Overheard in Minneapolis: Women's Ice Hockey's Frozen Four Press Conference

Published by Caleb Lee on March 20, 2015 at 12:34PM
Ice Time

The Harvard women's ice hockey team will take the ice Friday evening at 9 p.m. at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.

With Harvard's NCAA Frozen Four semifinal matchup against crosstown foe Boston College less than a day away, The Back Page presents some of the key quotes from Thursday afternoon's press conference in Minneapolis.

From Harvard coach Katey Stone’s opening statement:

“We are certainly very pleased to be here. We haven’t played in Minnesota during this time of year in a handful of years so it is nice to be back.”

The Back Page: This is the Crimson’s first NCAA Frozen Four appearance since 2008, and sixth in program history. In that 2008 season, Harvard beat Dartmouth in the first round, 5-1, before falling to Wisconsin by a 4-1 score in the semis. Since then, the Crimson qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2013, but dropped first round games against Cornell and who else but Boston College, respectively.

Stone, on if the last two games against BC will affect Harvard emotionally:

“I can only speak on our kids and it is just another hockey game on the road toward our ultimate goal. It doesn’t matter whether we are playing BC or Minnesota or Wisconsin.”

TBP: Arguably, the 10-2 embarrassment at the hands of the Eagles was a season-defining turning point for the Crimson. Coming into that game, Harvard had gone 0-1-2 and had squandered quality chances to net the game winner in both ties. But following the blowout loss to the Eagles, Harvard rattled off 10 straight wins. And since the Crimson’s Beanpot final win over BC, the Queens of Boston have gone 7-1-1.


The Keys To Victory for Men's Basketball

Published by David Freed on March 19, 2015 at 12:34PM

As covered earlier this week, the Harvard men’s basketball team (22-7, 11-3 Ivy) is being seen a substantial underdog to its first-round NCAA opponent—the North Carolina Tar Heels (24-11, 11-7 ACC). Below, men’s basketball beat writer David Freed looks at the five things Harvard needs to do to pull off the upset.

1. Control the Pace: In today’s media sessions, the top main topics were the pace of the game and the ability of the Tar Heels to control the boards. UNC likes to get out and run, where its athleticism can overcome opponents and generate early looks in transition. The Tar Heels just 1-5 in games with fewer than 65 possessions, whereas Harvard averages just 63.8 possessions a game. If the Crimson can keep the game slow, minimizing turnovers, they can keep a potent UNC offense in check.

2. Stop Marcus Paige: The heart and soul of the Tar Heels is junior point guard Marcus Paige, the team’s best perimeter scorer. Paige will be checked by a litany of Harvard defenders, likely starting with 6’0” starting point guard Siyani Chambers. Chambers guarded Yale combo guard Javier Duren for many of the final two contests with Yale and has improved vastly as a defender in year three. If he does not excel here, however, Harvard’s chances will fall from slim to none.

3. Hold its Own on the Glass: Against a team that ranked second in Division I in rebounding, it is crucial Harvard be able to keep defensive possessions to one shot. UNC boasts length, depth, and size across its front line, while Harvard often eschews defensive rebounding to send people (read: junior Agunwa Okolie) out in transition. Junior wing Wesley Saunders and co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi are the team’s two best rebounding rotation players and the two keys to the game. On the other side, Harvard will likely eschew rebounding to send extra players back in transition, as stopping the Tar Heel break is a priority for the squad.

4. Bench and Balance: Harvard coach Tommy Amaker is often quoted with these two words, his personal keys to the Harvard offense. Against a deep UNC squad, Harvard will need both its bench to provide solid minutes and support its big three—Chambers, Moundou-Missi, and Saunders—who will not overcome the Tar Heels on their own.

5. Regress To The Mean: In its biggest games of the year, Harvard’s shot has failed it when it needed it most. Two brutal three-point shooting performances against Yale were preceded by brick fests against Virginia and Boston College. Saunders went a combined four-of-26 in the two games, while the Crimson as a team shot just 24.5 percent. While some credit is due to the defenses of the opposing squads, Harvard missed a number of wide-open shots in each contest—against the Cavaliers in particular, the Crimson generated a series of early good looks. If the percentages revert back to the mean, Harvard will defy many of the doubters about its offense.  

—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at david.freed@thecrimson.com.

What To Do in Jacksonville Prior to Tip-Off

Published by David Freed on March 18, 2015 at 12:34PM

In anticipation of the Harvard men’s basketball team’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina, The Back Page takes a look at five of the other things to do in Jacksonville while waiting for the Crimson to tip off.

