Tonight at 7 pm on ESPNU, Harvard and Princeton face off in a game that could decide who gets the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. A win for Harvard would give the Crimson a two game lead with three to play, while a Princeton win would cause a tie atop the Ivy standings and create the possibility of a one game playoff between these two teams for the second time in three years. Let’s take at look at the keys to the game for each team.
Three Point Shooting- The Crimson enter tonight’s game shooting an astounding 40.1% from three point range. But that number is down from 41% just two games ago, as the Crimson have struggled to find a rhythm from deep. Harvard star Laurent Rivard must step up for Harvard. The junior co-captain has seen his percentage take a hit, going just 3-15 from three over the past two games. Harvard’s offense lives and dies by the three, and they will need to be accurate against a Princeton team that features Will Barrett, who leads the nation with a 52.1% mark from three.
Free Throws- Harvard has excelled this year at getting to the line. The trouble is making the free throws. Harvard is shooting a mediocre 71.2% from the line, a far cry from two years ago when three different Crimson players knocked down over 90% of their free throws. Wesley Saunders and Christian Webster have been the two worst offenders. Saunders has hit just 58% of his free throws over the past ten games, while Webster has failed to find the stroke that made him Harvard’s all-time leader in free throw percentage. This game could come down to who hits their free throws, and Harvard needs to be able to rely on Saunders and Webster.
Rebounds- Princeton has a huge size advantage over Harvard, with Ian Hummer, Denton Koon, Hans Brase, and Brednan Connolly all towering over most Harvard players. Even their point guard, TJ Bray, is 6-6. Princeton failed to dominate the boards last time out, and it cost them. Tonight, they will need a big performance from their big men, particularly with Harvard looking to have finally found its answer to its rebounding woes. Their 6-8 sophomore center Kenyatta Smith exploded recently, setting a Harvard record with 10 blocks in one game. But like one of Harvard’s other big men Jonah Travis, Smith tends to get into foul trouble. As Harvard tends to play with just one forward (although recently they have started to play with two more), Princeton should have a definite size advantage throughout.
Pressure, Pressure, Pressure- Jadwin should be loud, and Harvard is a young team. Put pressure on the Harvard’s freshman point guard Siyani Chambers as well as Saunders. They both are young and inexperienced, and have struggled with turnovers this year. Apply pressure from the get-go and force them to make bad decisions.
Final Prediction: Harvard’s rebounding and free throw struggles, coupled with Princeton’s perimeter shooting, will be enough for the Tigers to eke out a narrow 69-67 victory.