Blog Entry

Even in loss, Harvard shows a different side

Posted on: December 9, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 2:59 pm
By Jeff Goodman

STORRS, Conn. - Harvard never truly threatened. The Crimson had a chance to cut it to six midway through the second half, but UConn controlled the game nearly the entire way.

Ultimately, that's why I opted to write my column on UConn's veteran big man, Alex Oriakhi, and his relationship with Huskies coach Jim Calhoun.

However, while Harvard didn't come away with the upset in Storrs, this team still showed it can compete with just about anyone in the country -- maybe outside the elite teams. I'll obviously depend on matchups.

The Crimson also displayed why it's a completely different team than the one that lost to Princeton in the one-game playoff a year ago.

"We came here with the idea of winning," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said after the 67-53 loss. "And we certainly played with that type of spirit."

Remember, last season the two teams played in Hartford - and the Huskies crushed the Crimson, 81-52.

"We were basically run out of the gym," Amaker admitted. "We had no chance in that game it seemed like from the opening tip. This year was obviously a different story."

The Crimson had difficulty matching up with the size of Andre Drummond, Oriakhi and Tyler Olander up front, but Tommy Amaker's team has already proven it can still knock off teams with a significant size advantage (see: Florida State). But what Harvard has trouble with is containing jet-quick guards and that's the definition of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.

"Boatright, (Jeremy) Lamb and Napier on the perimeter is about unguardable," Amaker said. "The lineup change to begin the second half was the difference in the game."

Amaker was referring to the perimeter trio of Lamb, Napier and Boatright along with Drummond and Olander up front.

Harvard won't see anything like this again until March - when the Crimson likely make their way into the NCAA tournament. It's a team that doesn't blow you away with any one player, but the collection of all their pieces is impressive. Veteran big man Keith Wright struggled early against UConn's length, but he won't face that collection of size up front in the Ivy League. Kyle Casey will be able to out-athlete just about anyone from here on out - and Brandyn Curry won't see athletic guards like Napier and Boatright the rest of the way.

Oliver McNally brings all the intangibles to the table and Christian Webster is solid. Laurent Rivard will get no shortage of open looks and the freshmen corps of Steve Moundou-Missi, Wesley Saunders, Jonah Travis and Corbin Miller is as good as advertised, even if none of them besides Saunders made a significant impact against UConn.

While the Crimson could be favored in every single contest the rest of the way, I just don't see this team running the table. In the Ivy League? I'll buy that. But overall? Doubtful. They play well together, share the ball and have plenty of talented guys. But they just aren't overpowering enough to go through the remainder of the year with just the lone UConn loss.
Category: NCAAB

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: December 10, 2011 11:22 am

Even in loss, Harvard shows a different side

I don't think overrated is a word I would use when talking about Harvard basketball.  It sounds like you're looking for a reason to invoke "East Coast bias" in your posting.  It's not warranted here -- at least not in Harvard's direction.  If anything, I'd call UConn overrated before I do that for Harvard.

In every one of UConn's early season games in either Hartford or Storrs, the visiting patsy has been able to get within single-digits of a team that should have run them out of the gym by the end of the first half.  Instead, UConn has allowed Harvard, Arkansas, Coppin State, Maine, Wagner, and Columbia all to get within single digits at some point of the second half of each game.  While I understand that big-time teams are just getting themselves together for conference play in January, this is a little shaky looking.  I have to wonder how deep UConn can go into March if it doesn't know how to put away programs like those they've played earlier, instead of later, in the game.

When you look at last year's RPI numbers of these squads it looks worse for UConn:
Columbia #186 -- Wagner #170 -- Maine #215 -- Coppin St. #246 -- Arkansas #127 -- Harvard #35.
Are they going to surprise the college basketball world and not live up to their billing and talent?  Can't wait to see them play more top-notch talent down the road to see how they fare.

Since: Sep 10, 2007
Posted on: December 10, 2011 10:17 am

Even in loss, Harvard shows a different side

Harvard is a decent team but one can argue they are overrated by way too many people who think their home victory over a listless disinterested Florida State team meant something.  I do not believe they are not a top 25 program and Uconn showed it today. On another note slightly contradicting what I just wrote. Florida State played Uconn to a 76 to 78 loss.  All we really do know is UCONN knows how to win.  I think Harvard got the Top 25 ranking due to the famous East Coast Bias and the desperation of sports writers to make a school from the Ivy League relevant.

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