There is no way to sugarcoat a 49-point loss: Harvard shot a pitiful 16 percent percent from the floor, while Virginia shot almost 60 percent. No matter how many cringe-inducing Harvard statistics are highlighted, however, this game’s story was all about Virginia’s excellence; not about Harvard’s incompetence. Over 40 minutes of play, Virginia showed us all that they really are a Final Four-caliber team. Crimson fans who delusionally believed that Harvard might be of the same caliber learned today that they’re not. For the rest of Harvard’s fan base, however, this game shouldn’t be too concerning.
First of all, in the same way that “a win is a win,” a loss is just a loss. When the dust settles from this debacle, Harvard’s players will realize that, in the big picture, nonconference regular season games against top opponents don’t matter much (unless, of course, you win). What matters most for Ivy League teams is that they perform well in the “14-game tournament.” On a day when the Crimson’s unluckiness seemed to show no bounds, Harvard is lucky that this flat performance came against a nonconference foe.
Does this game raise question marks for future Ivy games? No. As much as Yale and Columbia fans would like to believe that the Cavaliers exposed vulnerabilities that they can exploit, Virginia is simply not comparable to any Ivy League team.
Did this contest offer a game plan to beat Harvard? Yes: Put a potential No. 1 team on the court, and you can beat them by a lot. But Ivy League coaches already knew that a key to defeating Harvard was to recruit athletic, dominant, four- and five-star caliber players. Virginia is simply better than Harvard. Luck certainly played a role in the final score, as Virginia is not 49 points better than Harvard, but the main reason Virginia defeated Harvard was their significant talent advantage, not a great flaw in the Crimson’s game.
Tommy Amaker teaches his players to focus on the “next play,” and that’s exactly what they need to do now. This lopsided loss doesn’t spell doom for Harvard’s 2014-15 season. In fact, it may have helped prepare the Crimson for a more successful effort against another top opponent come March Madness – if they’re fortunate enough to win the Ivy League for the fifth consecutive time.
After a one-week layoff, Harvard plays at Arizona State on Dec. 28. Playing away from home is always a tough test for the Crimson, and this game will be no exception. It will be fascinating to see if Harvard can bounce back from their punishing loss in Charlottesville.