After Friday night's Bulldog bloodbath, first-place Harvard made the short trip up I-95 to Providence where a Brown team on its first winning streak of the season awaits. While the two teams enter this game coming off a win the night before, the similarities between the squads end right there. Harvard, as we all know, is the #23-ranked team in the nation with a top-ten defense (.874 points allowed per possession), an early season tournament title (Battle4Atlantis), and three victories against Top 100 teams (FSU, UCF, St. Joe's). Brown has the country's 290th best defense (1.082 points allowed per possession), hasn't even played a Top 100 team, and has zero Top 200 wins. But the Bears have a little momentum from victories over Bryant and Dartmouth, and in the last couple match-ups, they've had the Crimson's number for at least a half. Plus, it's the back end of an Ivy weekend, so anything's possible.
Last year, the Bears jumped out to double-digit leads over Harvard at halftime of both games. The Bears blew a lead of historic proportions in Cambridge after leading 53-31 at the half, eventually falling by a final of 85-78. Keith Wright led the way with 22 points and 14 rebounds for the Crimson. A few weeks later in Providence, the Bears jumped all over the Crimson again, leading 41-30 at the half before being overtaken 74-68. Tucker Halpern, who of course is out for this year for Brown, had 29 points and 5 assists in that game. For Harvard, Oliver McNally dropped in 20 points to go with 5 steals.
McGonagill and Albrecht will have their hands full with McNally and Curry on both ends. The Brown backcourt is capable of getting hot, but the Crimson don't tend to give up many open looks. For Brown, falling into an organized, quickly-rotating 2-3 zone is a necessity if they want to compete with Harvard. Inferior teams have been able to hang around
against Harvard all year thanks to efficient zone defenses. On the interior, McCarthy and Walker are going to need to be physical to keep Wright and Casey from receiving the ball low on the block or down on the base line.
Harvard, meanwhile, has several mismatches to choose from on offense. If Brown's zone defense collapses on Wright or Casey, Rivard and Miller should get their open looks on the perimeter. If Brown doesn't help down low, the big guys should be able to go to work. Brown is in a tough spot here.
Pomeroy has Harvard as 96% favorites in this contest. For perspective, with 280 teams in action tomorrow, only one team in the country is a bigger home underdog than Brown. Harvard has the talent and depth to run away with this one. This Brown team has proved to be scrappy though, and with a solid half of shooting, the Bears are capable of putting a scare into Harvard. With more weapons last year, Brown was not capable of closing the deal, and there's no reason to think they will be able to do so this year either. While it's close for the first ten minutes, Harvard starts to pull away late in the first and never looks back. Harvard 70, Brown 51.