Previewing Harvard

No. 4 seed North Carolina opens the 2015 NCAA Tournament against No. 13 seed Harvard in second-round action on Thursday. Tip-off at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 7:20pm and will be televised by TNT.

North Carolina (24-11) vs. Harvard (22-7)
Jacksonville, Fla. - Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena
Thursday, 7:20pm
TNT (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas)


“Tempo can change based on turnovers and bad shots, so if we can be efficient offensively, we like the chances of doing a much better job of managing the game.” – Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker

“You look at a team like Mercer last year against Duke, and although they didn't have the most talented guys you would say, but they definitely had senior leadership and the right pieces together that were accumulated over a number of years that were able to allow them to be successful. And I think we have that in the room, which has helped us throughout the entire season.” – Harvard senior forward Jonah Travis

“We trust Wesley. We want the ball in his hands. We want him to make plays for us, and as we've said before, we trust his decision with that.” – Amaker on senior wing Wesley Saunders


Season to Date: Harvard enters the NCAA Tournament with a 22-7 (11-3 Ivy League) record. Just one of the Crimson’s 29 regular season opponents was ranked (No. 6 Virginia). The Cavaliers toppled Harvard, 76-27, although the Crimson was competitive in a 64-57 overtime loss at Boston College on Jan. 14. Harvard caught a late break when 14-14 Dartmouth upset Yale in its regular season finale to force a one-game playoff with the league title and an automatic NCAA Tournament bid on the line (the Ivy League does not have a conference tournament). Harvard defeated Yale in the playoff game, 53-51, thanks to a 22-point performance from guard Wesley Saunders.

Cinderella Resume: This is the fourth year in a row that Amaker has led Harvard to the NCAA Tournament and he’s made sure the trips have plenty of value. In 2013, No. 14 seed Harvard upset No. 3 seed New Mexico, 68-62, before losing to No. 6 seed Arizona, 74-51, in third-round action. Last season, the 12th-seeded Crimson upset No. 5 seed Cincinnati, 61-57, before falling to No. 4 seed Michigan State, 80-73, in the round of 32.

Slowing Down the Pace: Tommy Amaker’s team plays exactly the opposite of a Roy Williams team. On average, Harvard takes 20.5 seconds per possession, which is more than two seconds above the national average. That number will feel extra slow compared to North Carolina, which averages a mere 16.4 seconds per possession. The Crimson ranks 312th nationally in possessions per game (63.8) and 317th in adjusted tempo, according to

Senior Leading the Charge: Senior wing Wesley Saunders is Harvard’s most dangerous offensive weapon. The 2013-2014 Ivy League Player of the Year was the Crimson’s leading scorer this season with 16.3 points per game (no one else on the team averaged in double figures). Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 215 pounds, this athletic swingman will likely be able to give the Tar Heels a challenge on the perimeter. Saunders shot 44.8 percent from the floor, including a 41.4 percent effort from 3-point range in limited attempts.

Making its Mark on Defense: Amaker played at Duke in the 1980s and then served as an assistant under head coach Mike Krzyzewski for nine seasons. As a result, one of the things that seems to have been ingrained in Amaker’s Harvard teams is a commitment to defense. This season, Harvard opponents have averaged 57.2 points per game and a field goal percentage of just 39.9 percent. Opposing offenses haven’t had much luck from beyond the arc either, having converted just 32.7 of their three-point attempts per game. Harvard is holding its opponents to 44.1 percent from 2-point range (50th nationally), according to

Size Disadvantage in the Post While Harvard’s starting frontcourt stands just 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-7 in Zena Edosomwan and Steve Moundou-Missi, respectively, the Crimson makes up for its lack of height with physical play on the interior. Edosomwan weighs 245 pounds, while Moundou-Missi is a solid 225 pounds. Senior center Kenyatta Smith (6-8, 245) provides beef off the bench.

Series History: The series between UNC and Harvard is tied at 2-2. The programs last played in 1971, a 96-78 UNC win in Charlotte, N.C.

Projected Starters:
1 Siyani Chambers (6-0, 170, Jr.) - 9.8 ppg, 4.3 apg
14 Steve Moundou-Missi (6-7, 225, Sr.) - 9.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg
23 Wesley Saunders (6-6, 215, Sr.) - 16.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg
45 Agunwa Okolie (6-8, 205, Jr.) - 4.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg
04 Zena Edosomwan (6-9, 245, So.) - 4.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg

Top Reserves:
24 Jonah Travis (6-6, 225, Sr.) - 6.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg
15 Corbin Miller (6-2, 180, So.) - 8.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg
25 Kenyatta Smith (6-8, 245, Sr.) - 4.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Harvard Info
Roster & Bios

(Photo from USA Today Sports)

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