Harvard pulled off a tremendous upset in the 2nd round while Arizona won a game in which they were the higher seed and yet were still picked to lose by many prognosticators. Either way both teams managed to advance to the 3rd round and set up this interesting matchup. Harvard is in a league that does not have a conference tournament and thus has to wait a little longer in order to play in the dance. They matched up with a heavily favored New Mexico team that came into the dance with realistic championship aspirations. The game was close throughout and in the end Harvard made big shots along with big stops and pulled out the win. Wesley Saunders lead them in scoring with 18 big points. Laurent Rivard made five 3 pointers and floor general Siyani Chambers handed out 7 assists. It was the most surprising upset in the tournament thus far and the first NCAA tourney victory for coach Tommy Amaker.
Belmont was the team that everyone seemed to pick as their upset special in their brackets. Considering their success in last season’s tournament combined with the fact that most of their key players returned it made sense. Apparently nobody let Arizona know that they were supposed to lose because they proceeded to an easy 81-64 victory. Mark Lyons scored 23 points in a fantastic all around performance. When Solomon Hill hit it 3 pointer to end the only significant Belmont run of the game with 4:40 left the game was over. It was an impressive team effort as 8 of the 9 Wildcats that played scored. They dominated on boards holding a +27 advantage.
Harvard will be at a similar physical disadvantage that they were against New Mexico. They will not have the size or the depth of Arizona so they will be forced to rely on what got them to this point which is a patient yet efficient motion offense combined with a defense that isn’t necessarily aggressive but will jump into passing lanes when the opportunity presents itself. As team that lacks height and depth it is critical that Harvard does 2 things. One will be to ensure that they keep Arizona off the offensive boards an hold them to one shot. Second is they avoid fouling because they cannot afford to give Arizona free points but more importantly they don’t go very deep and if any rotation player is forced to go to the bench in foul trouble it won’t bode well for their chances. There are 2 keys for Arizona to be successful. The first will be to attack a weak Harvard interior defense that cannot match up with their superior size or athleticism. The second will be to defend the three-point line. Harvard only took 42 shots in the second round; if Arizona can run them off the three-point line it will greatly increase their chances.
Sean Miller has been a good coach waiting to break through for a few years since getting this job. Harvard is a great story but they won’t be able to contain the amount of bodies that Arizona will have out there.
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