Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Opinion - A Social Must

The Beanpot, if you haven't heard of it, is a hockey tournament featuring the four Boston area schools: Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, and Northeastern. If recent traditions hold, the loudest Harvard fans will be the folks wearing Eagles and Huskies jerseys arriving early for the 8pm game because Harvard is the lesser of two evils when it comes to a game featuring their conference rival BU, but also because not many student fans from Harvard bother to make the trip.

But it wasn't always this way. "Snooks" Kelley once called this "A social must. ... Four schools separated by the Charles River and the length and breadth of Commonwealth Avenue, regardless of records. Nobody wins who's supposed to win." Harvard fans filled the then-Boston Garden, now replaced by the TD Garden, just as much as any school. Now there's a small smattering of Crimson support, including the band, in Harvard's section in the upper seats - but not nearly the level of support the three Hockey East schools bring.

And that's a shame. Harvard hasn't won a Beanpot in a long time, dating back to 1993, it's true. (Though Northeastern's fans render that excuse, if you were wont to give it, moot. It's been since 1988 for the Huskies and their Dog Pound is there through it all.) That doesn't mean Harvard fans wouldn't have gotten their money's worth.

Take the 2008 Beanpot for example. The Crimson advanced past Northeastern in the opening round, only to fall just short in the Championship, a 6-5 OT loss to Boston College, who went on to win the NCAA tournament. Or the next year, when Harvard jumped out to a lead on a Boston University squad that had just been ranked #1 in the nation that morning. BU came back to take a 4-3 lead, but Harvard seemingly tied it at the dying moment on a point shot from Alex Biega that sent the Garden into a frenzy. Alas, while it was not to be, as the puck crossed the line moments too late, the game was a tremendous battle against the eventual national champions. Last year, Harvard's hot streak to close out the 2010-11 season began with a come from behind victory to upset BU 5-4 in the consolation round on Valentine's Day.

This year's game promises to be great as well. BU and Harvard already met once, and after a 3-1 Harvard lead, the Terriers came back to win 4-3 in OT at the Bright Center last week. Crimson fans fear not...one of the biggest sports cliches is that it's always harder to beat a team twice. In addition, this is the Beanpot's big 6-0 celebration. The first Beanpot, back in December of 1952, went to the Crimson, who defeated BC 3-2 in OT at Boston (now Matthews) Arena before defeating BU 7-4 to claim the first ever Beanpot championship. It'll be a time to reminisce about Harvard's Beanpot lore, like how Crimson legend Billy Cleary still holds the records for most goals in a period (4), game (5) and tournament (7). But it'll also be a chance to see this current Harvard squad as they skate with one of the top teams in the nation while gearing up for the final stretch of what's been a great ECAC season so far, and a chance to see the nation's top PP look to haunt the Terriers.

This has been a year for revived traditions among the Harvard student section. Chickens were thrown at Cornell (not that we condone that sort of thing here at WHRB) for the 1st time in decades. So let's see a large Harvard student section revive the tradition of making the Beanpot a game with a lot of Crimson in the stands. Let's see that same student spirit displayed at Harvard Stadium (or the Yale Bowl) cheering the Ivy League champion football team on to victory. Bring the "I Believe" and the "Winning Team/Losing Team" chants from the sold out Lavietes Pavilion that supports Harvard basketball every weekend. And combine that with the chants of "It's all your fault, SIEVE" that ring through the Bright Center during home games when students are on campus. The Beanpot can be "The Game," Harvard-Cornell hockey, and last year's Harvard-Princeton Ivy championship playoff all in one - if there's enough student support.

It's time to make this a social must again for students in Cambridge. Harvard students (seniors especially - it's your last chance) need to come out and support this team on the first two Mondays in February. Make sure there's a Crim-zone ready to face down those folks from Comm Ave. Let them know the Cantabs want to bring the Beanpot back to this side of the Charles.

Tickets are available at a discount for students in dining halls during lunch and at the Murr Center with your HUID.
Mon, Jan. 30 – Dunster House

Tues, Jan. 31 – Quincy House

Wed, Feb. 1 – Annenberg Hall

Thurs, Feb. 2 – Adams House

Fri, Feb. 3 – Leverett House

Game time on Mon. Feb. 6th is 5pm vs. BU. The final round takes place at either 4:30pm or 7:30pm. If you really can't make it, tune in on WHRB.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Men's Basketball Power Rankings

Several players from Harvard Men's Basketball

Harvard (18-2, 4-0) – Defense has been Harvard’s calling card all season, and with a masterpiece victory over Yale, followed up by a smooth win over Brown, Harvard left no doubt in the Ivy League's pecking order. With a deep bench (Amaker often using a 10 or 11 man rotation) led by Freshmen playmakers like Mondou-Missi (10 pts, 5 rbs over Yale), the Crimson has the ability to wear teams out with a punishing pace. Fantastic, selfless guard play by Curry and McNally (17 total assists over the weekend) has the Crimson poised for a title repeat.

