Men's Basketball Preview: Columbia

Published by David Freed on February 28, 2015 at 3:41PM
Columbia Callback

The Crimson look to bounce back after falling to Cornell on Friday.

After winning eight straight games to grab sole control of the Ivy League, the Harvard men’s basketball team (19-6, 9-2 Ivy) laid an egg Friday Night in Ithaca. The Crimson shot just 25 percent from the floor and 61 percent from the free throw line, with its top three players combining to make just 13 of 43 shots from the floor. Harvard will look to earn a split on the Gentleman’s C’s road trip when it visits Columbia (13-12, 5-6). Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard visits Levein Gymnasium.

Playing For the Trophy: Arguably the two leading Ivy League Player of the Year candidates will square off Saturday night. Harvard senior wing Wesley Saunders, the reigning ILPOY, missed 15 of his 21 shots last night. He finished with nice round totals of 19 points and 11 rebounds—including a personal 6-2 run to bring Harvard within four—but was outshined by Cornell senior forward Shonn Miller (24 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks). Columbia junior guard Maodo Lo averaged 26.5 points a week ago in sweeping Brown and Yale, but similarly came down to earth in a surprising 84-71 loss to Dartmouth, making just four of 13 shots with four turnovers and zero assists.

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Reassessing Where Men's Basketball Stands

Published by David Freed on February 25, 2015 at 2:40AM

After its thrilling come-from-behind win against Princeton, the Harvard men’s basketball team (19-5, 9-1 Ivy) stands alone atop the Ancient Eight. Joe Lunardi, who has had the Crimson in his bracket since Harvard won in New Haven, has projected the Crimson—which holds its fate in its own hands—to be a 12 seed for the third time in four years, playing Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Here’s what some other outlets have been saying about the Ancient Eight race as it heads towards its conclusion:

Ken Pomeroy: College basketball’s most famous statistician has the Crimson as the 67th best team in the country, roughly unchanged from previous weekends. Harvard was ranked in the top 40 early in the season, but losses to Holy Cross and Virginia knocked it down several rungs. Yale remains in the low 80s (currently 81) after losing to Columbia, which the model sees as the third best team in the conference.

Vegas: While I couldn’t find any source telling Harvard’s odds of winning the Ivy League—@ivybball pegged the odds of a solo victory at around 90 percent—Vegas online sportsbook Bovada gives the Crimson 500/1 odds to win the national championship. Oddly enough, it gives Georgia Tech the same odds but has suspended bets on that channel. Per vegasinsider.com, the Crimson has been a sloppy cover, going just 8-10 on the year and failing four times to cover spreads of at least nine points. 

ESPN: In ESPN: The Magazine’s latest issue, Jordan Brenner and Peter Keating identified Harvard as a ‘Generic Killer’ type of underdog for the NCAA Tournament. Grouped with Xavier, the Crimson was pegged as a tough matchup for Generic Giants Northern Iowa and Oklahoma. Lo and behold, the Sooners are the fourth seed in Harvard’s projected region.

CollegeInsider: Before the season, we took a look at whether Harvard would be the top mid-major program in the country if you stripped out “name only” mid-majors like Wichita State. The performance this year has not given the Crimson a credible claim to first, as Harvard ranks seventh in the latest mid-major top 25, five spots below Yale and directly below Murray State, Valparaiso, and Stephen F. Austin.  

Men's Basketball Preview: Cornell

Published by David Freed on February 14, 2015 at 10:15PM
Seeking a Sweep

The Crimson goes for its first home sweep of the season against Cornell on Saturday.

A late jumper by junior co-captain Siyani Chambers catapulted the Harvard men’s basketball team (16-5, 6-1 Ivy) to its fifth straight win Friday. The Crimson goes for its 20th win in its last 22 games at home Saturday against the Cornell Big Red. Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard looks to complete its first home sweep of the year. 

Balance, Balance, Balance: Harvard coach Tommy Amaker’s favorite phrase, his team’s “bench and balance,” came up big for the Crimson against Columbia. Senior Jonah Travis had 12 points off of the bench, playing most of the second half and hitting a dagger jumper late in the game. Amaker has moved to a seven-man rotation almost exclusively since the beginning of conference play, sticking nonconference rotation players like freshman Andre Chatfield and junior Evan Cummins on the bench for the entire 40 minutes, making Travis’ efforts even more important.

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Men's Basketball Preview: Penn

Published by David Freed on January 31, 2015 at 9:26AM
Holding On

Junior point guard Siyani Chambers, shown here in recent action, surrendered just two turnovers against Princeton and will look to repeat that success on Saturday.

For the fourth time this year, the Harvard men’s basketball team (12-5, 2-1 Ivy) followed a loss with a win. Friday’s 75-72 triumph over Princeton may have been the Crimson’s biggest win since defeating UMass in November, and it left Harvard tied for second in the Ivy League heading into Saturday’s game against Penn (6-10 1-1). Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard goes to the Palestra. 

Guns Blazing

One of Friday’s most effective performances came from one of the Crimson’s most unlikely sources. Junior guard Agunwa Okolie put up a career-high eight shot attempts and a season-high 10 points. Okolie thrived as the four in ultra-small lineups, making harder cuts to the basket and finishing at the rim.

Other than getting denied by Stephen Cook at the rim on a dunk attempt (think Roy Hibbert’s 2012 rejection of Carmelo Anthony), Okolie looked as good as he had all season. The junior is not a floor spacer and does not have space to drive in two-big lineups, making him an awkward fit with Amaker’s preferred starting lineup. But the Ajax, Ontario native is a rangy defender who blanketed Princeton’s leading scorer, sophomore Spencer Weisz, into zero points Friday. He will be an X-factor for the Crimson moving forward if he can consistently produce on the offensive end.

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Men's Basketball Preview: Dartmouth

Published by David Freed on January 22, 2015 at 1:41AM
Filling In

Filling in for the injured Kenyatta Smith, sophomore forward Zena Edosomwan had 13 points and eight rebounds on Tuesday.

The Harvard men’s basketball team (11-4, 1-0 Ivy) closed nonconference play with a 66-57 victory over Bryant on Tuesday night. After playing six of its previous seven games on the road, the Crimson will return home to Lavietes Pavilion to take on Dartmouth (7-8, 0-1 Ivy) Saturday afternoon. Below, The Back Page takes a look at the three main things to keep your eye on as Harvard looks to maintain its perfect home record.

Is Zena Ready?

How things turn. After barely leaving the bench in an overtime loss to Boston College, sophomore Zena Edosomwan got the first meaningful start of his career against the Bulldogs. With 13 points and eight rebounds in just 24 minutes, the Los Angeles native delivered. After a rocky start, Edosomwan had four points and four rebounds in the Crimson’s 8-0 run that clinched the victory.

Although he cannot match senior center Kenyatta Smith’s contributions on the defensive end—the sophomore is a better rebounder but a vastly inferior shot blocker—Edosomwan stands a good chance at matching the senior’s contributions due to his offensive prowess. While he is a black hole on this end of the floor (29.0 percent usage rate, 1.7 percent assist rate), he does a good job getting to the line and rarely turns the ball over. His post game has improved dramatically (43.9 percent effective field goal percentage in 2013-2014), and he is by far the team’s best offensive rebounding threat.

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