In what should be one of the most interesting conference regular season races down the stretch run, Harvard and Yale will battle it out for supremacy of the Ivy League. Both teams sit at 7-1 in conference with six league games left, with the penultimate game of the Ivy league season a head to head showdown. The thing that makes this race so intriguing is the fact that the Ivy has no conference tournament, meaning whoever wins the regular season title also gets the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
For Yale this means everything, since they have virtually no chance at an at-large bid for this year’s Big Dance. Harvard, on the other hand, has an outside chance to sneak into the tournament as an at-large, but it is certainly no lock for coach Tommy Amaker and his crew. The first matchup between these two schools came down to the wire with Harvard going into New Haven and pulling out the win. The rematch will be on March 6, and will most likely decide who gets the league’s bid to Dance.
Harvard has been cranking out quality teams for the last few years now, and this year’s squad is no different. Led by senior guard Wesley Saunders, the Crimson come at you with 10 guys that play at least 10 minutes per game. Saunders is the engine that makes the Crimson go with team high averages in scoring (15.9 PPG), and is also second on the team in assists (4.1 APG) and rebounding (6.0 RPG). After Saunders the Crimson don’t have a single double digit scorer, but they do have seven other players that average between four and 10 points per game.
With Harvard looking rather pedestrian on the offensive side of the ball this season it has fallen on the Crimson defense to lead them to victory, and they have not disappointed. Harvard is ranked 15th in the nation in opponent scoring, allowing a meager 58.4 points per game, and only giving up 70 or more just three times. The way Harvard is able to accomplish such stingy numbers is by allowing teams to only rebound 23.4% of their own misses. To put this into perspective Kentucky and their vaunted front like allow opponents to pull down an offensive board 29.2% of the time. This kind of efficiency on the boards limits the amount of shots the opponent takes while also increasing their own shot total.
Yale, like Harvard, plays a lot of guys with nine different players playing at least 11 minutes per game. The Bulldogs are led by the double pronged attack of senior guard Javier Duren, and junior forward Justin Sears. Yale is built like a classic NCAA cinderella team that could upset a traditional power in the Big Dance. As a team they shoot a high percentage from deep (37.8%) and collect over 33% of their own missed shots. If they are on target any top seed with the misfortune to have to play them would surely be in for at least a scare.
The Bulldogs are not as good as the Crimson on the defensive side of the ball, but still rank 85th in the nation in points allowed at 63.1 per game. Yale’s defense is much like Harvard’s in the fact that they live off pulling down opponent missed shots. They also don’t give their opponents a ton of opportunities at the free throw line.