Harvard season preview: Slew of sophomore studs looks to lead Crimson

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:

Read moreHarvard season preview: Slew of sophomore studs looks to lead Crimson

Alex Mitola to become graduate transfer, play final season elsewhere

According to several sources, including his high school coach, Dartmouth junior guard Alex Mitola will become a graduate transfer and play his final season at another school.

“Alex always wanted to see if he could play up at a little bit of a higher level,” Gill St. Bernard’s coach Mergin Sina told Jerry Carino. “Out of high school he didn’t have a chance to do it.”

The news represents a huge loss for Big Green coach Paul Cormier and the Dartmouth basketball program. Mitola averaged 12.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, good for seventh in scoring, first in free-throw percentage, 10th in assists, second in three-pointers made, second in assist/turnover ratio and second in minutes played.

“I’m disappointed and think he’s making a terrible mistake,” Paul Cormier said to the Valley News of Mitola. “He can’t get that (fourth year at Dartmouth) back. The decision that requires the most substance is staying here and following through with the teammates you came in with.”

The Valley News also reports that Mitola plans to play his final season of college eligibility with a higher-profile program and pursue a graduate business degree before playing professionally overseas.

“We’ve gone from nine victories to 12 to 14 since Alex has been here,” Cormier told the Valley News. “He could have left a real legacy. I hope this isn’t something he later regrets, because it’s not ending the way I think it should.”

“It was hard because I know the situation it puts them in, but I felt it was what was best for me and my career moving forwards,” Mitola said.

The Ivy League will miss Mitola’s potent long-range shooting, superior ballhandling and clutch play. Dartmouth would not have made its first postseason since 1959 this season without him. I discussed what I thought Mitola’s versatility meant to Dartmouth in an On the Vine in February, and One Bid Wonders correctly identified him as the “culture changer” in Hanover earlier this season.

2015 Outgoing Ivy Transfers

Denton Koon

Shonn Miller

Kenyatta Smith

Rafael Maia

Cam Crocker

Galal Cancer

Alex Mitola

Final thoughts on the 2014-15 Harvard season

Harvard took North Carolina to the wire last week in Jacksonville, bowing 67-65 to the Tar Heels in the Crimson's sixth NCAA tournament game since 2012. (Rob Crawford)
Harvard took North Carolina to the wire last week in Jacksonville, bowing 67-65 to the Tar Heels in the Crimson’s sixth NCAA tournament game since 2012. (Rob Crawford)

A few days after watching Harvard’s season end in Jacksonville with Wesley Saunders’ final shot clanking off the rim and backboard, it seems an appropriate time to look back on the Crimson season that was. Amid the shock and nostalgia comes perspective … and withdrawal. Here are my final thoughts on Harvard’s memorable 2014-15 season:

Read moreFinal thoughts on the 2014-15 Harvard season

North Carolina leads Harvard at halftime, 36-25

No. 4 North Carolina leads No. 13 Harvard at halftime in Jacksonville, 36-25.

It’s been a game of many runs so far, and a whole lot of Wesley Saunders. The Harvard senior guard posted 15 points in the stanza, including the Crimson’s first 10 points. It took 10:56 for a Harvard player other than Saunders to score, and at one point, Harvard was shooting 1-for-14 outside of Saunders.

And yet the Crimson reeled off a 16-5 run in 6:04, cutting North Carolina’s lead to 26-23 before the Tar Heels in turn bounced back to finish the half on a 10-2 run driven by sophomore forward Isiah Hicks, who leads UNC with nine points off the bench.

Eight Tar Heels have scored, many of them notching easy buckets in transition off of long rebounds. Still, three Tar Heels also have two fouls – freshman forward Justin Jackson and junior forwards Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto.

Can Harvard ride Saunders to another improbable victory? We’re about to find out.

The Game 3.0

There are games ... and then there are Games. And then there
There are games … and then there are Games.
… And then there”s this Game.

The Game 2.0 was supposed to be for all the marbles. Yale defeated Harvard in that one, but the next night, Dartmouth stole the marbles back from the Bulldogs. The Big Green’s miracle win versus Yale last Saturday will give Harvard a second shot at Yale this weekend. You have questions about this game? Read on for the answers.

The matchups I wrote about prior to the Yale victory will certainly be important once again, but an eventful week has passed since that article, so let’s look at some unique keys to this game:

Read moreThe Game 3.0

Crimson survives at Brown, prevails at Yale

Reports of Harvard's demise were proven premature in New Haven Saturday night.
Reports of Harvard’s demise were proven premature in New Haven Saturday night.

The Crimson’s season hung in the balance: There were eight seconds left and Harvard trailed by two points. A loss would seriously hurt the Crimson’s chances of even a share of the Ivy title.