Penn (10-9, 2-0) – Penn played its final nonconference matchup against St. Joseph’s, an offensive shootout that saw Penn squander a 23 point lead in the second half. As always, the guards, Tyler Bernardini (24 pts) and Zack Rosen (16 pts) played lights out. However, outside the two Ivy League victories, Penn has given up more than 68 points in 14 of 17 games. The Quakers will have to play better defensively, especially in the perimeter as they prepare to play the Tigers in their 225th game against each other Monday night at The Palestra.

Yale (13-5, 3-1) – The Bulldogs started off strong against Harvard, but the Cerberus that is Mangano, Morgan (1-3 FG), and Willhite (0-5 FG) only combined for 23 points, 17 of them coming from Mangano alone. In the classic offense vs. defense matchup, defense struck first, and Harvard downed Yale by its largest ever win (by margin of victory) over the Bulldogs, 65-35. The Bulldogs must clamp down on perimeter defense and find offensive options outside Cerberus to rebound next week against Penn and Princeton.

Princeton (10-8, 1-1) – Princeton faces off against the Penn Quakers after nearly two weeks off, cooling off a momentum marked by 9 of 12 wins after a 1-5 start to the season. The difference? Incorporating F Mack Darrow into the starting lineup, who has been an amazing pass-first playmaker for the Tigers. Make no mistake, the veteran team led by Ian Hummer and Doug Davis have their sights on a title repeat and will make the Quakers pay for any defensive mistakes or poor shooting.

Cornell (7-11, 2-2) – Cornell managed the split the series against Columbia with a 65-60 victory over the Lions last night. Shonn Miller (10pts, 4rbs) continues to fill the stat sheet, even coming off the bench, and with a victory over Princeton already under its belts, the Big Red will head to Cambridge to a sold out crowd at Lavietes, looking to cause another upset. The key for Cornell will be to establish its interior players, like Eltan Chemerinski, and to rely on Drew Ferry to draw double teams to create mismatches.

Brown (7-14, 1-3) – Brown presented a balanced offense, with all five starters in double digit points, to carry only a four-point deficit heading into the second half, but a sluggish start in the second by the Bears led to a 11-0 run that sealed the game. Brown found no answer for Kyle Casey and Keith Wright, who both dominated the paint. A formidable weekend against the Ivy League's top teams, Penn and Princeton, loom next week.

Columbia (12-8, 1-3)
– With a 47-33 deficit 5 minutes into the second half, Brian Barbour shifted into a whole near gear, hitting 16 points to rally the Lions to a tie at 53 with just under 8 minutes remaining. A late fade in which Columbia missed key opportunities, including three straight misses on great looks, and a tired squad (a manifestation of Columbia’s mediocre bench) was the deciding factor. The Lions look to turn it around next week on the road when they face the celler-dweller Big Green and the Crimson, who hasn’t lost at Lavietes all season.

Dartmouth (4-16, 0-4) – Dartmouth actually played the Bulldogs close, leading much of the first half… until the final 9 minutes of the game when the Big Green could not find an answer for Willhite and Yale’s perimeter shooting, which hit 6-13 threes, most coming off the final stretch. The Big Green will have to shake off its inability to close out big games (as evidenced yesterday against Yale and against Harvard previously), perhaps by incorporating Sophomore Tyler Melville, a talented shooter, more into its gameplan. The Big Green face Columbia and Cornell next weekend.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

#23 Harvard Crimson complete road sweep, defeat Yale and Brown to stay undefeated in conference play


For the Crimson, this one meant a lot. Both Harvard and Yale walked into Payne Whitney Gym Friday night undefeated in Ivy League play. Harvard had the best overall record; Yale second. Harvard had the best Ivy scoring defense; Yale, the best scoring offense. But for the Crimson, Payne Whitney itself may have been the biggest hurdle of all. Twice last year, Harvard suffered soul-crushing losses in New Haven: first, a 70-69 loss to the Bulldogs on a layup from Jeremy Kreisberg, and then again on a jumper from Douglas Davis in the Ivy tiebreak last March.

The stands, predictably, were packed beyond capacity. Both teams struggled to get on the scoreboard early, with the #23 ranked Crimson striking first at the 17:07 mark. Yale forward Jeremiah Kreisberg quickly evened the score with a jumper of his own, but Harvard answered by extending the lead to a 9-4 advantage.

The Bulldogs would respond, establishing a 1 point lead, 12-11, at the 10:46 mark on a trey from Jesse Pritchard. From the halfway point in the 1st, however, Yale would only add another 8 points as the Harvard defense held the Bulldogs to 6-20 shooting in the first frame. The Crimson hit the locker room with an 11 point lead, 30-19.

If the Harvard defense had been stiff in the first half, it would be nigh impenetrable in the second. The Bulldogs shot 7-21 from the floor and added 16 points to their tally; Harvard more than doubled that, scoring 35 on 12 for 23 shooting (.522) and 9-11 from the line in the second. As time expired, Harvard had closed out its largest ever win (by margin of victory) over the Bulldogs, 65-35, as well as its largest win of the season (by the same marker).

Greg Mangano, the Ivy League’s leading scorer, was the lone bright spot of the night for the Bulldogs. Mangano scored 17 (8-16) and also grabbed 4 boards. Yale’s next leading scorer, Jeremiah Kreisberg, had only 4.

