Harvard's solid performance in a 67-53 loss to ninth-ranked UConn on Thursday night suggests the Crimson are good enough to make the NCAA tournament and maybe win a game once they get there.
That opening-round opponent just better not be the Huskies.
UConn simply had too much size, too much length and too much athleticism for Harvard to pull an upset in its first-ever game as a ranked team. Here are three observations about the 24th-ranked Crimson, who trailed by just two at halftime but never crept closer than seven in the final 15 minutes.
1. Harvard deserves to be favored in every game it plays from now until the postseason.
Although Harvard shot just 35 percent and struggled to score inside against UConn, there aren't many teams good enough defensively to do that to the Crimson. They're patient and unselfish on offense, they have two quality big men whose games complement one-another and they have enough shooters to make opponents pay for help or double teams. The most challenging non-conference games Harvard has the rest of the season are at Boston University, at struggling Boston College and home against St. Joseph's and George Washington. That's a favorable enough slate that the Crimson could enter Ivy League play with just one loss.
2. A team that doesn't need to double team Keith Wright on the block can cause Harvard's offense problems.
Whereas most of Harvard's Ivy League foes must double team 6-foot-8, 24o-pound Keith Wright on the low block to keep him from scoring at will, UConn had the interior size and quickness to play him straight up. Wright went scoreless in the first half and shot just 3 of 10 for the game because Andre Drummond's length gave him fits. As a result, he couldn't kick out to open shooters because the Huskies didn't help off anyone on the perimeter and Harvard shot just 7-for-21 from behind the arc.
3. The most impressive thing about Harvard was its resolve
Considering how many standing eight counts the Crimson endured, it was amazing how they always found a way to fight back. They trimmed a nine-point first-half deficit to two by halftime with stingy defense and patient offense. They responded to a 16-point deficit early in the second half with a quick 8-0 spurt. And they prevented UConn from ever truly feeling comfortable until the game's final minute. Maybe the best example of Harvard's mentality came after the final buzzer when the Crimson shook hands with the Huskies. Harvard looked like a team that was angry they lost rather than one that was pleased to have kept it competitive on the road against the defending national champs.