1. Beaches: On the eastern coast of Florida, Jacksonville has no shortage of beaches, replete with gorgeous white sand and makeshift volleyball nets that accompany them. The city’s three main beach areas are Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, and Atlantic Beach—totaling 22 miles of beach in all. Given the brutal Northeast Cambridge weather, Harvard fans can take solace in the warm, paradise-like climate.

2. World Golf Hall of Fame: Jacksonville doesn’t have the greatest domestic sports reputation, as anyone vaguely acquainted with Blaine Gabbert will tell you. However, it is as prominent a golf town as any, close to the PGA Tour office, the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium course where the Player’s Championship is held, and the World Golf Hall of Fame. For those interested in golf’s darker side, Jacksonville is roughly an hour from Tiger Woods’ mansion—although you’re unlikely to see the club that wrecked his Escalade in this museum.

3. King Street District: For late night activity, the best place to visit in Jacksonville is the King Street District, which boasts the majority of the city’s (moderate) nightlife. Dahlia’s Pour House and the Blind Rabbit win prizes for the most inventive names.

4. Flagler College Cafeteria: Jacksonville is home to arguably the world’s nicest cafeteria outside of Mather House. No, really. Flagler College is reportedly home to 79 Louis Comfort Tiffany stained-glass windows, the world’s largest connection of its kind that is still in its original location.

5. Cumberland Island: For those looking to get off the mainland, Cumberland is a small island not far from downtown Jacksonville up I-95. It is both historic and reportedly beautiful and can be reached by ferry from Fernandina Beach, 35 miles north of Jacksonville.


Men's Basketball Starters Ranked Among Worst by ESPN Insider

Published by David Freed on March 18, 2015 at 12:34PM

In a post Tuesday night, ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman ranked Harvard junior Agunwa Okolie and sophomore Zena Edosomwan among the 10 worst starters in the NCAA tournament. No other team—including all of the 15 and 16 seeds—had two starters ranked among the worst 10. All in all, Okolie ranked 331rd of 340, with Edosomwan coming in just one spot behind.

Okolie and Edosomwan both had lackluster statistical seasons for the Crimson, averaging a combined 8.4 points and 7.1 rebounds—or roughly the output of Northeastern’s Zach Stahl (8.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), the 299th ranked player on the list.

The Crimson snuck only one player inside the top-250, senior wing Wesley Saunders. Saunders, who had received some fringe Naismith Award buzz earlier in the year, came in at No. 178 despite averaging 16.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from three. Ten spots ahead of Saunders was Georgetown freshman forward L.J. Peak, who averaged 7.8 points and 2.4 rebounds on 38 percent shooting from the field.

Harvard co-captains, junior point guard Siyani Chambers and forward Steve Moundou-Missi, came in at No. 252 and No. 264, respectively.

The list was overall very top heavy. Kentucky placed all five starters within the top-66, while Arizona had all five in the top-80. Harvard’s first-round opponent, the North Carolina Tar Heels, had all five starters ranked in the top-100, headlined by junior point guard Marcus Paige, who ranked No. 29. 

—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at david.freed@thecrimson.com.

Men's Basketball Becomes Consistent Presence on Biggest Stages

Published by Andrew Farber on March 18, 2015 at 12:34PM

Eleven of the Harvard men's basketball team's games were broadcast on national television this season.

Most “Crimson Crazies” will tell you that the last time their team played on national television, co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi was jogging back on defense with a face of restrained jubilation after hitting a jumper with 7.2 seconds left to clinch his teams fourth consecutive NCAA tournament berth. While those fans wouldn’t be wrong, they might be a little misguided.

Though ESPN3 did broadcast that 53-51 win over Yale to a national audience, the last time the entire rest of the college basketball world was fixated on the Harvard men’s basketball team (22-7, 11-3 Ivy), the scene was much different. In a December matchup that pitted the Crimson against the undefeated No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers, a sold-out crowd and national audience watched as the Cavaliers toyed with the Crimson, who had been nationally ranked themselves only a couple of weeks prior.

As ESPNU’s Mike Couzens and Dan Dakich began desperately and awkwardly scrambling for anything other than basketball to talk about amidst the 76-27 blowout, one couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Crimson, who failed to reach double digits in the first half. To an outsider, Harvard looked like a lowly Ivy League team that had mistakenly wandered onto the grounds of an almighty ACC, a league home to 12 official NCAA Basketball championships, unable to handle the limelight of such elite competition.

In fact, that same outsider would likely say that Harvard coach Tommy Amaker’s squad will meet a similar fate when it faces off on national television against perennial powerhouse and No. 4 seed North Carolina. Undeniably, there are plenty of similarities between Thursday night’s matchup and Harvard’s embarrassment in Charlottesville, Va. Having to play another top tier ACC opponent is certainly daunting enough, but doing so on TNT with millions of people watching could spell disaster for the Ancient Eight champions.