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.