Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, March 20, 2013
By Nicolas Lewis
This is another interesting matchup. Harvard is in their second consecutive NCAA tournament after a 65 year absence. Also, being from the Ivy League and all, they are the only team in the tournament to gain an auto-bid without even playing a conference tournament.
We talked early in the season about how good they could be, even after their roster was warped by the academic scandal. They had less talent, but were still the best team in the conference. Probably. But we couldn't be sure, nor could others. So what do we have on our hands in the tournament?
Credentials: This is the resume of a good but not great team. They mostly dominated their conference, splitting their matchups with Princeton, the other formidable Ivy. They also defeated Cal on the road and then almost knocked off Saint Mary's on the road in back-to-back contests before New Years. They also lost their second matchup to a Penn team that only won eight other games all season, and nearly suffered an identical fate in their second matchup with an equally bad Dartmouth team.
Talent: Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry left the team, and Steve Mondou-Missi never made the jump that we anticipated. Know who did step up? Sophomore Wesley Saunders. After playing only 417 total minutes last season, Saunders made the jump to 37.3 mpg this season and didn't miss a beat. He averaged 16.5 ppg on 54% shooting from the field, including the occasional three-pointer. Freshman Siyani Chambers and returning gaurd Laurent Rivard give the team multiple efficient scorers.
Credentials: You've heard about it by now - New Mexico finished the season 10-3 against the RPI Top 50, and they stood at the top of a very strong Mountain West Conference. Then again, they went only 8-4 on the road, which included a one-point slip up at Air Force and a 21 point loss on the road at San Diego State.
Talent: In this instance the talent includes head coach Steve Alford, who is just too good at what he does to preclude mention. That said, Kendall Williams and Tony Snell are absolute beasts - Snell os probably the more consistent scorer, averaging 20 ppg over his last five, but Kendall Williams is the one who went off for 46 earlier this season. The Lobos are talented, fast, and deep.
Bottom Line: This may be another instance where a guy like Wesley Saunders has had a great season, showing real growth, but is in for a rude awakening against the best team he's faced all season. These two teams are just on two different levels in terms of both athletic ability and depth of talent, and the academic scandal losses will finall be felt here.
New Mexico 83, Harvard 70