NCAA tournament team previews: Harvard Crimson
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 22-77 (11-3 in Ivy League)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 102.0 (170th)/94.5 (34th)
Seed: No. 13 in West Region
Impact player: Wesley Saunders, senior, guard: 16.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.2 apg
The Case For: There’s something to be said for tournament experience, and few players in this year’s dance have more than Harvard seniors Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi. They’ve now been in the tournament all four years of their college careers, and both have been starting since they were sophomores. Add in junior Siyani Chambers, a starter each of the last two years, and the Crimson have three players who have logged significant minutes in the Big Dance. Harvard has won a game in each of the last two tournaments, knocking off New Mexico in 2013 and Cincinnati last year. This year’s team is more methodical than either of its predecessors and wants to slow the game down and grind out possessions. Saunders is the type of player who can carry a team to victory almost singlehandedly. He leads the Crimson in scoring and steals and is second and rebounds and assists. If he gets hot in their first game, the Crimson could make life awfully tough for North Carolina.
The Case Against: Unlike the Harvard teams of the two previous seasons, this one isn’t known for its offense. They ranked just 170th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and even its best players left something to be desired in that area. Saunders is shooting 44.8 percent from the floor. Mondou-Missi, who does most of his work in the paint, is at 46.1 percent, while Chambers is way down at 35.6 percent. As a team, the Crimson ranks 250th in effective field goal percentage and 176th in three-point percentage. They played five games against big schools this year, going 2-3 with the wins coming over Houston and Massachusetts. They were completely embarrassed in their only game against a power conference tournament team, scoring 27 points en route to a 49-point loss to Virginia. They were able to shut down opponents in the Ivy League, but there aren’t any Yales or Browns or Dartmouths in the field of 68. Doing the same against the likes of North Carolina will be a lot more challenging.
SI prediction: Lose to North Carolina in Round of 64