AROUND THE IVIES: Crimson Looks to Stay Perfect At Lavietes

Around the Ivies

Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin.

There. It’s out of my system. Unlike every other media outlet in the country, that’s all I’m going to say about that. Because this column is supposed to be about the Harvard men’s basketball team, and there’s a lot to discuss on that topic as well.

Over my 20 years of life, there have been three constants: death, taxes, and the Crimson losing in Jadwin Gymnasium.

Actually, I haven’t died, nor have I started paying taxes yet, so those aren’t actually true. But the third one is, as Harvard hasn’t won at Princeton since 1989, and has never swept the Penn-Princeton road trip in its history.

Those demons held strong once again this past weekend, when the Crimson survived a rowdy Palestra with a 56-50 win, then succumbed, 70-62, to its buzzer-beating, heart-breaking, no-real-grad-school-containing, Carlton Banks-accepting, Woodrow-Wilsoning, club-eating New Jersey rivals. Again.

The loss knocked Harvard out of both Top 25 polls, likely for good this regular season, while leaving the door open for Penn and Yale to make a late-season run at the Ivy title.

Though the defeat will hurt its potential NCAA seed, Harvard is still in good shape for the league championship. With a one-game lead and four of its last six at home (where it hasn’t lost in its last 25 games)—and the other two contests at beatable Cornell and Columbia—the Crimson is still the favorite to win its first outright Ivy title ever. But for a team with larger aspirations—a squad that is talented enough to win games in the NCAA tournament—there is still a lot that needs to be improved.

Most importantly, while the defense has been great all season long, the offense has been incredibly inconsistent. Though Tommy Amaker loves to emphasize "our bench and our balance," such an alliteration has resulted in a team that has averaged just 63 points per game since New Year’s Day. That’s good enough to win Ivy contests or beat another defense-oriented team like Florida State, but not to top more offensively-talented opponents in the Big Dance.

Harvard desperately needs a go-to crunch-time scorer for close games down the stretch, like the one at Princeton last Saturday. The team tried to turn to Kyle Casey, but the junior missed a makeable layup and four back-breaking free-throws late in the contest.

Meanwhile, Keith Wright’s mid-range game has been largely nonexistent all year, hurting the Crimson’s ability to run the pick-and-roll and leaving Wright stuck in double-teams down low. Outside, Laurent Rivard shot a combined 0-for-8 from three last weekend, and the team simply can’t win if it’s not knocking down the long ball.

I’ve watched every single one of Harvard’s 24 games this season, and, quite frankly, if you asked me to name the best player on the team, I would have no idea who to say. For while they’ve all been good, nobody’s been great, as Wright was last season when he won Player of the Year.

Freshman Corbin Miller was the team’s best scorer last weekend, making up for Rivard’s woes from three-point range. Shooting 47 percent on the year from outside the arc, Miller continues to serve as the offensive spark Harvard often badly needs, and he should certainly be seeing more minutes in the future.

Expecting a freshman to emerge as a go-to guy is a lot to ask, but right now nobody else on the Crimson has shown the ability to generate points on a consistent basis. Someone needs to step up and emerge as a closer.

But enough about Harvard—on to the rest of the league.

BROWN (7-18, 1-7 Ivy) AT HARVARD (21-3, 7-1)