Even though this is a very likely win for the Huskies, I wanted to profile Harvard because they really could make some noise this season. They play Colorado (#39 KenPom Ranking), Denver (#61) and BC (#37) in addition to the Huskies so there are definitely some opportunities for them to earn quality wins and they could legitimately make a splash in the NCAA Tournament.
20-10 (11-3 Ivy), Lost in NCAA Tournament Rd. of 32 to Arizona
2012-13 was a banner year for Harvard Basketball. They locked up their third straight Ivy League title and with it their second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance (they lost a one game playoff for the auto-bid three years ago). During their 19 win regular season, Harvard beat the likes of Cal and BC (Harvard has a FIVE GAME WINNING STREAK against BC! TEE HEE!!) and challenged themselves against perennial contenders Connecticut and Memphis.
But Harvard plays in the Ivy League, so they’re a non-factor right? Wrong.
As you may recall the 14-seeded Crimson beat Steve Alfords New Mexico team in the Round of 64 for their first NCAA Tournament win in school history; at the time New Mexico was ranked #10 in the AP Poll. This loss wreaked havoc on my bracket and the brackets of all the other losers like me who were feeling like non-conformists and decided to put UNM in their Final Four. Harvard came back to earth and lost their next game to 6-seeded Arizona 71-54, but the upset win helped put Harvard Basketball on the map (Something called "Linsanity" may have helped too).
After losing a number of seniors and a few key players from last year’s team due to an academic scandal, expectations were not so high for the Crimson in 2012-13. Fresh off the heels of the best season in program history, that has changed. Freshman Point Guard Siyani Chambers was the unanimous choice for Ivy League Rookie of the Year and also made the All-Ivy First team along with sophomore teammate G/F Wesley Saunders. Double digit scorer Laurent Rivard was an All-Ivy honorable mention. All three of them are returning next year.
How they look
Ken Pomeroy has them ranked 51st right after Washington, who is also on our schedule (possibly twice). In the USA Today Coaches Poll, they were in the "also receiving votes" category, finishing 32nd in points ahead of schools such as Pitt, Cal, Temple and Villanova. The Ivy League Pre-Season Coaches Poll unanimously voted them first in the conference, which probably has something to do with the fact that they return their top 3 scorers from last year and the only player they lost from last year’s 20-win team was Co-captain Christian Webster to graduation. They added the #82 ranked recruit in the country, Californian Center Zena Edosomwan, who has got to be the best recruit signed in Ivy League history. His desire to attend Harvard was so strong that he turned down 39 offers from schools like UCLA, Texas and USC to do a post-grad year in Massachusetts and earn academic eligibility under the Ivy League's strict standards. By all accounts, he seems like a very grounded kid as well. You go Zena Edosomwan.
Another major advantage for Harvard is Head Coach Tommy Amaker. He was a High School McDonalds All-American who played point guard for Duke in the early days of Coach K’s career (interesting factoid: Current Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey was his roommate for road trips). He was an assistant at Duke (where he also earned an MBA) from 1989 until 1997 when he accepted the Head Coaching job at Seton Hall. After a pretty good run with our former Big East foe, including a Sweet 16 appearance, he left to take over at Michigan. For his first two years the Wolverines weren't allowed to play in the tourney due to Fab Five-era sanctions but he was able to earn first and second place finishes in the NIT in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Although he is typically credited with taking Michigan out from the quagmire of NCAA sanctions and restoring character to the program, he was fired in 2007. He’s had four straight 20 wins seasons since taking over and there’s no reason to believe he won’t do the same this year.
At Harvard, Amaker has been an aggressive recruiter and is looking to sign Top-150 recruits year in and year out. His teams are known for solid shooting (7th in the nation in 3PT% and 16th in FG% last year) and great teamwork. They have struggled to compete on the defensive end, especially down low where they lack the size to bang with traditional 4/5's. Edosomwan should help with that.
Projected starting lineup
PG- Siyani Chambers (6-foot-0 Soph, 12.4 ppg, 5.7 apg, 2.6 rpg)
G- Laurent Rivard (6-foot-5 Sr, 10.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.8 apg)
G- Wesley Saunders (6-foot-5 Jr, 16.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg)
F- Steve Mondou-Missi (6-foot-7 Jr, 7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
C- Zena Edosomwan (6-foot-9 Freshman)
Ken Pomeroy’s super beast mode college basketball simulating computers give Harvard a 17% chance to win this game, making them the least likely to beat us out of the 7 teams we’ll be profiling from the out of conference slate. Part of that is because they will be visiting the unfriendly confines of Gampel Pavilion but the other reason is that we are going to be really, really good (KenPom has us ranked #11).
Against UConn they will be matched up strength against strength- our guards versus theirs. I like our chances. Couple that with the fact that they can't compete with our stable of big men, no matter how young or middling, and I'm finding it very hard to believe they have much of a shot against us.
Harvard may give us a scare and keep it close early but I think we pull away and win this one by double digits.