The Harvard Crimson (that's right, their mascot is a color) enter the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. As the 12th seed in the East region, the Crimson (26-4) sit at #33 according to KenPom's advanced metrics.
You might remember a 13 seed "Hahvahd" knocking off New Mexico during the first weekend of last year's tournament, and based on current stats and metrics, they're not a team to be taken lightly. But you already knew that.
Here's what you need to know about Harvard:
- All five starters average double-digit points, and their sixth man averages more than 9 a game.
- Eight guys average double-digit minutes a game, so I don't see the Bearcats wearing them down.
- They're 13th in the NCAA in scoring defense - holding teams to 60.5 points a game.
- Their strength of schedule was only 188, according to KenPom.
The Bearcats haven't fared well against good defensive teams over the last month (or so) with all their losses coming against squads ranked in the top 30ish in scoring defense. We all know the troubles UC has had on offense - regardless of the opponent - so with the Crimson sitting at 13th in scoring defense, you're a little worried, right?
Never mind the fact that every national pundit appears to be picking Harvard in the classic 12/5 upset. Never mind that Cincinnati fans, in general, appear to be nervous about everything sports-related (myself included).
Well, I'm here to pat your pretty little head, and tell you everything's gonna be alright...
Why am I feeling confident? First, all indications point to this being a down-and-dirty slugfest. In looking at Harvard's schedule, I don't think they have the experience the Bearcats do when it comes to low-scoring, defensive battles. Heck, the 'Cats practically created the slugfest.
Second, the Crimson rank 191st in defensive rebounding while the 'Cats are 26th in offensive rebounding.
Finally, Harvard isn't a crazy 3-point threat, which lends itself well to Cincinnati's defensive plan. Laurent Rivard (#00) will come off a screen and knock down a couple, but the Bearcats, as a whole, don't have to pay an inordinate amount of attention to the 3-point line.
Look, Mick Cronin's not going to be able to reinvent this team for the tournament. They are what they are, and it's led to a crazy successful season so far.
What the 'Cats have to do to win:
- Keep JJ out of foul trouble. If he picks up 2 fouls halfway through the first half, I'll start to sweat. He'll be the tallest, most athletic guy on the court, so his presence is a big key to victory.
- Protect the ball. Harvard's opponents average about as many turnovers as the Bearcats (11), so hopefully we're not talking about turnovers after the game. If so, I'll be worried.
- Get SK to the basket. If he's aggressive, we'll see a slew of free-throws. The Crimson aren't very tall in their starting lineup, so I think Kilpatrick can do some damage in the lane.
Notice I didn't mention having a third scorer step up? I don't think it's necessary. Sure, it'd be nice, but if Cincinnati plays their normal defense, protects the basketball on offense - I'll be rooting for Michigan State later in the afternoon. Bring it.
My predicition: They're currently favored in Vegas, but the Bearcats are underdogs nationally. I think they'll be fired up because of it, and we'll see an aggressive, attacking offense coupled with their typical defense. Bearcats win 60-55.