For the third straight year, it appears that Harvard (22-4, 9-1) will make the tournament, allowing experts a unique opportunity to trot out the same lame jokes about the Crimson Nerds. Laugh it up, because evidently, brains win games. Last year the Ivy’s best sent 3-seed New Mexico home in the round of 64.
The Ivy does not have a conference tournament, simply sending the regular season champion or playoff tiebreaker winner to the dance. As a result, Harvard likely needs to beat rival Yale one more time – in either their March 7th showdown at Yale or in a one game playoff – to gain the automatic birth to the NCAA Tournament.
Harvard has all but two contributors back from the team that knocked off New Mexico in Salt Lake City last year. Sure, they’ll miss the contributions of starters Christian Webster, who graduated, and Kenyatta Smith, whose lingering foot injuries have allowed him to play just two minutes this season, but Harvard is no stranger to playing down a man. Last year they were rattled by the suspension of two of its co-captains, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, but both are back playing important roles, and shooting the ball extremely efficiently (>45%). Junior Wesley Sanders leads the team in points and steals, while being second in assists and rebounds. Sophomore Siyani Chambers averages 11 points a game, second on the team, while leading the team with nearly 5 assists.
As a team, Harvard plays a slow pace, relying on their solid three point shooting on offense. Defense is certainly their forte, they’ve heldholding teams to just 60 points a game, good for 13th best in the nation. Certainly their slow pace is a factor, but Harvard also has solid steals, blocks and forced turnover numbers.
Though the Crimson have just four losses, they really have not been challenged. They have an impressive win against Green Bay at the Great Alaska Shootout and decent wins against Vermont and Boston. Tommy Amaker’s squad went to Colorado and Connecticut and held halftime leads, only to lose both games. Harvard has great guards, but their roster is weak in the post. Steve Moundou-Missi serves as their big man, but he is only 6’7. So far, they’ve faced two solid big men, Alec Brown of Green Bay and Josh Scott of Colorado. Both big men scored in double digits, but were held under their season averages. Hopefully Harvard’s team defense can help neutralize a mismatch in the post, should they face one. On offense, their two point percentage is average, so they will need to shoot the three well to spread the floor and allow Sanders and Chambers to get inside and create.
On Seeding68.com, I have Harvard as a 12 seed playing North Carolina in San Diego. Harvard should end up between an 11 seed and a 13 seed. A team like North Carolina, full of superior athletes should finish Harvard’s season. The best chance Harvard has to advance in the tournament is to control the tempo and get a fast paced team out of their element. Can Amaker’s squad win another tournament game? Probably not. But expect an entertaining game.
Prediction: Round of 64