Harvard was led on the night by the efforts of two underclassmen. Laurent Rivard finished on the night with 18 points (5-8, 2-5 from 3, 6-6 FT), while freshman Steve Mondou-Missi added 10. Harvard’s two starting forwards, Keith Wright and Kyle Casey, added 7 and 5 respectively.

Asked at the postgame press conference if Friday’s win was especially meaningful, Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker paused, then smiled: “Yes.”


After their shortest layover since the Battle for Atlantis in November, the Crimson turned around Saturday to take on the Brown Bears in Providence, Rhode Island. Coach Amaker, speaking just after the Friday night contest, admitted the challenges of such a quick rebound. “Obviously our guys are excited, and we’re hopeful that we can continue that, because we’re going to need to because they shoot the ball very well from the perimeter and they’ve always shot well against us, so we’re going to have our hands full.”

Apparently in defiance of such concerns, the Crimson charged out of the gates at Pizzitola Sports Center. In what may have been the squad’s most energetic start of the year, Harvard jumped out to a 13-3 lead in the first five minutes.

A pair of Brown baskets off of Crimson turnovers narrowed the gap back to 5 at the 13:00 mark. The Bears would go on to slim the lead to two, 18-16, with 9:29 to play in the first. Harvard’s hopes of a repeat runaway seemingly dashed (Yale scored 19 points in the entire first half), the Crimson continued to battle through a relatively mistake-prone first. Harvard committed 6 turnovers to Brown’s 3, and the Bears tacked on an additional 4 steals (Harvard had 1). Even so, at the break, the Crimson had managed to cling to a narrow four-point advantage, 31-27.

Harvard took a short warmup at the half (the players only came back onto the court 1:30 before the start of the 2nd), but started the second strong. In the first four minutes, the Crimson shot 4 of 6 from the floor, while holding the Bears to 0 for 4 in the same stretch. The run was capped by a trey from Laurent Rivard, who put Harvard up 42-27 with 15:53 remaining. Although Brown would fight back to a single digit deficit with 11:53 remaining, Harvard held a double-digit lead for most of the second frame. As the final buzzer sounded, Harvard closed out its fourth Ivy League win, 68-59, to improve to 18-2 on the 2011-2012 season.

If Harvard’s reserves were the unexpected source of much of Harvard’s offensive dynamism against the Yale Bulldogs, their impact was less noticeable on Saturday. Aside from Steve Mondou-Missi, who was 3 for 6 with 10 rebounds in 19 minutes of play, the bench accounted for only 6 points and 2 rebounds, compared to 25 points and 12 rebounds against Yale. “This game got a little dicey for us for a little bit and I stuck with our veterans,” said Amaker afterwards. “Our bench is going to be up and down because they’re young…but certainly the minutes were still very good for them and the production was outstanding.”

In comparison with Friday, Harvard’s starters played a much more central role. Kyle Casey went 9-15 and led all scorers with 20 total points, while Curry added 15, going 8-9 from the charity stripe. Keith Wright also scored 9, and reeled in 11 boards. Harvard outrebounded Brown 39-25 on the night. In addition to the glass, the Bears also struggled from the stripe, converting on only 11 of 20 opportunities.

Up Next

Next weekend, Harvard returns to the friendly confines of Lavietes Pavilion to host the Cornell Big Red and the Columbia Lions. Saturday’s contest will be live on 95.3 FM in the greater Boston area, as well as streaming live worldwide at www.whrb.org Video and audio will also be available to subcribers on GoCrimson.com.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Crimson Acknowledge Friday's Importance

Image courtesy of Harvard University


by Scott Reed
WHRB Sports

Following Saturday's win over Dartmouth, the Harvard Crimson this week will return to the road to face Yale on Friday in New Haven in a game that could go a long way towards deciding the Ivy title. Each team is 2-0 in Ivy play after sweeping home-and-home series with weaker league teams (Harvard with Dartmouth, Yale with Brown). The Bulldogs are considered by some to be the chief challengers to the favorite Crimson this season, as Yale was picked 2nd in the preseason poll along with Princeton, and any Ivy contender will say that although all league games are important, the potential of tagging a title challenger with a loss elevates the significance of a match-up like this.
"Obviously they're [Yale] a favorite, and with fourteen games and no league tournament, you can't drop games against any team, but against a team that you know, is favored to hopefully be finishing up at the top, then yeah [its important]," says Harvard senior guard and co-captain Oliver McNally. McNally also pointed to Harvard's recent frustration in Payne Whitney Gym as a motivating factor, saying "we've got to exorcise some demons in that arena." The Crimson lost two buzzer-beaters in New Haven last year, a 70-69 thriller to Yale and that heartbreaking neutral-site playoff match-up with Princeton.
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker also recognized the significance of the game Friday, although he cautioned that most of the Ivy schedule had yet to be played: "It could very well be viewed as maybe the first one of the first marquee or big games of the conference season," said Amaker of the Yale game, "[but] I think there are going to be many more."
And of course, its also a contest between Harvard and Yale, a rivalry that demands significance no matter the teams or the records. Amaker on the rivalry: "Even without the significance of ranking, and how Yale is playing, them knocking us off last year... its still Harvard-Yale, so even if we were coming in with winless records ...it would be a big game for us to suit up for and be excited to play and I'm sure they feel the same way." McNally added, "Its Harvard-Yale, so whetever sport its in, it holds a little more meaning."
Harvard has been in games like this before under Amaker, though never as the favorite. Two years ago the Crimson, undefeated in Ivy play, traveled to Ithaca for their first matchup with heavy league favorite Cornell. Harvard was overmatched, losing 86-50, and had to play catch-up to the Big Red the rest of the season. Last year, Harvard faced a similar situation in its matchup with the favored Princeton Tigers on the road. Princeton won that game in a close battle, but Harvard was able to win the rematch in Cambridge in the regular season finale to claim a share of the conference championship. This week, Harvard again faces a chance to get a step ahead of one of its main competitors - a win means a leg up on Yale, while a loss means that the Crimson start from behind in a race that, given the whims of the NCAA selection committee, there is usually no prize for finishing second.
McNally is looking forward to the challenge: "We'll be really hyped up and ready to go, but I mean hopefully we have a mature team that will come in as focused as we did against Dartmouth and for the other teams we play in the league."

