Things may not get off to the simplest start.
The Harvard men's basketball teams opens its 1997-98 regular season campaign tonight against the University of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire, and the Wildcat squad seems well suited to challenge the Crimson right off the bat.
You see, the men's basketball team has changed quite a bit from last season's historic Ivy League second-place squad and the most telling losses were in the frontcourt. The graduation of Kyle Snowden '97 and Chris Grancio '97 will be far and away the biggest challenge for the Crimson to overcome in the quest for another superb season.
What's more, the Wildcats are stacked up front.
"UNH is very, very big," said junior point guard Tim Hill. "They have a lot of size and we've been focusing on defensive rebounding and defense in practice. I think they run 6'11", 6'9" and 6'8" in up front. That's big."
Indeed, that is a large squad to be facing a somewhat green group of Crimson big men. Junior Bill Ewing (6'9") will start in the center spot for the Crimson. Seniors Paul Fisher (6'8") and captain Mike Scott (6'4") will fill Harvard's other two starting forward positions.
Needless to say, the numbers don't stack up for Harvard in the size department.
"They're definitely big, but we're pretty big too," said Scott. "We did some scouting and got to know what they run and the coaches have been working with the big men to combat that."
"Our frontcourt has done a great job in the preseason," said Hill. "They are prepped for the challenge. I have full confidence."
The key to Harvard's success will be in the running game.
"We're not too worried about matching up with them individually," said Scott. "We have a speed advantage and we want to use it. The key to that is going to be rebounding. Our coaches have been telling us that if we don't grab their missed shots we can't get out and run."
This offensive strategy hopefully will also serve to calm the nerves that go hand in hand with the first game of the season.
"It will be important to use our team speed and get some quick, easy baskets to start the game and get everyone to relax," said Hill.
While the Harvard strategy is clearly focused on overcoming the size deficit, the UNH backcourt is not to be overlooked.
"They have a very quick backcourt," said Scott. "Their point guard is tall, athletic and can shoot. They also have a good shooting two guard. However, I think we match up well in the backcourt.
While there is some cause for worry, the overriding sentiment among the Crimson players is eagerness to lace 'em up.
"We are all ready to play a real game after all of this practice," said Scott.