Here is the thing about Lin-sanity that everyone is coming to realize: There is no telling where it will go next or who will get swept up in it. For instance, the Columbia team played much of Friday night like a bunch of Jeremy Lins, nearly ruining the night for first-place Harvard and the famous alumnus sitting seven rows behind his old team.
"When I was sitting on the bench and the place was going nuts, I realized Jeremy had walked in," said Oliver McNally, a senior who shared the Harvard backcourt with the Knicks phenom for two years. "I keep in touch pretty well, so I knew he was coming . . . I hadn't seen him since he kind of blew up."
Even though McNally missed a three-point try with one second left in regulation, Harvard still managed to grab a 77-70 win in overtime, remain a half-game in front of Penn in the Ivy League race and sustain its hope for The Big Dance. But even more remarkable than the new status for Lin's old team, which is 25-4 and 11-2 in league play, was what the Lin phenomenon did for a Friday night game at Levien Gymnasium.
With due respect to Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who said the Ivy League this season has been "fantastic," it is Lin's connection with the program that turned Friday night into an electric event. Columbia (14-15, 3-10) sure seemed inspired. A person would have to think that Harvard's newfound celebrity status, reflecting off Lin, inspired the home team.
"It probably did," said McNally, who was among those who greeted his former teammate after the game. "It's not weird seeing him or anything like that. He's still the same Jeremy I played with. He's not going to change."
Still, they had not seen him with all kinds of security around him. "He's a big celebrity now. He actually had to leave through the back," Keith Wright said after his 16-point, eight-rebound game.
Wright added that the Harvard players have been lifted by Lin's success. "It shows you can make it no matter where you are. We know that we're good players who passed up offers from big-time schools to come and get a great education."
Kyle Casey, who had 19 points, implied it has been an education, knowing and following Lin. "We were having a great season, and Jeremy got his opportunity and made absolutely the best of it. With him becoming pretty much a superstar overnight, that just boosted the attention we were getting."
Amaker said the team is proud of Lin, as it would be of any famous Harvard alum. Nice try. U.S. presidents come along all the time, Lin is like Halley's comet.
He has impacted a program that is looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1946. In the new way of telling time, that's 42 years before Lin was born.