ACC Basketball

Know Your Opponent | Harvard Crimson

wesley-saunders

Despite some non-conference loses, all against tournament teams (Butler, Iowa, Kentucky), North Carolina was sitting pretty at 17-4, 7-1 in the ACC midway through the season. However, a tough loses to the elite of the conference ended the winning ways, as the Tar Heels dropped six of their last 10 games, including a pair to Duke. However, they managed to win three games in three days, including a huge victory over Virginia, to reach the ACC Tournament finals. They had control early, but in the second half, the Fighting Irish put them away with an impressive 26-3 run. The loss dropped UNC to 24-11 on the season.

They were shipped out to the West Region as the 4-seed and will face…

WHO: Harvard Crimson
CONFERENCE: Ivy League
RECORD: 22-8 (11-3)
RPI: #52
BPI: #81
KEN POM: #78

ADjO: #172
ADjD: #34

HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Coming off an impressive 2013-14 season that saw Tommy Amaker’s club pull off a second-round upset in the NCAA Tournament, great things were expected from the Crimson this season, especially with so many important pieces returning. Yet, loses to Holy Cross and Boston College stung, as Harvard failed to get a signature win in their non-conference schedule (Sorry, beating someone called St. Rose doesn’t count).

Once in the Ivy League, they started off with a tough loss at home to Dartmouth, but rallied to win eight-straight. Late season loses to Cornell and Yale nearly cost them a return trip to the Big Dance, but luckily for Harvard, Yale blew it against Dartmouth in their season finale and then the Crimson took care of the Bulldogs with a last-second shot to send Harvard back to the NCAA Tournament.

STARTERS
G – Siyani Chambers
G – Wesley Saunders
G – Corbin Miller
F – Steve Moundou-Missi
F – Agunwa Okolie

BENCH 
G – Andre Chatfield
F – Zena Edosmwan
F – Kenyatta Smith

Despite being a bit undersized, Harvard is one of the better defensive teams in the country (34th in Defensive Adjusted Efficiency). I guess scrappy is the key word, as they rebound the ball well as a team (eight different players average at least two boards), while Steve Moundou-Missi leads the team with 7.4 RPG. They can block shots and they just make teams take tough shots.

The issue with Harvard is the offense. Outside of Wesley Saunders (16.3 PPG), no other player on this team can create their own shot and let’s face it, shut down Saunders, shut down Harvard. How bad can this team be? Against Virginia, they scored 27 total points, going 8-for-50 from the floor. In that game. Saunders was 0-for-7 for the game.

They get most of their points off jumpers, but they’re not a three-point shooting team, yet are even worse inside, just 256th in 2P%, 250th in eFG. What they’ll try to do is slow things down and play smart offense. They don’t turn the ball over much (#139), they don’t allow a ton of blocks (#60) and they are pretty decent at getting to the line (#94).

FINAL THOUGHT
Because of the way North Carolina has looked down the stretch and the way Harvard beat Cincinnati in last year’s NCAA Tournament, I’m sure the Crimson will be a popular upset pick. While they will slow the pace and play sound defense, this team simply can’t score enough to keep up with the Tar Heels. Say what you want, but North Carolina doesn’t lose to inferior foes.

Inside, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks should have their way against a smaller front line and while Saunders and Siyani Chambers can probably handle Marcus Paige, they don’t have the athletes to contain J.P. Tokoto and Justin Jackson, especially in the paint.

I’ll give Harvard 16 minutes to keep this one close, before the Tar Heels will pull away right before the half.

WORTHLESS PREDICTION: North Carolina, 72-58

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