For the first time in the Tommy Amaker era, Harvard has begun the season 1-3, with the sole win coming versus a Division III school: MIT. After falling to Providence, UMass, and Boston College, Harvard seems to have taken a step back from its past dominance.
But the real question isn’t, “How good is Harvard?” The important questions are: “Why have the Crimson struggled?,” “What will it take to improve?” and “Can the Crimson contend for an Ivy League title this year?”
Harvard has struggled mightily in a few areas this so far this season. The first matter of major concern is turnovers. The Crimson has turned the ball over on nearly one fourth of their possessions. On the other end, Harvard has forced a turnover on only one eighth of their opponents’ possessions. This causes a straightforward but almost insurmountable problem: Harvard’s opponents take more shots.
Boston College 69, Harvard 56
Free throws. They’re important. The Crimson attempted 23 and missed 14. Harvard lost by 13. You do the math.
Okay, that’s an overly simplistic numbers comparison, but this can’t keep up. Junior center Zena Edosomwan and sophomore forward Chris Egi combined to shoot 5-for-15 from the charity stripe by themselves. Come on. Harvard’s a defense-oriented team that wants to grind it out with some freshman backcourt threes thrown in. If you’re going to play that way, you better make the most of your foul line trips.
With Harvard’s matchup at Boston College less than 24 hours away, it’s time to go behind enemy lines with Arthur Bailin, hoops writer at BC Interruption, the SB Nation Washington Huskies community.
Ivy Hoops Online: The Eagles came into this season with nine vacant roster spots. Is there anything resembling a general rotation around senior guard Eli Carter and freshman guard Jerome Robinson yet, and what are general expectations for the team this season?
BC Interruption: would say that they both have really good chemistry when they are on the floor. Both are bona fide scorers that are a threat whenever they are on the floor. They complement each other really well. For example, last Thursday night Eli Carter had a lot of trouble from the field in the first half. Jerome Robinson was able to keep BC afloat and when Carter caught fire in the second BC was solid. They complement each other really well, and that gives them dangerousness.
IHO: Harvard had beaten Boston College six straight times before last season’s 64-57 overtime loss to the Eagles, in no small part due to the fact that the Eagles outscored the Crimson 38-16 in the paint. What does BC’s interior offensive attack look like this season?
Yale – With Princeton missing Hans Brase for the 2015-16 season due to injury and Columbia’s defense still struggling to make an impact, Yale has to be considered the favorite to win the Ivy League title at this early point. The comfort sophomore guard Makai Mason has displayed in running this offense is perhaps the biggest reason why. Mason posted 21 points and five assists in 36 minutes in Yale’s 99-77 home win over Sacred Heart Monday, a game in which pretty much everything came together for the Elis. Yale notched 16 offensive rebounds, scored 27 second-chance points to Sacred Heart’s 10 and took 17 more shots than SHU as a result. The Bulldogs also enjoyed 24 bench points and shot 52.9 percent (9-for-17) from three.
A lot of Ivies can shoot the ball from deep and have offensive depth. None can hit the boards like the Bulldogs can, especially on the offensive end, and that will pay dividends for them come conference play. Yale proved in its season opener that it can win without reigning Ivy Player of the Year Justin Sears.
What happened: It’d be easy to say Harvard simply ran into the buzzsaw that is likely future NBA Draft lottery pick Kris Dunn, who posted 32 points, six rebounds, two blocks and an incredible eight steals (seven of which came in the first half). But the Crimson’s turnovers – 22 for the game – are what kept them from taking over the game in the first half when the Friars, Dunn included, were struggling to convert at the rim.
What to look for next: Harvard’s halfcourt defense acquitted itself relatively well, even in spite of Dunn’s next-level second half. I expect that defense to continue to strengthen as the season progresses. If freshman guard Corey Johnson can keep up his deep shooting streak – 15 of his 17 points came from downtown – the Crimson will be able to stretch defenses and keep them honest. Junior center Zena Edosomwan got into early foul trouble and missed six of his first seven free throws, only contributing on offense after Dunn had put the game out of reach. Simply put, Harvard needs more offense out of its frontcourt earlier in contests going forward, and that starts with Edosomwan.
Even after five straight Ivy titles and two NCAA Tournament wins, leading this year’s Harvard team to another title would probably be the greatest accomplishment of Tommy Amaker’s career. It’s not that Harvard doesn’t have talent – but other teams may have much more proven talent. Here are my thoughts about the ‘15-’16 Harvard basketball team, taking into account the players’ performances on October 16 at Crimson Madness (the season’s kickoff practice and scrimmage at Lavietes Pavilion, which is open to the public) and how last season unfolded.
On Wednesday, Harvard lost its most important player to a devastating injury. The team announced that captain and starting point guard Siyani Chambers has suffered a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2015-16 season. He will not enroll in school this year, and he will re-enroll in 2016-17 (his final year of eligibility).
Harvard senior guard Siyani Chambers will take a voluntary leave of absence from school this year after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee, the school announced Wednesday.
Chambers is taking a leave of absence because the Ivy League does not permit graduate students to play. Chambers, who has been a starter for the Crimson each of the past three seasons and is a three-time All-Ivy selection, is expected to return for the 2016-17 season.
Harvard will make a bid for a fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015-16, but without Chambers and factoring in the losses of top two 2014-15 leading scorers Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi to graduation, such an achievement seems unlikely, particularly given the greater roster experience enjoyed by Columbia, Princeton and Yale.
Chambers has averaged 11.1 points, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game in his Harvard career, including 9.9 points per contest last season, as Chambers struggled early in the season on offense.
Harvard backcourt players such as junior Corbin Miller, sophomore Andre Chatfield and freshmen Corey Johnson and Tommy McCarthy will have to pick up the slack left by Chambers.