With Selection Sunday just around the corner, the Harvard men’s basketball team will know who it will be matched up with in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament soon enough. But sometimes speculation is more fun than reality, so we at The Back Page decided to look at what we consider to be the Crimson’s potential opponents in the NCAA tournament and to try and speculate what chance—if any—Harvard will have at pulling the upset. Here, we take a look at the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes from the Big Ten.
Record: 23-7, 13-5 Big Ten
Best Wins: vs. No. 3 Indiana, vs. No. 6 Michigan
Worst Losses: at No. 22 Wisconsin, at No. 8 Michigan St
Ken Pomeroy Ranking: 7
Projected Seed (from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi): 3
If Harvard matched up with Ohio State, the game would be a battle of the point guards. Junior Aaron Craft—the former Big Ten Defensive player of the year—is as good a candidate as any to take Harvard freshman Siyani Chambers out of the game. Averaging just under 10 points per game and leading the Buckeyes with 62 steals on the season, Craft may prove too much for Chambers to handle.
This season, the Crimson has lived and died by Chambers’ performances. The team is 3-4 when Chambers scores in the single digits. In addition to being the second leading scorer with 12.4 points per game, Chambers has been referred to as both the “quarterback” of the offense and the “most important player” by coach Tommy Amaker for the way in which he directs the offense. Chambers is one of two Crimson players with the ability to constantly beat defenders off the dribble and his ball-handling ability allows shooting guard Wesley Saunders to flourish off the ball in a way he cannot when Chambers is on the bench. Both times out against Penn, Chambers was held to five points as the duo of Tony Hicks and Miles Cartwright limited his offensive output and forced him to give the ball to less efficient shooters.
Ohio State—on the other hand—has lived and died by its defense. With no consistent second scoring threat behind Thomas, the Buckeyes are known for their aggressive defense, which—when broken down—led to upset losses at the hands of lower ranked teams such as Wisconsin and Michigan State. OSU’s ability to guard the perimeter will make it tough for the considerably smaller Harvard lineup, which has struggled this season to find a consistent post presence.
With sophomore forwards Jonah Travis, Kenyatta Smith and Steve Moundou-Missi going hot and cold at different times, the Crimson has relied on consistent three point shooting from co-captains junior Laurent Rivard and senior Christian Webster. However, matchups at Princeton and Columbia, where missed threes made the difference between a loss and a win, showed the fragility of Harvard’s perimeter game.
The Crimson will be hard pressed to find a way past Ohio State’s defense. Craft’s defensive prowess will mitigate Chambers’ contributions and if its shots from afar aren’t falling the scoring will be forced to come inside, a dangerous position for the Crimson to be in given Harvard’s lack of consistent interior scoring.