Saunders helped Harvard get past New Mexico in an upset win in last year's NCAA tournament. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
As part of its preview of the 2014 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. For more teams, click here.
Record: 26-4, 13-1 in Ivy League
Adjusted Offense / Adjusted Defense: 111.2 (56th), 96.3 (35th)
Seed: No. 12 in East
Impact player: Wesley Saunders, junior forward. 14.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.7 spg.
The Case For:
The Crimson, per the kenpom.com rankings, are a top 40-level team, thanks mostly to their defense, which suggests that this is no gimmick underdog relying on bells and whistles to get by. There is something reliable about Harvard, not least its resolve: Faced with a chance to clinch a third straight NCAA tournament bid on the road – or have things muddied up going into the final day of the regular season – the Crimson dismantled second-place Yale in New Haven.
Another reason for Harvard fans to feel good: The Crimson won an NCAA tournament game a year ago, upending No. 3-seed New Mexico. This year’s team beat major-conference foes Boston College and TCU and regular-season champions of the Horizon (Wisconsin-Green Bay) and Patriot (Boston University) leagues, and only lost at Colorado by eight. In other words, the Crimson won’t be cowed by whichever team they face.
Harvard can shoot from deep (an Ivy League-best 38.7 percent from 3) and takes care of the ball (1.26 assist-to-turnover ratio) while being disruptive of opponents (7.8 steals per game). Five players average double-digit scoring, led by Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers (11.1 ppg), so head coach Tommy Amaker will have multiple threats on the floor at any time.
The Case Against:
It sounds like some basketball snobbery, but this is an Ivy League team. And the closest thing Harvard came to a true statement victory was a five-point loss to Connecticut, which wound up as the No. 5 seed in its own conference tournament.
The Crimson are not a terrific rebounding team, ranking just inside the top 100 for defensive rebounding percentage and outside the top 100 for offensive rebounding percentage. Considering they have just one regular – sophomore Evan Cummins, who plays just 10 minutes per game – as tall as 6-foot-9, that could hurt them against bigger competition.
SI prediction: Beat Cincinnati in second round, lose to Michigan State in third round
View complete bracket predictions from SI.com's panel of experts