Wednesday, March 14, 2012
by Scott Reed
Here are some notes and thoughts following a day of press conferences and open practices here at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
-Harvard is here to win. The players seem very focused. Senior Co-captain Oliver McNally had this quote: "we're not just happy to be here and win our first solo Ivy title and just throw in the towel. We're here to win, and that's what we're we're expecting to do."
-Vanderbilt is very, very good - they just beat #1 overall seed Kentucky for the SEC title, after all- and seems intent on not being upset in the first round again. They are likely the strongest of the 5-seeds in the 2012 tournament. The others? Wichita State, Temple, and New Mexico. John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor on the offensive end will be difficult to stop.
-The size and power of the Commodore front court is an advantage for Vanderbilt. Taylor stands at 6-7 and averages sixteen points and six rebounds a game. Together with six-foot-eleven Festus Ezeli, he represent sa match-up issue for Harvard interior players Keith Wright and Kyle Casey.
-The homecoming of Taylor, who graduated from nearby Hobbs High School, is a big story for the local media here in Albuquerque. Around half of all questions directed to the Vanderbilt players this afternoon dealt with Taylor's return.
-The altitude may play a factor tomorrow. During the open practice today, Harvard players were visibly straining to get through the workout. The Crimson seemed like they still had to acclimate to the altitude, which at Albuquerque is about 5,300 feet above sea level. Vanderbilt, course, will face the same issue. It was difficult to see whether the Commodores were affected today, as their open practice was more of an informal shootaround.
-The games may not sell out -there are reportedly a few thousand tickets available for the games tomorrow and Saturday. That both New Mexico State and New Mexico play tomorrow in Portland at the same time would be a contributing factor - not that it matters to the Crimson of course, appearing in their first NCAA tournament since 1946.
-Baylor, who is competing in the South Regional here in Albuquerque, seems very athletic in person. Vanderbilt and especially Wisconsin, whom the Crimson could face in the Round of 32, are better draws for Harvard athletically.
-Colorado, also in the South Regional, is fighting for some respect, for themselves and the much-maligned Pac-12. Buffalo coach Tad Boyle: "We've got work to do though on a national scale in terms of respectability. We've got an opportunity tomorrow night to start on that journey." Colorado plays UNLV in the opening round.
-Tomorrow will be exciting. Tune in to 95.3FM in the Boston area to hear WHRB's coverage of Harvard-Vanderbilt. The game will tip at 4:40 eastern, with coverage beginning at 4:00.
Quotes on Harvard from Vanderbilt players Jeff Taylor, John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli, and Head Coach Kevin Stallings in Albuquerque on Wednesday, March 14th.
On Harvard's man-to-man defense:
Jenkins: "We're going to have to work for our baskets and have good screening and moving around the ball very well. We've played good defensive teams the whole year, so it's just another team we;ve got to be ready for."
Taylor: "I know certain guys will probably get more attention from their defense than others. But we'll be ready for it. Our offense has been pretty good all year, so we're not too worried about it."
On Harvard's frontcourt:
Ezeli: "They're very talented. Both guys, i think... the five man was the "Player of the Year" last year. They're really talented. It's like I said, its going to be another game with tough match-ups. They're good defensively too So we're just going to have to fight the whole game."
First thoughts on learning about their matchup with Harvard:
Jenkins: "I haven;t seen them play much this year. I saw them play once against Princeton, and I was very impressed with how well they moved the ball on offense and how patient they were. I didn't think we'd ever be playing them but it's going to be a good game."
Stallings: "I think, first of all, the thing that stands out is they;re very very well-coached. They have a definite plan on offense. They play extremely well together on both ends of the floor. Their team defense is exceptional as is their willingness to share the ball and move the ball and get it to the best option on that particular possession. So I think that that's the first thing that I see is just the chemistry that their team plays with on both ends and just how well set-up they are and how well-coached they are."
On Harvard's disciplined style:
Stallings: "But I think with Harvard, I think its just, like our team, they've got a team that they've grown up. They've grown this team up. They're juniors and seniors, for the most part. They've played a lot of basketball together. They;re used to each other, I think that as much as anything else that really helps because there is an inherent chemistry with teams like that, and it seems like they certainly have that."
On Amaker's recruiting:
Stallings: "Tommy's done a great job... He has to get players that can do the academic work at Harvard Monday through Friday and then he's got to try to beat Boston College on Saturday, That;s what they say about us. They want us to be Harvard Monday through Friday and beat Alabama on Saturday. And he's obviously doing a great job. His record the last couple years, hes starting to maybe separate himself a little bit and separate his program a little bit from a lot of people in that league. That's the sign of obviously a job well done. Very, very well done, actually."