This was not the narrative for Harvard’s Saturday night tilt against league-leader Yale, however – this was the storyline of their game against bottom-dweller Brown on Friday.

Read moreCrimson survives at Brown, prevails at Yale

Crimson conquer first Ivy Foe, Miller lethal from long range

Harvard stifled Dartmouth for a 57-46 win in Hanover on Saturday night to move to 1-0 on this young Ivy League season. The win is the Crimson’s third straight, and their eleventh straight versus the Big Green. In Harvard’s most important tilt thus far, it took care of business. Out of the gate, the Crimson shined, making their first three shots. However, they only made one field goal in the next seven minutes of play, letting Dartmouth tie the score at eight. Then Corbin Miller got hot, posting the next 11 points for the Crimson. Harvard looked very streaky offensively in the first half, but Dartmouth’s shooting woes (27 percent from the field), coupled with Harvard’s stout D, gave the visitors a seven-point lead at halftime.

Harvard traded blows with Dartmouth in the second half, with the Crimson’s lead eventually reaching eleven, three minutes into the half. However, Dartmouth stayed within reach and was able to cut the lead to five only a few minutes later. With Saunders out due to foul trouble, Kenyatta Smith, Siyani Chambers, and Corbin Miller stepped up scoring Harvard’s first 22 points of the second half (that’s every point for the first 18:17 of the half). Strong late-game performances from the charity stripe by Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders sealed the Crimson’s first Ivy League victory. Though at the time the game seemed well in hand, clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch will be crucial to Harvard’s success against tougher Ivy League foes.

Read moreCrimson conquer first Ivy Foe, Miller lethal from long range

Saunders, Crimson squeak by Minutemen

Wesley Saunders notched 27 points in Harvard's victory over UMass Saturday. (ivyleaguesports.com)
Wesley Saunders notched 27 points in Harvard’s victory over UMass Saturday. (ivyleaguesports.com)

In what seemed like a home game for UMass (half of the fans at Lavietes Pavilion were cheering for the Minutemen), Harvard eked out a much-needed win in the final seconds against a very good non-conference opponent. This victory, Harvard’s third in a row, was exactly what the Crimson needed as they continue to rebound from their tough early-season loss to Holy Cross. And in terms of their potential seeding in the NCAA Tournament (if they are fortunate enough to get there again), this game was huge. Harvard is starting to look like the national contender they were predicted to be going into the season. Individual performances in the UMass game, however, may provide the greatest reasons for the Crimson faithful to rejoice.

Read moreSaunders, Crimson squeak by Minutemen

Harvard Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

Sorry, rest of the Ivy League. Harvard’s still Harvard.

Laurent Rivard, Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey may be gone, but Harvard’s ranked No. 25 in the nation and appears to be locked in cruise control en route to a fourth straight NCAA appearance, even in a loaded Ivy League. But let’s start with the negatives. Where is the perimeter depth now? 2013-14 Ivy Player of the Year Wesley Saunders is back and so is Siyani Chambers, who we’ll get to below. Agunwa Okolie, two-year Mormon church mission hiatus-taker Corbin Miller and rookie Andre Chatfield will all be stepping up to provide that depth. The frontcourt boasts the return of shot-blocking phenom Kenyatta Smith as well as the very well-rounded Steve Moundou-Missi. If the Crimson can find a potent three-point shooting wing who can complement Saunders and Chambers, they’ll be just as good as last year. Even if they don’t, they’ll win the Ivy League anyway.

Read moreHarvard Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

NCAA: Harvard Shocks New Mexico 68-62

Wesley Saunders could not be contained on Thursday night as the Ivy Champs knocked out New Mexico in the tournament
Wesley Saunders could not be contained on Thursday night as the Ivy Champs knocked out New Mexico in the tournament”s biggest upset of the opening day. (Photo credit: AP/Rick Bowmer)

The Crimson rolled right past the Lobos on Thursday night, clogging the paint and contesting every shot, en route to holding New Mexico to just 37.5% shooting. Coach Tommy Amaker”s game plan was executed to perfection, as Siyani Chambers” quickness inside forced New Mexico to collapse, opening up space for Laurent Rivard (5-9) and

Christian Webster (3-5 from 3PT) to blast off from deep.

Rivard hit a 3 with 6:21 to play to put Harvard ahead and the Crimson never relinquished the lead. Saunders followed with a jumper from above the elbow, and Kenyatta Smith made a great move on the block to push the lead to 59-53 with 4:42 left. From there, the Crimson went

7-10 from the free throw line to seal the deal.

Read moreNCAA: Harvard Shocks New Mexico 68-62