Big Green looks for big upset in Ivy opener versus Harvard

The Dartmouth men’s basketball team welcomes Harvard on Saturday night for both programs’ Ivy tip-off. The Crimson have won the last four meetings and five of the last six, including both games in 2018. On Jan. 6, Harvard beat Dartmouth 61-51 at Lavietes Pavilion, while earning a 62-57 overtime victory at Leede Arena on Jan. 20.

The Big Green, picked eighth in the Ivy media preseason poll, finished the nonconference schedule at 9-7, already the most single season wins in coach David McLaughlin’s three-year tenure and the school’s best mark since going 8-4 in the 1996-97 campaign. The team is now ranked at No. 223 by KenPom, the program’s best since 2015, and look to defend their home court against the 2018 regular season co-champs and 2019 preseason Ivy favorites.

In the nonconference schedule, the Big Green had two 100-plus point victories against Division III teams, two wins over Albany (one in Ireland at the Belfast Classic and another in upstate New York), a sweep of Maine and New Hampshire of the America East, another sweep of Loyola (Md.) and Boston University of the Patriot League and one against Sacred Heart.  They went 0-4 against top 100 teams, losing by 3 at Davidson, 29 at Buffalo, 19 at San Francisco, and 14 at Vermont.  They lost at home to Quinnipiac in a close 5 point game, but were defeated by 18 to Marist in the opening game of the Belfast Classic.  The most surprising and disappointing loss of the year was a one-point defeat to Bryant, after Dartmouth arrived with a four-game winning streak.

Dartmouth’s strength of schedule, according to KenPom, is 318th out of 351.  Its best win came at home against Boston University and worst loss came on the road to No. 327 Bryant.  Harvard, meanwhile, is 6-6 and ranked No. 96 with the nation’s 13th toughest schedule.  The Crimson’s best results were a six-point win at No. 42 St. Mary’s, a three-point road victory at No. 159 UMass, and an 11-point win versus No. 160 Holy Cross. Their only poor result was a three-point road loss to No. 270 Siena.

Presently, KenPom lists Dartmouth as a five-point underdog with only a 33 percent chance of winning. Here are three (or four) keys for the Green & White as they look to win their first Ivy opener in 12 years.

Threes, please!

Dartmouth is taking over 43 percent of their shots from three, hitting them with 39.1 percent accuracy and getting 41 percent of its total points there.  Against Division I opponents, Brendan Barry is shooting at 47.2 percent, while James Foye and Ian Sistare are both at 47.1 percent.  The Harvard defense is holding teams to 35 percent from beyond the arc, which is slightly more than last year’s 34.1 percent and this year’s national average of 34 percent.  Since the Big Green’s two-point shooting is only 47.5 percent, look for lots of outside shots.

The power of five

The Big Green starting five is playing 73.9 percent of all available minutes and four starters are scoring in double figures with a fifth only 0.6 points per game away – Chris Knight (15.3), junior guard Barry (14), Sistare (10.9), Foye (10.8) and Adrease Jackson (9.4).  Over the last 10 games, since senior guard Guilien Smith went down with an injury, the shortened bench is producing only 15 percent of the team’s points.  While things will be different during the back-to-back Ivy weekends in February and March where depth is key, Dartmouth will need to take advantage of the single-game format over the next two Saturdays to keep their most productive players on the court as much as possible.

Threes … please?

Harvard’s offensive effective field goal rate of 55.1 percent is No. 37 in the country, shooting two pointers at 55.2 percent and threes at 36.6 percent.  The Dartmouth three point defense is No. 74 in the land, holding teams to 31.2 percent shooting, but their two point defense is No. 261 at 53.2 percent.  With six Crimson rotation players shooting greater than 50 percent from inside the arc – Justin Bassey (66 percent), Chris Lewis (63.9 percent), Danilo Djuricic (56.8 percent), Robert Baker (52.9 percent), Noah Kirkwood (52.4 percent) and Henry Welsh (52.4 percent) – the Big Green will need to force the action to the outside and dare Djuricic (43.6 percent), Kirkwood (43.6 percent), Christian Juzang (43.6 percent) and Corey Johnson (39.5 percent) to beat them.

If all else fails, Dartmouth can arrange another Flannel Shirt Night.

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