Scott Reed is the play by play broadcaster for Harvard men's basketball on WHRB and GoCrimson.com. He may be found on Twitter at @ScottReedWHRB

Monday, January 23, 2012

Coach Tommy Amaker Quoteboard

Here are excerpts from Harvard men's basketball coach Tommy Amaker's weekly press conference on January 23rd.

On Yale:

"They're a very good basketball team, very sound in a lot of ways, and I think they have good personnel, and certainly split with us last year in two very very good games - even the game here [Cambridge] was a nailbiter...Mangano is obviously a force to deal with...he scores and affects the game in a lot of ways. Im not sure we can eliminate that- I hope we can contain it."

On the significance of Friday:

"It could very well be viewed as maybe the first one of the first marquee or big games of the conference season..I think there are going to be many more. But cerainly - even without the significance of ranking, and how Yale is playing, them knowking us off last year, in a very tight, back and forth exciting and enteratining game that they played with us. And its still Harvard Yale, so even if we were coming in with winless records ...it would be a big game for us to suit up for and be excited to play and I'm sure they feel the same way."

On the national ranking and the team having a target on their back in league play:

"Its such a neat category to be in. If thats something that we don't like or are looking upon , we've got to reevaluate who we are and where we are. And coming in here, I mean if we could have said that we would have this happening in a relatively short period time for are program. would we'd be excited about it - we'd be thrilled, and we are. And i think its helpful for our league, i think its been beneficial. What Cornell did a couple of years ago and what we are doing right now and being ranked, these are the kinds of things that are going to give more credibility to our league as a whole.

"You're right about people looking at us a an opportunity to knock off a ranked opponent. That's exactly how I think we're being featured when we show up. We're trying to prepare for that, we know we are getting a particular teams best showing...were going to have to play at our highest level."

On the progress of Corbin Miller:

"Hes' been a joy to coach first of all. He's obviously a freshman and he's learened our system quite quickly. I've been impresed with Corbin's competitiveness. He's a competitive kid, and I think that's really allowed him to earn the respect of his teammates and allowed him to be in a position to be in our rotation and playing valuable minutes. ..I've been very pleased with Corbin."

On Miller's shooting ability

"That was one of the reasons we were really attracted to him, his ability to shoot the basketball, and sometimes you don't know how that is going to translate to the "next level", but that was an area that we were really excited about and intrigued with...but he's more than that. He's handled the ball a little better than I thought he would, against pressure, and his foot speed is a little better than I thought it was in high school."

On Laurent Rivard in a starting role:

"We've always talked about having "six starters" and thats been a neat thing for us. So Christian [Webster] has been out for two games and was out for a number of practices and was working himself back in. We went with Laurent just out of that. We're not sure who we're going to go with this weekend, changing or going back to Christian. I think both of those guys know that our program is structured at this point, you know, that we have six starters. Whatever direction we go, well be fine."

On new dimensions to Rivard's game:

"He's done it a little bit more for us...he's comfortable wherever we put him. He's given us a boost off the bench, obviously hes started and been outstanding or us in that capacity. And I think he's been able to read the defenses, hes been a bit of a marked guy when you think of scouting reports, that you have to know where that kid is to take away his three point shots. So hes been able to drive it, and that's been a point of emphasis for us, to see if he can get the ball to the paint, by dribble or by pass. And he's going to have the opportunity to do that.

On goal of the NCAA tournament and expectations:

"They already have brackets out already, and seeds, but we've only played a couple of games in our league. So its important for us to one, acknowledge that, I mean there's no sense in running from it and hiding from it...but its important for us to bring some semblance of focus and perspective and of where we are right now and how important these things can be if we want to get to where everybody else is already talking about."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Moundou-Missi fitting in at Harvard

Image courtesy of Harvard Athletics

by Scott Reed
WHRB Sports

In the midst of one of what is so far one of the most successful seasons in school history, the Harvard Crimson, though led by a talented corps of returning juniors and seniors, are also receiving strong contributions from a newcomer: freshman Steve Moundou-Missi, an athletic 6'-7" forward whose journey to Cambridge is as long as his game.