Quotes from Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker in Albuquerque on Wednesday, March 14th.
On competing with schools like Vanderbilt in recruiting:
"Certainly its a challenge for us to put ourselves in those categories with some of the great institutions with playing in the larger conferences. When you think of Vandy and the SEC and Stanford and the Pac-10, Pac-12, many other schools around the country, Northwestern and the Big Ten. Thats kind of a goal of ours, to see if we can get involved in those circles.
We've been able to do it. Our staff has worked incredibly hard to identify those prospects and try to build relationships with those kids and the various individuals around them. Certainly having some success here with our program, I think, has allowed us to gain some traction and a foot hold to make our way and to identify kids that fit the profile for Harvard.
That's a neat thing for us to be in those circles with Vandy, and Northwestern, and Stanford and those schools with the kids that we're trying to compete for."
On selling Harvard to recruits:
"There are other great places and great alums and son on and so forth, but we think we have a niche here, and we wanted to present that as an option for the kids that we thought would be viable candidates for our campus. I was just excited to have the opportunity to represent Harvard and still am, and hopeful that we can continue to do what we've started and the journey that we've been on. Its been a lot of fun. We've been able to kind of take it in a direction that we have a lot of traction about it. We're hopeful that the momentum will continue to grow."
On his reaction to learning that Vanderbilt would be the opponent:
"Very honestly, I thought right away how tough its going to be. I've had a chance to peek on different games that Vandy has played throughout this season, and certainly I think the marquee game was just played in terms of their upset of Kentucky.
But I knew right a way of a veteran team, a team that can score. Very athletic, more athletic than people give them credit for being in the SEC with incredible athletic teams that have been known throughout the years in that league.
I think Vandy matches up with all those teams. So I knew right away how challenging this match-up would be because of their coach, Coach Stallings. I've known him for a number of years and have a great deal of respect for what he's done and accomplished in his career.
This team, I think this team has been built, in my opnion from the outside looking in. You can imagine this team being built for an opportunity to make a deep run with their experience, the veterans, their balance and their athleticism.So it didn’t surprise me they were able to make that run through the SEC tournament. Were just hopeful that we can match their intensity. I think they’re focused. They’ll be a team that having come off a few early round losses in the past, will be very motivated and very focused. I’m hopeful that we can match those things."
On the athleticism of Lance Goulbourne:
"Well, you've characterized it very well. He's very athletic, 6'8'', an older player, veteran player and very experienced player. I think he's from what I've been able to watch and see thus far is he's very comfortable and has embraced who he is and what his role is. That says a lot about a low of players if you can do that. It's easier said than done.
But he has appeared that he really relishes his role in being that, as you mentioned, setting screens, getting offensive rebounds, keeping balls alive, sprinting the floor, blocking shots, doing a lot of things that maybe most people, unless you're an astute basketball person or coach are sometimes overlooked. I think he's a big piece of the puzzle for their ballclub."
On the Vision Amaker had for Harvard
We’re very excited about having the opportunity to represent Harvard and thinking of this as the possibilities and potential associated with our great name, we just felt were enormous. We just felt if there was somehow to bring some energy and excitement, present this option to a few kids that could see this as an incredible challenge and opportunity. I just thought that the vision could provide something that we're seeing right now. Harvard basketball being relevant, being national, playing in big games, winning championships, getting to the NCAA tournament.
On Vanderbilt’s Size:
“They are, obviously, athletic and big, Ezili in the middle. I don’t know if I mentioned or not but another thing is they’re balanced. That’s something we talk about our ball club a lot is having great balance. Well’, they’re incredibly balanced with front line, strength, athleticism, scoring and incredible perimeter shooting.
There are no holes with this basketball team. There is no question about it. I think as many people are starting to talk around the country with teams that have a chance to make deep runs in this tournament, I think Vanderbilt is one of those teams that are at the forefront of everybody’s mind.
On who might step up:
“I don’t think we have any one person. That’s been the beauty of our team all year. When we speak of our balance, that’s the key for us. I like ot think the game of basketball should be played in a way that the go-to guy is the open guy. We’ve adopted that in a lot of ways.”
On John Jenkins
“He’s as good of a shooter that we’ll face in our tenure at Harvard. Certainly he leads the SEC in scoring. He he has deep range. It’s been talk about his quick release. They do a number of things to get him shots, get him open. He has good size.He’s a terrific basketball player. You don’t lead the SEC in scoring and win the conference tournament without being an outstanding player and one of the top players in the country. We’re hopeful that we can make it difficult for him as we’ve talked about having awareness and trying to make it incredibly difficult for him to get easy shots.”
