate school at Boston University.

I thought it would be a neat idea to attend one of Harvard Law’s mock courts and cover it as a budding journalist. All the Harvard guys in the classroom became famous as lawyers, or, as in my friend’s case, a judge.

As a sports journalist, I have for decades proclaimed my neutrality. It is the way it is supposed to be in journalism. “No rooting in the pressbox.” That’s the rule.

But every once in awhile I slip off my granite rock of neutrality. A little bit. My slippage usually doesn’t last very long.

In the NCAA Tournament, every year, I tend to pull for the united Ivy League champion up against the muscle teams of college basketball. And all right, I appreciate the upsets — the upending of Duke and Oklahoma — because they make me snicker.

But what I truly love is when an Ivy League team wins an NCAA tournament game. That’s because we’re such elitists, such pompous snobs — and such wannabes in sports.

And when a Harvard or a Princeton or a Dartmouth or a Cornell or a Pennsylvania wins an NCAA game, I tend to giggle out loud,

Just as I did the other day after the tournament started up — and Harvard knocked off basketball-rich Cincinnati. A No. 12 seed belting a No. 5 seed, with so much basketball tradition.

Where have you gone Oscar Robertson?

John Harvard beats Johnny Appleseed.

Then again, Harvard is getting pretty good at dealing with the tough guys at the NCAAs. Harvard knocked off New Mexico in its first game of the tournament last year.

The joy lasted for some 48 hours — before Harvard was put in its rightful place by Arizona.

But it happened. And it happened again in the current tournament with Michigan State primed to obliterate Harvard’s destiny in basketball Saturday night.

Occasionally in the same league

Every once in awhile an Ivy League team makes it to another of the coined alliterative prestigious levels — the Sweet Sixteen. This heightens the annual hysteria, the countdown to the Elite Eight and the Final Four.

I hear you, Dick Vitale, my longtime friend.

And it happened even once when Dartmouth reached the championship final before losing to Utah. But Dartmouth was fortified by stars from other schools placed on the campus, athletes enrolled in the Navy’s V-12 training program during World War II. Dick McGuire, an All America player at basketball-conscious St. John’s, was in the lineup for Dartmouth.

Dartmouth, a college of renown, dumped Ohio State in 1944 in Madison Square Garden, New York. The final score was 42-40 — the play-by-play on radio only.

It happened again in the 1965 when Princeton reached the Final Four in Portland, Ore.

But Princeton then had Bill Bradley.

Princeton beat Penn State, North Carolina State and Providence before it was ousted by Michigan in the NCAA semifinals. But back then Michigan had Cazzie Russell and Bill Buntin. And the night after Cazzie beat Bradley, UCLA roasted Michigan for the NCAA championship. Of course, UCLA had magical Gale Goodrich. Plus John Wooden mumbling at the bench to the refs.

Harvard is a school of presidents — John Adams, John F. Kennedy and basketball wizard Barack Obama among them — along with heavily publicized NBA star Jeremy Lin. Dartmouth, we know, is a school of Tigers managers.

Brad Ausmus will be well into his first season as the Tigers manager when the NCAA championship is played April 7. Who among us recalls that Red Rolfe, the Tigers’ manager some 60 years ago, also earned a degree from Dartmouth? After he was a stellar third baseman for the Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio Yankees.

Cornell did all of us preening Ivy Leaguers proud just four years ago, reaching the Sweet (Yuk) Sixteen. The Big Red — as Cornell is called — beat Temple, then Wisconsin before playing Kentucky, and thus, failed to reach the Elite Eight.

Penn did us proud also in 1979, reaching the Final Four. This, then, was firmly a Philadelphia basketball school. In ’79, the Quakers defeated North Carolina, Syracuse and St. John’s in the first three tournament games.

Then Penn was defeated — routed — by Michigan State, with Earvin Johnson. That was two nights before the historic championship duel — Magic vs. Larry Bird, Michigan State vs. Indiana State.

Sadly, two of the eight Ivy League schools have never won a game in the NCAA Tournament. Columbia is one And Brown is the other.

And Brown does have classrooms. I remember that quite vividly, because I was imprisoned in them some 65 years ago. Brown has qualified for two NCAA tournaments, in 1939, the original when eight teams were selected; and 1986.

My beloved alma mater lost to Villanova in ’39 and Syracuse in ’86.

But just two weeks ago Brown took Harvard to overtime. Another defeat, but by squeezing out the high math, comparatively, Brown would have beaten the bejabbers out of Cincinnati.

Yeah, sure!

Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sportswriter. Read his web-exclusive column Saturdays at

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