A valuable contributor for the Crimson on the court this season, Moundou-Missi has appeared in all of Harvard's seventeen games, and is second on the team behind Wesley Saunders in minutes played by a first-year. He also leads all Crimson freshman in scoring and had a team-high sixteen points in Harvard's last win, over George Washington on January 14th. Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker has made it known repeatedly that he is pleased with the forward's performance: during preseason workouts, Amaker identified Moundou-Missi as the "most consistent" member of the freshman class, and praise continued following his breakout performance against GWU: "We're thrilled to have the chance to coach [him]...he's an outstanding player."

Almost as remarkable as Moundou-Missi's impact on a deep Crimson team is his personal journey, which started in West Africa and continued in west-central Florida. He is a native of Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, a nation of 19 million people. Starting out, Moundou-Missi played a different kind of roundball: soccer. "Growing up, I didn't want to play basketball," he says, "but once I got to know it, I liked it."

The odds of Moundou-Missi finding his way to the basketball court would have been long if not for the influence of his parents, who each played the sport for the Cameroon national team in the 1980s. They brought him to the US in his teens, where he eventually ended up at Montverde Academy in central Florida, a college preparatory school known for both its international student body and its nationally-competitive men's basketball team, led by Kevin Sutton, incidentally now an assistant coach at George Washington. After Moundou-Missi led the way in Harvard's 69-48 victory over the Colonials, Sutton gushed about his former player:"I'm very proud of him," he said, "honestly, I think he can be a pro."

Moundou-Missi had a stellar high school career, where he also had the chance to play with other very talented players: thirteen of his teammates (including current Harvard sophomore Ugo Okam) in his three years there would go on play Division-I basketball, and the 2009-2010 Montverde team that included Moundou-Missi was ranked the fifth-best high school team in the United States by ESPN. His success at the high school level led to his courtship by several so-called "power conference" schools, including Iowa and Florida.

Moundou-Missi's decision to attend Harvard, however, was largely academically-motivated. "I am trying to be an engineer later in life...I love math, I love physics," he says. He won a national math competition while in high school and according to Coach Tommy Amaker, Harvard's partnership with MIT, in which a student enrolled at one university can take courses at the other, played an influential role in the forward's decision to come to Cambridge.

Moundou-Missi's matriculation at Harvard has already paid dividends for the Crimson, who head into the meat of their Ivy League schedule, and Amaker is excited about the potential of his freshman forward, both this season and beyond: "We're thrilled to have the chance to coach Steve...We were thrilled to have him decide on Harvard, because we knew he would be an outstanding player and an outstanding citizen here on campus."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday News and Notes for January 16th

For the team's second straight week since the January 3rd loss to Fordham, the Harvard men's basketball team remained ranked in the top 25 in the nation in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. The 15-2 Harvard Crimson received 61 points in this weeks poll, putting them in the 24th slot. The Crimson were just barely ranked ahead of the 15-3 Illinois Fighting Illini, and trailed Saint Mary's at 23rd.

Harvard remains among others receiving votes in the AP Top 25. The Crimson did slightly improve its points tally over last week, from 16 to 22. Harvard fell out of the AP Top 25 after the loss to Fordham.

According to CBSSports.com, Harvard's RPI fell for the second straight week, from 46th to 50th in the nation. Harvard has the second lowest strength of schedule (230) among the top 68 RPIs nationally, ahead of only the 66th-ranked Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (262). Harvard remains the only Ivy League school ranked in the top 68. Yale's RPI is second in the Ivy League, at 100; the Princeton Tigers are third, at 124.

Joe Lunardi's bracketology has Harvard unchanged as a 9 seed in the east, playing 8th seeded Purdue. Syracuse is Lunardi's top seed in that side of the bracket.

Harvard is coming off of a pair of non-conference wins last week over the Monmouth Hawks and the George Washington Colonials. With the win Saturday against George Washington, Harvard improved its home win streak to 23 games, the fifth-longest such run in the nation. For his effort on the weekend, Harvard senior forward Keith Wright was named Ivy League Player of the Week. Wright averaged 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game on the week. Wright also had six blocked shots against Monmouth. The award is the co-captain's second Ivy League Player of the Week tab this season; Wright is also the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year.

This week, Harvard travels to Dartmouth on Saturday to take on the Big Green for the start of the all-Ivy League regular season schedule. Tip off is at 7 P.M. Charlie Hobbs and Scott Reed will have the call live on www.gocrimson.com.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Men’s Basketball Power Rankings

Penn's Zack Rosen and Yale's Greg Mangano

The “14 game tournament” is in full force as Ivy League teams wrap up their nonconference schedule and begin their quest for the coveted berth in the NCAA tournament. From 1969 to 2007, Princeton and Penn won every title but 2, but with the league more competitive than ever, expect frequent shifts in the power rankings: Yale, Penn, and Princeton all have championship aspirations and look to vie with Harvard, the preseason favorites, for the Ancient Eight crown.

