Arizona vs Harvard: Why 'Cats Can't Get Too Confident Against Surprising Crimson

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Arizona vs Harvard: Why 'Cats Can't Get Too Confident Against Surprising Crimson
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Give it up for the gentlemen from Harvard.

After decades of producing presidents, politicians and Nobel Prize winners, the Crimson have recently begun to produce professional athletes like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jeremy Lin. 

Harvard added another notch to its athletics resume on Thursday night by securing its first NCAA tournament victory over No. 3 seed New Mexico, 68-62. The Lobos were a trendy pick in this year's tourney and were even included in many Final Four projections by so-called "experts."

So much for that. The only thing that can be predicted about the NCAA tournament is that it is unpredictable. This at least makes me feel somewhat better about my awful projections.

The Arizona Wildcats limped into the NCAA tourney with a 5-5 record over their past 10 games, were handed a No. 6 seed and tasked to take on No. 11 Belmont, who had been winless in five previous attempts. I unsuccessfully searched high and low earlier this week, looking for somebody to pick the Wildcats over Belmont.  

Why the disrespect for Sean Miller's team that won its first 14 games and was ranked as high as No. 3 in the polls? More importantly, will that sentiment carry over into Saturday's third-round game against Harvard?

 

 

Game Details

Region: West

Date: March 23, 2013

Time: 6:10 p.m. ET

Location: Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City

 

Let's take a quick look at the Harvard Crimson and their road to Saturday's matchup.

Head coach Tommy Amaker has a college basketball pedigree that is as respected in basketball circles as a Harvard degree is in business circles. He was an All-American at Duke and assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski for nine years until he got his shot at Seton Hall. Then he coached the Pirates to four consecutive postseason berths, including a Sweet 16 appearance. 

Amaker went on to coach the vaunted Michigan program for seven seasons prior to coming to Harvard. His Crimson team won a share of  the Ivy League championship in 2010-11 and the outright championship the past two seasons. 

The Crimson don't have the best RPI (94) in the country coming out of the Ivy League, and their strength of schedule rank of 199 is almost laughable. Whenever they did play a top-50 RPI team, they went 0-3 and were only 1-5 against the top 100.

Harry How/Getty Images

Thus begs the question: Is Harvard really that good, or was New Mexico that bad?

I believe it was a combination of the two. Guard Wesley Saunders led the team with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting and a near-perfect 8-of-9 from the charity stripe. Fellow guard Laurent Rivard scored 17 with five three-pointers.

The Lobos shot a miserable 37 percent from the field and 21 percent from beyond the arc. Center Alex Kirk was a one-man show with 22 points and 12 rebounds, but one man does not make a team.

Harvard runs an odd four-guard lineup, the likes of which Arizona has rarely, if ever, seen. The four are all deadly from anywhere on the court, which earns the team a No. 12 national ranking in field-goal percentage and No. 27 in three-point percentage.

Arizona is No. 6 and No. 5, respectively.    

After watching both the Arizona/Belmont and the Harvard/New Mexico games, I can safely say that Arizona is playing with a chip on its shoulder, and Harvard benefited from New Mexico's poor play.

The last thing the Wildcats can afford is to be overconfident and get behind early. We have seen them time and again trailing inferior teams and then switching into overdrive in the final minutes. As much fun as the "Cardiac Cats" were to watch in the regular season, let's hope they don't make another appearance on Saturday.

 

 

Arizona 76, Harvard 72

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