Ford Impressed With Harvard

Travis Ford says his Oklahoma State basketball team had better take Harvard seriously when the two teams meet in a first-round game of the NIT postseason tournament Tuesday night. The Crimson, 23-6, have the highest rated RPI (35) not selected for the NCAA Tournament, and only one of its six losses have been to teams not playing in the Big Dance.

OSU, 19-13, will be looking to end a three-game losing streak in NIT first-round games when it hosts Harvard at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday inside Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowboys have lost first-round games to Southern Illinois (2008), Marist (2007) and Miami (Fla.) (2006) in their last three NIT appearances.

"We're excited about continuing to play," Ford said Sunday night after learning that his team would face the Ivy League school. "(Harvard) is a team that right now we know a little bit about. They've kind of been the buzz of college basketball the last couple of weeks. They're a team that's had an incredible year.

"You've heard the word Harvard a lot the last two weeks, it seems to me every time I've turned the TV on. There's a lot of respect around the country, and deservingly so," added Ford.

The Crimson, seeded sixth by the NIT, has defeated two of the NIT's No. 1 seeds this season, defeating Colorado (82-66) and Boston College (78-69).

Coach Tommy Amaker's squad has lost six games and all but one of those are to NCAA Tournament teams – at Georga Mason (66-53), at Michigan (65-62), at Connecticut (81-52), and twice to Ivy League foe Princeton (65-61 and 63-62). The only other loss was to Yale, 70-69.

"We actually watched a game of theirs against Colorado when we were scouting Colorado earlier in the year, and tried to figure out some things that teams do to beat Colorado. We watched a very impressive Harvard team beat Colorado pretty good," said Ford.

"They know how to win. They're not going to be scared of us. They've beaten Colorado and they've beaten Boston College at Boston College. They played Michigan at Michigan, and UConn at UConn, so it's a team that has been tested, a team that is going to come in here with something to prove, I'm sure.

"We've got our work cut out for us. They're a very talented team that understands how to win. They've won a lot of games."

The third-seeded Cowboys earn the first-round home game by virtue of being the higher seeded team, but Ford says the Crimson could have easily been a No. 1 seed.

"They could have been. They have a case for being an NCAA Tournament team too. Again, this is a team that's put in some really, really good work this year and won a lot of games, a lot of good games," he said.

Ford believes his Cowboys will be excited to play even though they missed out on making their third consecutive NCAA tourney appearance.

"I hope so. We better be or we won't last long, it will be one-and-done for us," he said. "This is a very, very good Harvard basketball team to say the least. I'm counting on them being ready. As I've said (all season), it's been hard to get a read on this basketball team."

Ford led his Massachusetts team to four consecutive victories and a trip to the NIT championship game in New York City in 2008, and would like to see his Cowboys make the trip to play inside Madison Square Garden later this month. He plans to use that goal to motivate his team.

"It's something I talked to them a lot about the morning after the Kansas game at the hotel. At this point it's all about trying to figure out how to compete against Harvard. We've talked enough about it before that they fully understand the excitement they could have if they are fortunate enough to make it to New York City. So I don't think we need to talk about it any more," said Ford.

Tickets for Tuesday night's game are available online (www.okstate.com/tickets) or by calling the OSU ticket office (1-877-255-4678). Reserved seats are available for $10, while general admission tickets will be sold for $8 for adults and $4 for students.


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