Last season, Harvard lost to Yale in heartbreaking fashion in the first round of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament. The Crimson graduated Siyani Chambers and Zena Edosomwan, both of whom made indelible impacts on the program. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a successful Harvard season without Siyani Chambers. And yet, the Crimson comes into the 2017-18 season as the preseason favorite, according to the Ivy Preseason Media Poll. While the poll predicted an incredibly close race between Harvard and familiar foes Yale and Princeton, the sentiment of the voters is clear: No one expects Harvard to take a step back this year. Here are the details on how Harvard hopes to turn high expectations on paper into actual success on the court:
Two games will likely define Harvard’s season. The narrative surrounding this team — whether Harvard is back as a mainstay in the Big Dance as one of the top mid-major programs in the country, or if they were just too young — will be decided by two games. Two 40-minute games for all the marbles, because 14 is so “last year.” Like it or not, the Ivy League Tournament is here, it’s here to stay … and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Here’s what to watch for from Harvard’s perspective.
The Crimson played two wild games this past weekend, as Harvard took down Penn before dropping a stunning game to Princeton. On Friday night, the Crimson trailed 19-4 before storming back to beat Penn. On Saturday night, Harvard staged a double-digit comeback to lead Princeton late, but missed free throws, silly fouls and some rebounding issues led to this wild ending and a Harvard loss. Here are a few of my thoughts on Harvard at this point in the season:
The Crimson traveled to the Lone Star State to play its toughest opponent of the season in the Houston Cougars at Hofheinz Pavilion. Riding a three-game winning streak, the Crimson were hot. Harvard’s previous three wins over the Rams of Fordham, the Huskies of Northeastern, and the Eagles of Boston College were impressive; but this Cougar team was a whole different animal. While Houston didn’t come in boasting any signature wins, they were not to be taken lightly. According to KenPom, Houston possesses the nation’s 16th-ranked offense – and it’s not hard to see why. Houston is one of the 25 slowest teams in the country, while still averaging 83 points per game. With the inexperienced Crimson still trying to get its defense together, the matchup posed a unique challenge.
Eight games into the season, the Crimson sit at 4-4. Although this may not be the start everyone in Cambridge dreamed of when fate brought this team together, the Crimson are trending upward after winning three straight games heading into the exam break.
Harvard started the season by losing four consecutive winnable, Division I games. The team hung with Stanford in its opening night game in China, but it still didn’t feel like a great showing, even with Bryce Aiken scoring 21 points in his first collegiate game. After trouncing Fisher College, a non-NCAA team, the Crimson hit a low point in their season. Harvard was only three games in, but an 11-point loss to Holy Cross at home was not a good sign. With Zena Edosomwan only playing seven minutes, Siyani Chambers committing five turnovers (Harvard had 19 as a team), and freshman Bryce Aiken out with an injury, there didn’t seem to be much to take away from that game – besides what not to do. Seth Towns and Corey Johnson had solid games, but there were more question marks than answers. Would the heralded tandem down low of Zena Edosomwan and Chris Lewis play up to expectations? Or, more importantly, would the heralded tandem down low of Zena Edosomwan and Chris Lewis play? Would Bryce Aiken return soon? What was wrong with Siyani?
When Harvard lost six out of its first seven games against Division I opponents last season, you could hear them. When Harvard started out Ivy play 2-7, you could hear them. When Harvard finished the season 14-16 with a 6-8 record in the Ivy League, you could really hear them.
Maybe you even started hearing them last August when it was announced that Siyani Chambers had torn his ACL, and that he would miss the entire 2015-16 season. Or maybe they became audible on Jan. 18, 2015, when Harvard landed Chris Lewis, the first of seven recruits who, on paper, comprise the best recruiting class on paper in Ivy League history. Or maybe they started five years ago when current Harvard senior Zena Edosomwan became the first ever top-100 recruit to commit to an Ivy League school.
Next season, the Crimson will bring in a star-studded, highly-ranked and extremely potent seven-man class consisting of Chris Lewis, Bryce Aiken, Seth Towns, Christian Juzang, Robert Baker, Henry Welsh and Justin Bassey. With four of these players ranked in either Scout.com or ESPN’s Top 100 lists and the class as a whole ranked 11th nationally by ESPN, expectations are high for this group. Combine all the rankings and buzz surrounding this class with Harvard’s lack of success this season, and the perfect storm for this class’s grand entrance is all but brewed. Here’s a breakdown, one by one, of what to expect from this recruiting class next year and beyond:
Following our countdown of the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s men’s basketball history this summer, Ivy Hoops Online is delighted to continue celebrating the 60th anniversary of modern Ivy League basketball by honoring the top 60 players in Ivy hoops history (in no particular order). For the next entry in our Ivy 60 for 60 series, we focus on Wesley Saunders, one of the greatest players in Harvard basketball history…
A year ago, I argued that Wesley Saunders was the greatest Harvard player of all-time. Therefore it’s no surprise that Saunders is one of the top-60 Ivy League players of all-time. Here’s why he belongs:
For the first time since 2009, Harvard is 1-3 in Ivy play. It’s an unusual sight for most Harvard fans, and as Alex Rosenberg’s game-winner swished through the net on Saturday to down the Crimson, I couldn’t help but remember the three buzzer-beating wins Harvard had last year in Ivy play (one to send the game to overtime – an eventual win – and two pure game-winners). For five straight years, the ball always seemed to bounce Harvard’s way. But on both Friday and Saturday night, the Crimson were a step behind the competition, getting swept on their home court. So let’s look back on the underlying issues of this sweep, explore how the Crimson can improve and discuss what lies ahead for the reeling Crimson.