Harvard (15-2, 1-0) – After a lackluster start to 2012, Harvard got back on track with a resounding statement against George Washington, holding the Colonials to 48 points on 15-50 shooting. There is no doubt that the Crimson bring a talented corp of players to conference play, headlined by Brendan Curry and the surprising play of Harvard freshmen. However, outside of Lavietes, where they ride a 23 game winning streak, Harvard has often looked lethargic on offense and vulnerable on defense. The Crimson visit Hanover for a rematch of the Ivy opener next game.

Yale (11-4, 1-0) – Led by the Cerberus that is Greg Mangano, Reggie Willhite, and Austin Morgan, Yale escaped with a 68-64 victory over the Brown Bears to kick off their conference play. With one of the most talented squad assembled in Yale basketball history, head coach James Jones and Co. have the experience and depth to win the league. Greg Mangano (19.9ppg, 10.7rpg), who played for USA Basketball at the World University Games this past year, is a double-double machine churning out plays for the Bulldogs in the interior. They visit the upset-minded Bears next.

Penn (9-9, 2-0) – The Quakers are off to a quick start in the hands of Zack Rosen, who put up a clinic in the first half against Cornell, scoring 13 points on 6-7 shooting. Rounding out the impressive backcourt with Rosen is the equally stellar Tyler Bernardini, boasting an amazing 43% from beyond the arc. However, as evidenced by the 66-64 squeeze past Columbia, the Quakers are vulnerable in the paint despite the continued development of Freshman Henry Brooks. Penn finishes its nonconference schedule with a matchup against St. Joseph next week.

Princeton (10-8, 1-1) – With the Tigers trailing Columbia by 6 midway through the second half, veterans Doug Davis and Ian Hummer took over the game to will Princeton past the surprisingly competitive Lions. The defense also stepped up with an aggressive style of play, notching 15 TOs (to the Tigers 6). First-year coach Mitch Henderson inherits many of the pieces from last year’s Ivy League championship team, and with the emergence of sophomore T.J. Bray, Princeton will look to repeat in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. A huge matchup against Penn awaits in two week.

Cornell (6-10, 1-1) – After a resounding win over Princeton, Cornell failed to stop Penn’s blazing pace and hot hands from beyond the arc. Gone are the Donahue days when Cornell notched three straight championships, but Bill Courtney’s impressive recruiting, headlined by the stellar Freshman Shonn Miller (15 pts, 10 rbs against Penn), and the development of Drew Ferry have the Big Red continuing to compete against the top teams in the league. The Columbia Lions look to provide an early test for this young squad.

Columbia (11-7, 0-2) – Junior guard Brian Barbour’s consecutive 25 point performances and Meiko Lyles’ sure hands from beyond the arc (.440 season average) against Penn and Princeton kept the surprisingly competitive Lions in contention for much of the opening weekend of the Ivy League. With a mediocre bench, the Lions could not keep up with the relentless pace set by the Quakers and Tigers and faded late in the second half. Getting players like Mark Cisco and Alex Rosenberg involved early will be key to ease some pressure off Barbour. The Lions face Cornell next weekend.

Brown (5-12, 0-1) – Hoping to halt a 4 game losing streak, Brown constantly pressured the Bulldogs and connected on several clutch shots to nearly push Yale to an inauspicious start in conference play. However, the Bears faded late in the game, squandering a 6 point lead during a 13-3 run by the Bulldogs in the final 3:10. Despite a barrage of treys and strong guard play, led by Sean McGonagill’s 23 point performance (4-6 3FG), the lack of interior presence ultimately doomed the Bears to a late fade. They hope to respond next week and stop a 5-game skid in a rematch against Yale at home.

Dartmouth (4-13, 0-1) – The Big Green closed out its nonconference schedule with a tuneup against Longwood, cruising to an easy 83-67 victory. Dartmouth will have a tougher time replicating such success in the Ivy League when it hosts the Crimson next weekend in Hanover. Despite leading in the second half against Harvard, the Big Green failed to respond to Oliver McNally’s hot hands and Keith Wright in the paint. Gabas Maldunas will have to step up with another big game if the Big Green wants to stay competitive.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Harvard defeats GW 69-48 to Close Out Non-conference Play

For the first three games of the new year, something seemed just a little bit off. To be fair, the Crimson were still 2 and 1 in 2012 coming into Lavietes on Saturday morning. But even so, it felt as if some sort of malaise had descended over the Harvard squad. Obviously, the loss to Fordham—when the Rams were able to shut down the Crimson inside and Harvard shot 8-30 from the arc—looms largest in this run. But even against the Big Green and the Monmouth Hawks, both divisional bottom-dwellers, Harvard refused to put either away early: Monmouth overcame two double-digit deficits to get within one, and Dartmouth even led by six in the second at Lavietes.

Today’s matchup, the last nonconference game of the 2011-2012 regular season campaign, was a final chance to regain the spark that had helped the team to lead 119 of the 120 minutes they played in the Battle for Atlantis before the start of Ivy League play. The Crimson, perhaps cognizant of that very fact, played phenomenally from post to post, put together their best performance since the 69-46 win over Boston College on December 29th.

