First Look At The Harvard Crimson

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Crimson are not your typical Ivy. They don't look like Princeton did in 1996 when they back doored their way into america's harts, and they don't play like they did either. The Crimson have athletes on the wings, skilled big men and a real tough cover at point guard. In other words, they are going to be a tough out.

Might as well get this started with Siyani Chambers. The diminutive sophomore is the Crimson's best player, leads them in assists and steals and generally controls the flow of each and every game for them. He has an assist to turnover ratio of 2, and a 53.6 true shooting percentage. In a word he doesn't make a ton of mistakes, and generally makes good decisions on the offensive end. Chambers is probably the most influential player for the Crimson for me. Granted I have not watched a ton of the Crimson this year, just three games in fact, but he was the one on that team who drew my eye.

Given that it was surprising to me to see that Chambers didn't use the most possessions on his team, Laurent Rivard did. Rivard isn't exactly a designated shooter, but he has a green light from deep. An astounding 88 percent of his field goal attempts were from deep this year, and he shot those at 42 percent.

So, they have a point guard and they have a shooter to space the floor. They also have slightly ridiculous balance across the board. No one averages even 15 points a game, but 5 players average 10 or more. Chambers and Rivard are at 11 and 10 respectively. Wesley Saunders was actually the Ivy player of the year and leads the way at 14 per game.  Steve Moundou-Missi scores 10.5 per and Kyle Casey scores 10. Brandyn Curry is the only backup who sees significant minutes off the bench

This is a really balanced team that is well coached. The Crimson's offense is just plain fun. No one ever stands still, and everyone is always moving. They do have sets that they like to run in the half court, but more often than not they run their offense like a constant secondary break. It is rare to see them back things out if a set breaks down and start again. If things do break down they will simply go into a pick and roll, usually with Chambers and Saunders with Rivard spaced to the weak-side corner.

They are simply a well coached basketball team on the offensive end, and they play with great effort on the defensive end as well. From an efficiency standpoint they have great numbers on that end of the floor. According to statsheet.com they rank 14th in defensive efficiency, 39th in true shooting percentage allowed and 40th in effective field goal percentage allowed.

Playing in the Ivy where they are by far the most talented team on the floor night after night surely has something of an inflationary effect to those numbers. But they showed very well in their two match ups with power 5 schools this season. They limited a full strength Colorado to 1.06 PPP in Boulder in November and they held UConn to .97 PPP in early January. Its a small sample size yes, but there is enough on their resume to suggest that they can translate their defensive success to a higher level of competition.

What I don't know is if they have someone who can handle Justin Jackson one on one in the post. If they have to shade the middle to make life difficult for the Bearcats on offense that will open up some options for UC. The other unknown is how the Crimson will cope with UC's defensive intensity. There is no one on their schedule who can even provide a rough allegory for what the Bearcats present to their offense.

This is a good Harvard basketball team, one that plays fundamentally sound on both ends of the floor. Their balance is a blessing, but it can be a curse against a Cincinnati team that should be able to guard them without help at every position. How will they respond if the Bearcats manage to take away what they want to do on an individual level? That is one of many, many questions that will be answered on Thursday.

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