Before an open practice at The Pit, Harvard players Oliver McNally, Kyle Casey, and Keith Wright spoke before the media. Here are some excerpts.
On the frontcourt of Vanderbilt:
Casey: "They're big, they're strong and athletic. But I think we're prepared. We've played teams this season who have had a good front court. I think if we just stick to our principles, we'll be fine."
Wright: "This is going to be challenging. It's going to take a team efort from every position, but I think we've put in the work this season in order to deal with talent like Vanderbilt and I think we'll be fine."
On choosing Harvard:
McNally: "But after I was coerced into taking a trip to East Coast by my parents and some people around me, I didn't have great experiences at other Ivy league schools on my unofficial visits, but I loved Harvard. I lvoed Coach Amaker, and I really believed in the vision he was pitching to me."
Wright: "Listening to what all these coaches have, [what] the Ivy Leagues had to offer and the family that I would be spending time with, the players, after evaluating them, I felt like Harvard was the placed that was the best fit for me."
On pressure of winning the Ivy League this season:
McNally: "This year we were picked pretty much consensus to win our league. So we had a bullseye on our back the whole season... But every tournament, there are seeds and all of that, but seeds don't really matter as much because you roll the ball out and play one game and the winner goes on. That's pretty much what it boils down to."
On the importance of early season victory over Florida State:
McNally: "It was huge. You can come into the season saying we can play with anybody and we can win games... I think it did a lot for us going the rest of the season. We lost at UConn, and we lost some games. But we walk into every game thinking and believing that we can win. it's one thing to say that, but I think as a unit we do believe that."
Sunday, March 11, 2012
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – WHRB Cambridge will cover live all of the Harvard men’s basketball team’s NCAA tournament games on 95.3FM in the greater Boston Area, the station announced on this week. WHRB is the flagship station for Harvard basketball and will continue its basketball coverage into the NCAA tournament. Harvard College students Scott Reed, James Yoon and Charlie Hobbs will have the call for all of the Crimson’s tournament games. WHRB has covered all home games, all Ivy League games home and away, and select non-conference road games for Harvard basketball this year.
WHRB is a non-profit FM radio station serving the greater Boston area and operated on a volunteer basis by undergraduates at Harvard College. WHRB’s sports coverage, in addition to basketball, includes all Harvard football games and all Harvard men’s ice hockey games. The station’s other programming features classical music, jazz, rock, and hip-hop.
Harvard will open on Thursday against the Vanderbilt Commodores. The time has yet to be announced. Updates on coverage will be posted to the station’s website whrb.org and twitter.com/WHRBSports. Questions should be sent via email to email@example.com.
Harvard will be playing the Vanderbilt Commodores on Thursday in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
-12th seed seems a bit low, but is in line with the seeds that Ivy teams have received in the past. 12th-seeded Cornell went to the Sweet Sixteen in 2010.
-Vanderbilt is hot, coming off of a big win over Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship.
-John Jenkins for Vanderbilt is a player. He averages 20 points per game and shoots 48.5% from behind the three-point arc.
-The Crimson must defend the 3-point line. Vanderbilt shoots 39.1% from three are led by Jenkins in that respect. Guard Jeffrey Taylor shoots 43%.
-Harvard has a chance to beat the ACC Tournament Champions (FSU back in November) and the SEC Tournament Champions (Vanderbilt).
-Wisconsin would be a decent second-round draw for Harvard if the Crimson can get by Vanderbilt. The Badgers play at Harvard's pace and there is not the raw talent gap that other four seeds present. Cornell beat 4th-seeded Wisconsin to reach the Sweet Sixteen in 2010.
-Albuquerque is a fun, new destination for the Harvard Crimson. "The Pit" is an outstanding arena.
- And of course, WHRB will be there to cover it on 95.3FM!
ESPN has Harvard as a 10 seed in the South Region, playing San Diego State in Louisville.
Sports Illustrated has Harvard as a 10 seed in Omaha playing UNLV.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Here are the quarterfinal scenarios depending on who wins tomorrow. My albeit rusty math skills tell me that the number of possible outcomes equals 2^3 or 8, but let me know if I missed one. Harvard's are in bold. The Crimson cannot play fifth seeded Quinnipiac (who will play Colgate if they win), eleventh seeded Princeton (who will play either Union or Cornell if they win, depending on the Brown series) or twelfth seeded Brown (who will play Union if they win)