Harvard jumped out to an early 4-0 lead off of a pair of baskets from senior cocaptains Oliver McNally and Keith Wright. Kyle Casey would extend the margin to an 8-1 advantage with a dunk off of an inbound pass from Oliver McNally at the 16:18 mark. The Crimson went to Wright and Casey repeatedly in the early going, seeking to establish a strong presence down low—Wright went to the locker room at the half 4 for 4 from the floor with 8 points, while Kyle was 2-2 with 6. At the break, Harvard led the Colonials 33-13.

Coming out of the intermission, GW struck first, with a pair of layups from Lasan Kromah and Dwayne Smith narrowing the lead to 15. That, though, was as close as the Colonials would get, as a 4-point play from Laurent Rivard put the Crimson back up by 19. Harvard would finish the game 24-37 (.649) from the floor, and 4-8 from 3 in a 69-48 victory.

In the end, sophomore guard Laurent Rivard, in his second start for the Crimson this season, had another impressive showing, shooting 4-5 from the field and 3-4 from 3. Rivard also found his way to the line for five shots, three of which came from a foul by Jabari Edwards beyond the arc at the buzzer, and the other two by virtue of a pair of and-one four point plays. “I knew they were going to jump on my shot,” said Rivard after the game, “so I just thought take my shot and stay focused. It was the first time [I’d ever had two four point plays], so I was pretty excited.”

Freshman forward Steve Mondou-Missi also put up a career effort. Mondou-Missi, who finished the game 7-7 from the floor and 1-1 from the line, tied Rivard with a team-leading 16 points. In addition to his first career three (on his second career attempt), Mondou-Missi contributed with a pair of impressive slam-dunks, including a running leap along the baseline from the right corner. Perhaps the only blemish on the day for Mondou-Missi came after his second dunk, when he was charged a technical foul for a one-handed hang on the rim.

The Harvard defense remained characteristically impregnable. Coming into the game ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense (55.5 PPG), the Crimson held George Washington to an astounding 13 points in the first half. That tally surpassed Harvard’s 14-point defensive effort against FSU in the second round of the Battle for Atlantis. The Colonials shot 15% (3-20) from the floor in the first, and were without a field goal in the final 12 minutes of the frame. A significant factor in the Crimson’s defensive dominance was their ability to limit senior guard Tony Taylor, the Colonial’s leading scorer at 13.3 PPG, to 3-12 on the day, and 0-3 from beyond the arc.

The Crimson put together the victory without two of its more prominent guards in the lineup. Christian Webster, who had, up to Tuesday’s game against Monmouth, started all of the Crimson’s 15 matchups, remained sidelined with a hip injury. Corbin Miller, a freshman guard who had seen action in 14 straight contests, also did not dress for the third straight game. Miller has shot 56.5% from the perimeter this season, including going four for five from long range against Boston College.

With the win, the Crimson improve to 15-2 on the season, while the Colonials fall to 6-11. Harvard is 2-1 against A10 opponents this year.

After the game, Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker downplayed the significance of the 21-point win for the Crimson going forward. “You never know about those things,” said Amaker. “We’re going to see if we can practice well next week and get prepared for our first conference road game, which will be very challenging for us and very different for our younger guys.” Fortunately enough for Amaker’s squad, Harvard will benefit from a light schedule in the coming week, with only a single contest (against the Big Green) next weekend to occupy their attention.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Harvard Hockey Heads to Fenway

Harvard's Alex Fallstrom and Union's Kelly Zajac at the faceoff dot during the two teams' 3-3 tie at Messa Rink last Friday. Photo courtesy Noel Roche. 
Hockey returns where it began for the Harvard Crimson and the Union College Dutchmen as the teams get set to meet outdoors at historic Fenway Park as part of the 2012 Sun Life Frozen Fenway Series. Harvard's program played outdoors from its founding in 1898 through 1910, while Union played outdoors from 1904 until 1949. Harvard rallied twice last week at Messa Rink against Union, first from a 1-0 deficit, followed by erasing a 3-1 deficit in the 3rd period.

Gametime Forecast: There's a chance of precipitation all day (depending on the weather site, between 15 and 40% at various times) but that should hopefully be over with by noon. Last night's rain and any today could be detrimental to the ice surface. Players will also have to deal with the wind - it will be blowing in from the SW at around 25 mph and gusts could get near the 50 mph mark. One forecast has it as 36 degrees F at puck drop (wind chill making it feel like 24 degrees) while another has the low being around 27 degrees. (Information based on a composite from weather.com and NOAA.gov.)

Comeback Kids: Including last weekend, Harvard has trailed in ten contests entering the third period, but has come back to rally in six of those games for either a win or a tie. 

Sweet Home Massachusetts: Harvard returns to the Boston area for the first time since before Thanksgiving, a 7-6 win over New Hampshire that saw the Crimson erase a 4-0 deficit. Harvard has played 7 games on the road in that span, visiting UMass, Princeton, North Dakota, Union, and RPI. In those seven games, the Crimson went 1-1-5, with the lone win coming against Princeton and the lone loss coming in the second game against North Dakota. The Crimson are 2-2-2 in the Bay State and 2-2-1 at home.

