Four days after a 58-57 loss to Holy Cross knocked the Harvard men’s basketball team (1-1) out of the Top 25, the Crimson will retake the court against the Florida Atlantic Owls Thursday night (8:00 P.M., Lavietes Pavilion). Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard aims to regain its footing.
Break out your paint, markers, colored pencils, and posters. College GameDay is coming to The Game.
On Sunday, ESPN announced that its weekly three-hour college football preview show will broadcast on the quad outside Dillon Field House before the undefeated Harvard football team faces Yale for the 131st time this Saturday, Nov. 22. The live show will air from 9 a.m. to noon EST.
Tapings for other ESPN programs will take place on Friday on the GameDay set and continue periodically throughout the day until 2:30 p.m.
GameDay’s appearances at Harvard and the Game will be firsts for the Emmy Award-winning program, which is in its 28th season. The show will be hosted by Chris Fowler alongside analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstriet, Desmond Howard and David Pollack, and reporting by Samantha Ponder, Tom Rinaldi, Scott Van Pelt, George Whitfield, and Gene Wojciechowski.
GameDay is the top-rated pre-game program for college football and averaged 1.83 million viewers during the 2013 season. The show features a tailgate party atmosphere in which hundreds of fans armed with colorful signs gather behind the main cameras.
Harvard last appeared on GameDay in 2002, when the Crimson faced off against UPenn in Philadelphia. Saturday will be only the second time the program has covered an Ivy League game.
On Saturday, the Crimson (9-0, 6-0 Ivy) will have a chance to clinch the outright Ivy title and finish its first undefeated season since 2004. A Yale (8-1, 5-1 Ivy) win would force Harvard to share the Ancient Eight crown.
Last season, the only thing separating the Harvard men’s soccer team from the NCAA Tournament was Penn. But with a 2-0 win over the Crimson in the season finale, it was the Quakers who captured the Ivy League crown as well as an automatic tournament bid.
After a year of waiting, Harvard (11-4-2, 4-1-2 Ivy) finally earned its revenge on Saturday. Behind an 89th minute goal from freshman forward Christian Sady, the Crimson picked up its first victory over Penn since 2010.
But despite closing the season with a win, Harvard found itself on the outside looking in when the 48-team tournament field was announced by the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Committee Monday.
After recording its best record since 2009, the Crimson held an outside chance of making the field, but according to Harvard coach Pieter Lehrer, the team had tempered its expectations.
The Crimson had entered the weekend trailing Dartmouth and Princeton by two points in the Ivy League standings, needing a win and losses from both rivals to earn an automatic bid. Otherwise, Harvard—ranked no. 55 in RPI—faced a steep hill to obtain an at-large bid.
In the end, the chips would not fall into place, as both the Big Green (11-4-2, 5-1-1) and the Tigers (11-3-3, 5-1-1) picked up wins in their final games. Meanwhile, Harvard fell to no. 59 in RPI.
By virtue of a 2-1 win over Princeton in October, Dartmouth—ranked no. 27 in RPI—received the automatic bid from the Ancient Eight. The Big Green takes on Fordham in the opening round Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Tigers join the Crimson on the outside of the field, having narrowly missed the cut. Princeton finished the season ranked no. 41 in RPI, but with several teams lower in the rankings receiving automatic bids for winning their conferences, the Tigers were out of luck.
Harvard played to a 0-1-1 record against the co-Ivy League champions.
The Crimson tied Dartmouth when the two sides clashed three weeks ago in Hanover, as senior midfielder Kyle Henderson found the back of the net on the team’s only shot of the contest.
Harvard was not as fortunate on the road against Princeton, however. Despite mounting a comeback late in the game, the Crimson could not climb out of an early three-goal hole, falling to the Tigers, 3-2.
The loss would be the only one that Harvard would endure in conference play, but it proved to make all the difference in the standings—backing up a claim made by junior defenseman Philip Fleischman back in October.
“Every game in the Ivy League is like a single elimination tournament,” Fleishman said.
Appears that way.
The day after senior Wesley Saunders stuffed the stat sheet in a matchup against Holy Cross, the wing got word that he had been tapped for the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list. The award, according to its website, “is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball.”
The news came just two weeks after ESPN deemed Saunders the 46th best player in the nation and six days after he “headline[d] the Lou Henson Award Preseason Watch List.”
Saunders was the only Ancient Eight player to be named to the Wooden Award list, and will have to best the top players in the nation if he is to earn individual honors in late March. Others nominated include prospective No. 1 2015 NBA Draft picks Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns, who hail from Duke and Kentucky, respectively.
Past winners of the Wooden Award include NBA phenoms Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, and Anthony Davis. Per Harvard Athletics, Saunders is just the second Harvard men’s basketball player in program history to appear on the list, joining the ranks of Jeremy Lin ’10.
On Sunday, Saunders tallied 24 points, 12 rebounds, four steals, three blocks, and three assists in a loss to Holy Cross.
Good news comes in pairs for the Harvard football team.
A day after learning that ESPN’s College GameDay would set up shop in Cambridge for the annual Harvard-Yale game, the Crimson was promoted to No. 14 in the FCS Coaches Poll. The ranking marks the team’s highest since 2011, when Harvard claimed an outright Ivy League title.
At 9-0, the Crimson is one of two undefeated teams in the FCS. The other, Coastal Carolina, inhabits first place in the Coaches Poll after a 52-21 shellacking of Monmouth last Saturday.
An unblemished record is not the only attribute that distinguishes this season’s Harvard squad. Of the 121 teams in FCS football, Harvard boasts the stingiest scoring defense, allowing a measly 11.0 points per game.