Harvard Basketball: Biggest Keys to Third-Round Upset over Arizona

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Harvard Basketball: Biggest Keys to Third-Round Upset over Arizona
Harry How/Getty Images

Fresh off their first-ever NCAA tournament win, the Harvard Crimson have no time to celebrate—they get back on the court on Saturday against the Arizona Wildcats, who have already crushed the spirits of one mid-major bracket-crasher (Belmont) by moving on to the next round.

Harvard was highly-motivated and looked like the better team for most of the 40 minutes against New Mexico on Thursday night, playing at dedicated pace and keeping the Lobos from getting out into transition or using their athleticism to their advantage.

Standing in Harvard's way for its second-ever win in the 2013 NCAA tournament will be Arizona, a team that came out and did to Belmont what Harvard did to New Mexico—the Wildcats had a ton of energy, played with great emotion and squashed most of the upset talk by the middle of the second half.

As always with March Madness, both these teams have a chance to move on to the Sweet 16, a feat that would be quite the Cinderella story after Harvard dismissed its top-two seniors from the team prior to the season during a cheating scandal.

Living in the present, Harvard is a new team. The Crimson don't worry about the past, just what they can control, and that mantra continues by getting ready for Arizona on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

 

Game Information

What: No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 14 Harvard

When: Saturday, March 23, at approx. 6:10 p.m. ET

Where: Salt Lake City, Utah

Watch: TNT

Live Stream: March Madness Live

Spread: Arizona -10 (via SportsBook)

 

Keys to Harvard Upset

Play With Same Urgency

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

For most of the matchup between Harvard and New Mexico, the Crimson were the hungrier team. Whether it be because of the Ivy League pride or New Mexico taking them lightly, Harvard jumped out to a four-point halftime lead and made things tough on the Lobos all evening.

From leading scorer Wesley Saunders to guards Laurent Rivard and Siyani Chambers, the Crimson simply looked like this was their moment—not New Mexico's—and took full advantage of every opportunity to get easy shots, play the pace that the coaching staff set, and not allow New Mexico to get any easy buckets.

The urgency was abounding from the Crimson on Thursday night.

Now that their first tournament win is under their belts, this team cannot stop digging and pushing for more. Hopefully, head coach Tommy Amaker is stressing that point to his team, because there's no doubt that urgency for a first-ever tournament win played a big part in Thursday's success.

Arizona is no joke. It has been a highly-ranked team all season, and completely shut up those who thought Rick Byrd's Belmont team was ready to make a tournament run. Sports are absolutely mental, and the Crimson must enter this game with the same sense of entitlement towards winning to move on.

 

Rebound, Rebound, Rebound

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Arizona out-rebounded the Belmont Bruins into submission on Thursday night.

Belmont had just 15 rebounds to Arizona's 42, as the Wildcats took full advantage of Belmont's lack of an interior presence to capitalize in a big way. Winning the rebound battle by more than the other team actually boarded is just downright nasty; Arizona had almost as many offensive rebounds (12) as Belmont did total.

Harvard has to get on the glass, and find bodies when the shot goes up.

As rudimentary as that sounds, rebounding will play a big part in this game. Keeping Kaleb Tarczewski, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom off the glass and from getting easy shots after the initial miss will go a long way in helping Harvard win this game.

Kenyatta Smith and Steve Moundou-Missi, who both fouled out against New Mexico, are going to have their hands full with an active and high-flying Arizona team. But as they say in this business, you have to get the job done to win.

 

Slow Down Mark Lyons

Harry How/Getty Images

Mark Lyons had 23 points on Thursday, shooting over 50 percent from the field while adding three three-pointers for good measure.

If the words "volume shooter" ring a bell to you, then that's exactly what Lyons is going to be on Saturday night against Harvard. While the senior from New York knows how to score, he's also not very efficient about getting his points. He does average 15 points per game, but takes anywhere from 10-15 shots to get those points.

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That could pose problems against a team like Harvard, especially after the Crimson limited Kendall Williams and Tony Snell to rough nights for New Mexico. Harvard will have to play a similar brand of keeping Lyons in front of them, avoiding fouls and making him a contested jump-shooter in the process.

If that happens, there's a good chance Harvard is both playing at the pace it wants to be at and also getting stops on defense. The rebounding must follow, but Lyons is the must-stop guard on the outside.

Harvard has a rough road to hoe. Knocking off a No. 3 seed was hard enough, but now the Crimson have to slow down a very tough Arizona team before this dream of the Final Four can start to really gain steam.

 

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