Harvard all-time moment No. 7: Harvard’s amazing comeback vs. North Carolina in first round of 2015 NCAA Tournament

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Harvard is next because …go Knicks!

March 15, 2015 was Selection Sunday, and Harvard fans and players gathered in the Murr Center in Cambridge to see who the Crimson would face in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This was the fourth consecutive year the Crimson would be dancing. In the previous three years, they had faced three solid teams in Vanderbilt, New Mexico and Cincinnati. Then the brackets were revealed, and Harvard learned that this year it was matched against perennial national championship contender North Carolina. Everyone knew this year would be different.

Read moreHarvard all-time moment No. 7: Harvard’s amazing comeback vs. North Carolina in first round of 2015 NCAA Tournament

How Harvard can beat North Carolina

1. Play to your strengths

The only way Harvard can win this game is if they continue to play stingy defense and to rebound exceptionally well. UNC boasts the 44th-best defensive efficiency in the country (with the second-toughest “strength of schedule”), so Harvard has practically no chance of winning a high-scoring game. Also, the Crimson must limit Carolina’s scoring opportunities by not allowing the Tar Heels any offensive rebounds. At the other end of the court, offensive rebounds would be a bonus for the Crimson, but second chances against this UNC defense (which held Duke’s Jahlil Okafor to his lowest offensive rating of the season) won’t be easy to come by. If the Crimson’s defense isn’t clicking, the Tar Heels will be headed to the round of 32.

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Harvard-UNC: What to expect

As mentioned in Tuesday’s On the Vine podcast, pace of game will determine whether Harvard can win a NCAA tournament game for the third straight season.

The Tar Heels are 1-5 in games with fewer than 65 possessions, while Harvard has played in only eight games this season with more than 65 possessions. In other words, the slower the game, the more successful the Crimson are likely to be.

Harvard ranks 34th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, and North Carolina has been a turnover-prone team all season, prone to poor passing and occasionally pushing tempo at the expense of smart offense.

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