As the Harvard men’s basketball team prepares to take the floor for its season opener on Sunday, expectations surrounding the club are higher than ever.
After grabbing at least a share of the Ivy League crown in each of the last three seasons and winning a total of 69 games, the Crimson has established itself as the team to beat in the Ancient Eight.
Harvard’s upset victory over New Mexico in last year’s NCAA Tournament has also earned the team attention on the national stage. The Crimson enter the season ranked 31st in the nation by the Associated Press and 32nd in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
Nonetheless, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker says that his team is trying to ignore the hype.
“Our identity is consistent, our standards are consistent, and our goals are consistent,” Amaker said. “A lot of times [compared to] whatever the quote-unquote expectations may be, more than likely, our standards and our goals are even higher.”
This season the Crimson will be full of familiar faces. Last season’s co-captain Christian Webster was the only senior on last year’s squad, but even he will be returning to the Harvard bench as an assistant coach.
Seniors Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey will also make their returns on Sunday. After sitting out last season, the two veterans will look to create an immediate impact.
“I’m excited,” Curry said. “It’s a day I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time, so I’m just thrilled that it’s finally here…This is the best that I’ve ever felt, and I’m just excited to be back [and] ready to go for this year.”
The Crimson is slated to play Holy Cross in the finale of the first annual Coaches vs. Cancer Tripleheader at the TD Garden. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the event will first feature a match-up between Boston University and Northeastern, followed by a game between Boston College and UMass.
The Crusaders are looking to open the season strong as they attempt to rebound from a seventh place finish in the Patriot League. Holy Cross finished the 2012-13 campaign with a 12-18 record, winning only four conference games.
Although the Crusaders lead its overall series with Harvard, 40-25, the Crimson has beaten Holy Cross five consecutive times. However, when the two teams clashed last year at Lavietes Pavilion, the Crusaders gave the host all it could handle.
Led by 22 points from then-junior forward Dave Dudzinski, the Crusaders battled Harvard shot for shot. But four made free throws down the stretch by Crimson co-captain Laurent Rivard sealed a 72-65 Harvard victory.
The Crimson will have its hands full again trying to defend Dudzinski. Now a co-captain, the forward is looking to build on a season in which he averaged 15.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Fellow co-captain Justin Burrell, a junior point guard, is also an integral part of the Holy Cross offense.
Amaker has yet to announce his starting lineup for Sunday’s game. The depth of his team offers an abundance of potential starting combinations.
“We could have different lineups for different games, [and] we could have different lineups for different halves,” Amaker said. “We’ve talked to our guys [about] not focusing so much on starting and total number of minutes, [but] how productive can we be, how efficient can we be, and how good can we be with whatever unit is out on the floor.”
NOTEBOOK: Crusader Big Men Challenge Crimson
Men's Basketball Non-Conference Preview: Holy CrossThe main contributors in the matchup between Harvard and Holy Cross will be very different than last year’s, as key players from both schools are no longer with their teams.
Men's Basketball Returns From Break Against Holy Cross
Men's Soccer Preps For Final Tune-UpWith just two weeks left in its season, the Harvard men’s soccer team will look to continue its recent strong play against the Holy Cross Crusaders on Wednesday.
Men's Soccer Outlasts Holy Cross, 1-0With both teams preparing to vie for their respective league championships, the Harvard and Holy Cross men’s soccer teams took a break from their conference schedules to do battle Wednesday night.
Women's Lacrosse Dominates Holy Cross in One-Sided MatchupThe Crimson (7-4, 3-1 Ivy) took a break from conference play with a mid-week match up against the Crusaders (5-10, 3-3 Patriot League) in Worcester. The first half was when Harvard solidified its offense, scoring 10 goals in the opening 30 minutes of play, while holding Holy Cross to only one scoring drive.