Top 68 Team Previews: #41 Harvard Crimson
Tommy Amaker will try to lead Harvard to the NCAA tournament. (Icon SMI)
By Kevin Mallory
Monday, August 29, 2011
Last Season: 23-7 (12-2)
Key Losses: None
Head Coach: Tommy Amaker
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Brandyn Curry 6-1 Jr.
SG: Christian Webster 6-5 Jr.
SF: Oliver McNally 6-3 Sr.
PF: Kyle Casey 6-7 Jr.
C: Keith Wright 6-8 Sr.
Key Reserves: Andrew Van Nest 6-10 Sr. PF, Laurent Rivard 6-5 So. SG, Wesley Saunders 6-4 Fr. PF
With a mixture of accomplished veterans and promising newcomers, Tommy Amaker and the Harvard Crimson seem poised to overtake Princeton as the class of the Ivy League conference. It helps that Princeton will have a new head coach in Mitch Henderson following the departure of Sydney Johnson to Fairfield. The Crimson returns all of its major components from a team that advanced to its first NIT tournament, and Amaker, in his fifth season at the helm, hopes to take Harvard to its first NCAA tournament since 1946.
Harvard's heartbreaking one-point loss to Princeton in the one-game playoff that determined last season's conference champion kept the Crimson from receiving the Ivy League's automatic tournament bid. That disappointment alone should be plenty of fuel for this year's team.
Last season's Ivy League Player of the Year Keith Wright returns as a co-captain. The senior forward, who also received an AP All-America Honorable Mention, had a banner year. Wright led the Crimson in scoring (14.8 per game), rebounding (8.3 per game) and total blocks (54). He should continue to be a force down low in the conference while once again shooting a high percentage (58.4 percent, 15th in the nation in 2010-11).
Joining him in the frontcourt is Kyle Casey, who despite missing the first three games last season with a broken right foot finished as an All-Ivy League Second Team selection. If Casey can stay healthy, it is quite possible that the Crimson will have the best frontcourt in the conference.
The backcourt is not looking too shabby either. Brandyn Curry returns as the team's set-up man. Noted as one of the conference's best defenders, the 6-foot-1 guard led the Ivy League with 5.9 assists per game and was also named to the All-Ivy League Second Team. All-Ivy League Honorable Mention selection Christian Webster returns as the team's second leading scorer from last season (13 per game). One of the Crimson's best shooters, Webster, who also shot nearly 90 percent from the free throw line, figures to be a prominent part of another balanced offensive attack.
A big addition to this team will be freshman Wesley Saunders, who is ranked among the top 100 recruits by Rivals. The 6-foot-5 forward will immediately come in as one of the most talented players on the roster and could compete for a starting spot. He is a terrific rebounder and attacks the rim with authority. He can knock down mid-range jumpers but most of his scoring will come around the basket.
As part of its non-conference slate, Harvard will once again visit Storrs, Conn. to take on the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies on Dec. 8 and get a home matchup with George Washington on Jan. 14. Strong showings in those outings could further bolster the Crimson's chances of not only appearing in the tourney but also securing a more favorable seed. With its wealth of talent and experience, this team is the frontrunner to take the Ivy League crown and should make its long awaited appearance in the NCAA tournament.