It is a proven fact that in the NCAA tournament there are often upsets in the 12th seed versus 5th seed games. In many years there are even multiple upsets in this particular matchup. When you combine the previous tournament failures of the Bearcats in the postseason combined with the past success of Harvard over the years this matchup screams for an upset. These Bearcats are certain to have heard the many prognosticators who have them losing this game and it is doubtful that this sits well with them. Either way you look at it this is certainly an interesting matchup.
The biggest difference between this Cincinnati team and many of its predecessors is that unlike previous teams which were more of a high scoring/high flying variety, this team has taken on the defensive philosophy of coach Mick Cronin. They play an aggressive in your face defense that is not only active but also sophisticated and gives teams a variety of different looks. It may look like total chaos, however there are a variety of looks and a method to the madness. The defense is led by forward Justin Jackson who averages 11.7 points per game to go along with 7.2 rebounds and a very impressive 2.9 blocks. That stat line fails to mention the countless other shots that he alters either in the paint or on the perimeter. He is an old school defender that is a perfect fit for their system. He is the best amongst a team full of defenders, which allowed a measly 58.3 points per game, which is 6th best in the country. Sean Kilpatrick may be the best scorer in the tournament. He averaged 20.7 points per game and over 4 rebounds. He is at his best when slashing to the hoop and creating shots for himself however he is also a capable outside shooter, which makes him, a matchup nightmare for most teams. They need his offense to overcome an otherwise awful overall team offense that shoots 42.7% from the field ranking them amongst the worst in division 1 basketball.
Harvard isn’t a surprise to anyone who watched them upset then 3rd seeded New Mexico in last season’s tournament. That team pulled off this upset without starters Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey who were suspended for last season’s tournament. They have five players who average double figures in scoring led by junior Wesley Saunders who is big for a guard and uses his size to not only score (14 points per game) but also rebound (4.7 rebounds per game). Laurent Rivard, Casey, and Steve Moundou-Missi all average 10 points per game. Floor leader and point guard Siyani Chambers is the team’s most indispensible player. He has been the one to make decisions late in games and plays with a veteran wisdom far beyond his years. He will be the key if Harvard has any real chance of advancing.
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