Power Surge: Tonight's game will see a showdown of two of the best power plays in the nation. Harvard has the nation's top power play at 34.9% while Union is 5th in the nation at 26.9%. In ECAC play, Harvard is converting on 36.2% of its PPs while Union is converting on 24.4%. Last weekend's game featured four PPGs in a row, two for each team.

Can't Make It?: Here are the particulars for tonight's broadcast.
Game Time: 7pm
Pregame Coverage: 6:45pm
Listen Live: 95.3 WHRB-FM and whrb.org
Broadcasters: Brendan Roche and Anton Khodakov (potentially to be joined in progress by Raafi Alidina)

Rain Plan: If, due to weather, the game is cancelled for tonight, we will try to bring you women's hockey vs. Union College. In the event that the game is cancelled too late for us to change our plans, WHRB will have its regularly scheduled classical music program. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Harvard Drops from AP Top 25, Stays Ranked in USA Today/Coaches Poll

After a 60-54 loss to Fordham on Tuesday, January 3rd, Harvard has dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 Poll for Week 10. The Crimson, who were ranked 22nd in Week 9's AP picks, received only 16 votes in the most recent tally, behind Wisconsin, Alabama, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, New Mexico, and Saint Mary's among others receiving votes.

In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, however, Harvard remains ranked--barely--in the Top 25, holding on to the 25th spot with 58 votes to Wisconsin's 43. Harvard's RPI, according to CBSSports.com's calculations, has dropped to 46th, although it remains the only Ivy League school with a top 68 RPI. ESPN's Joe Lunardi, in his weekly bracketology, currently has Harvard as a 9 seed playing Illinois in the first round in the East.

WHRB to Cover Harvard at Monmouth Tuesday 1/10

An interior shot of Boylan gym, home of the Monmouth Hawks.

What: Harvard Crimson (13-2, 1-0 Ivy) at Monmouth Hawks (2-13)
Where: Boylan Gym, West Long Branch, New Jersey
When: Tuesday, January 10th at 7:00 PM (Pregame at 6:45)
How: On 95.3 FM WHRB in the greater Boston area, and streaming live worldwide at www.whrb.org.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Harvard Wins Sloppy Ivy Opener as McNally Leads Way

by Scott Reed
WHRB Sports
My Opinion

Cambridge, MA - At its very core, the significance of Harvard's 63-47 win over the Dartmouth Big Green at Lavietes Pavilion was that it was just that - a win. The stated goal for this team is to win their second Ivy title, and Saturday served them well in that regard, as the Crimson are now 1-0 in conference play. Yet, for much of the game Harvard's performance was a tad worrisome, before a big run - sparked by the leadership of senior co-captain Oliver McNally- turned it around.

Unfortunately, for a while against Dartmouth it appeared that the malaise of Tuesday's loss at Fordham had not yet worn off. Although the Crimson jumped out to a 20-11 lead, they only scored three points in the final 7:11, taking a slim 23-22 lead to the locker room. Overall, those final minutes were played pretty sloppily - the Crimson tried and missed a host of three point baskets, Dartmouth ended the first half with eight offensive rebounds, mostly due to hustle.

Perhaps a bit of it could be contributed to the pressure of a conference opener. "I honestly was trying to get our kids to relax...I think that sometimes they can feel like a lot of weight is on their shoulders, especially during conference play, " Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said of his speech at halftime

What transpired in the second half was first a continuance of the funk the Crimson seemed to have gotten caught in - Dartmouth would grab the lead, leading by six with just over fourteen minutes to play. Then, however, Harvard turned it around, on the strength of a 24-4 run over the next nine minutes, which proved to be the deciding stretch.

That stretch and the resulting good play was welcomed warmly by the Crimson faithful, like an old friend that had not been seen in ages; indeed, other than the period at the end of the second half against Saint Josephs, the Crimson hadn't gone on quite a run in some time. One knew that Harvard would go off at some point - this team is too talented not to - but it was a matter of when it would.

"That's when I thought our kids really dug in and got the stops defensively, and our pace improved," said Amaker of that run. He attributed much of the turnaround to his senior guard, Oliver McNally. The co-captain from San Francisco, who would finish with a game-high seventeen points, initiated the comeback with made baskets and intensity on the defensive end.

Afterwards, Amaker spoke glowingly of McNally: "Oliver is the spirit and leader of our team from a vocal standpoint...I thought he was outstanding [today]." Amaker also hinted that the guard was also vocal in the locker room and in the huddle, and provided praise for his leadership ability. "He's a tremendous leader, he's just wired that way. If he played a position in football, it would be quarterback....Whatever success we've had here during his time, you can contribute a lot of it to him."

The importance of a senior leader like McNally cannot be understated, especially for a team that has the highest of expectations. Things may not all go smoothly in Ivy League play - Harvard's last two games have been evidence that even a great team can play poorly and fall on a given night - and whether the team is able to bounce back from disappointment may determine whether it gets its desired championship. And although it was sloppy Saturday, the Crimson were able to respond to rough stretches and get the win - and that says something about this team and its senior guard.