The #6 seed Arizona Wildcats came ready to play on Thursday against #11 Belmont, ignored east coast bias and dominated from start to finish. The #3 New Mexico Lobos, on the other hand, believed a little bit too much in their own hype, walked out flat footed and got beat by a less talented #14 Harvard team. The result: instead of playing the much anticipated matchup against New Mexico, Arizona will instead play Harvard for a chance to move on to Los Angeles in the Sweet 16.
On paper, Harvard is a lesser version of Belmont. Like the Bruins, the Crimson shoot very well (12th in the nation in shooting percentage at 48% and 40% shooting from three point range) but are awful on the boards (334th). Also similar to Belmont, Harvard’s tallest player with decent playing time is 6’7″. The Crimson strive on guard play, and the Wildcats will have to heavily defend Wesley Saunders, who shoots almost 54% from the field. Siyani Chambers is also dangerous, dishing out almost 6 assists and 13 points per game. Harvard will have to depend heavily on their guard play if they stand a chance against the much bigger Wildcats.
The Crimson’s RPI is 92 and their Kenpom ranking 93. They do not have a single top 50 RPI win, their best win coming against California when the Golden Bears were still trying to figure out the chemistry of the team. Their is no doubt Harvard’s best win this year came yesterday against an overconfident New Mexico squad. Where Belmont’s strength of schedule was 83, Harvard’s is 180.
The Crimson also lack depth. On Thursday, Arizona played three bench players with an average of almost 19 minutes, while Harvard played two with an average of only 14 minutes.
At the end of the day, Arizona can only beat themselves in this one. If Arizona comes out like the Lobos with a belief that all they have to do is show up, Harvard’s hunger will win the day again. If the Wildcats come out as focused as they did against Belmont and refuse to play down to their competition, they will be headed to Los Angeles for a likely bout against #2 Ohio State.