“Crimson Madness” Hits Harvard For The First Time Ever

Friday night, Harvard University threw a party to celebrate its 375th birthday. Like most Harvard parties, this one was pretty lame (everything you saw in The Social Network was a lie). Sure there was a 15-by-18-foot cake, but the torrential downpour and the slew of old geezers rocking Vineyard Vines was a little too much to handle, so I was on my way back to my room to play some 2K12 within 30 minutes.

But while I was walking back to my dorm through the rain, I started to think about how long 375 years is (that’s almost six times older than the NBA).

With that much history, it’s not every day that you get to do something that’s never been done before in school history. But the next afternoon, the Harvard basketball team got a chance to do just that.

40 years after Lefty Driesell hosted the first Midnight Madness event at Maryland, Harvard got in on the action, kicking off its 2011-12 season in front of a sizeable crowd at Lavietes Pavilion.

As I walked across the river to the stadium, I have to admit I had pretty low expectations. At a school where half the students can’t tell you the difference between a basketball and a football (I wish I were exaggerating), I didn’t think they would fill half the 2,195-person arena. But to my surprise, the event was a hit.

Tommy Amaker didn’t show up on a motorcycle, and Jeremy Lin didn’t judge a dunk contest, but the Crimson kept the crowd of students and townies entertained.

Junior Kyle Casey kicked off the event with a 360-windmill and a honey dip dunk during warm-ups, drawing some oohs and ahhs from the crowd. And after unveiling Harvard’s 2011 Ivy League championship banner — its first in school history — the team divided up for an intrasquad scrimmage, giving fans a sneak peek at the 2012 Ivy favorites.

Junior point guard Brandyn Curry — entering the season fully healthy for the first time in his Harvard career — had defenders on skates all afternoon. The lefty finished with 13 points in the 20-minute scrimmage, leading his Crimson team to the 40-33 win. And a trimmed down Keith Wright — the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year — showed off an array of new post moves.

Harvard’s highly touted freshmen class was also on display. Rookies Jonah Travis and Steve Moundou-Missi showed a level of aggressiveness on the glass that the Crimson was desperately missing at times last season.

The afternoon did not pass without its share of unusual moments.

Midway through the scrimmage, seven-footer Ugo Okam got fouled and went to the line. As he set up for his first free throw, a crowd of football players started taunting him from the stands. Maybe they had a slice of pizza riding on the Black team? Or maybe they were just trying to practice their heckling before the real season starts.

I guess you never know what to expect on the first day of practice.

Follow Martin on Twitter at @MartinKessler91.

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