The Penn basketball team loves to keep things interesting, no matter who the opponent is (can't we get a double-digit win one of these days?). But the real hot topic right now is Harvard. A full-blown outbreak of Crimson fever has swept the nation after their Battle 4 Atlantis tourney title, causing national media outlets to do the unthinkable: actually acknowledge Ivy League basketball. Are the experts jumping on the bandwagon too soon? Or does this year's non-major powerhouse really reside in Cambridge? Mano-A-Mano debates...
Question: Is Harvard really this good?
Kevin Esteves: Yes, Harvard is a great team and probably should have received a top-25 ranking this past week after winning Battle 4 Atlantis. But does that mean they're just going to steamroll through their schedule like that ESPN article said? I just can't see it. College basketball games are way too volatile for any coach/player to think they're going to basically win out and sweep their conference slate. Penn beat Cornell two seasons ago when the Big Red were ranked 22nd and playing unbelievable basketball. Cornell just didn't show up for that one. That kind of stuff happens. I just think it's way too early in the season to be making these kinds of extrapolations. So yeah, Harvard's great right now, but let them play at least halfway into the Ivy season before we even think about comparing them to some of the all-time great Ivy teams. I think people are just so ready to jump the gun because fans and the media love it when an Ivy team, which isn't supposed to be challenging ranked teams, starts taking out the big boys.
Brian Kotloff: From what I see, the pieces are there. Watching this weekend (that's right, I did some homework), I saw a team with legit size and skill both down low and on the perimeter. They move the ball and spread the floor extremely well, and have been playing lights-out defense. But while awfully impressive as an Ivy team, the Crimson are not without flaws. They don't really have a true go-to point guard, meaning they could be susceptible to ball pressure. They have a rare gem in dominant big man Keith Wright, but they struggle to get him an ample amount of touches -- he's shooting 65 percent yet only getting eight shots per game. And yes, they beat a top-25 team, but Florida State can't exactly light it up offensively. I saw a Seminoles team that couldn't capitalize on the open perimeter shots Harvard allowed them. So I agree, it's waaay too early to put Harvard on a pedestal and declare them this year's "it" team. First, they have to prove themselves in further nonconference tests against teams like Vermont, UConn, Boston U. and B.C. Once they get into Ivy play, teams will be so familiar with them that upsets in multiple games are certainly possible. So cool your jets, national media -- right, Emilio?
KE: Yep...if you took a minute to stop breaking down game film , you would see that I also said it's way too early to classify this Harvard squad as a big-time team. But, I'll give it to you — that breakdown is pretty solid. Not having a go-to point guard could definitely spell trouble, but in terms of Ivy play, what will make the Crimson so tough is their ability to get what they want down low. When Penn tried to make those comebacks in last year's double-OT game, the Quakers were clawing for every basket — everything was tough and contested — while the Crimson could just stop the bleeding and dump it down to Wright, who would inevitably draw contact or finish at the cup. What a luxury to have.
BK: That's exactly why Harvard could be a special team. Even the great Cornell teams that built a mini-dynasty in recent years didn't have such a strong post presence (and no, Jeff Foote doesn't count...) or the caliber of athletes that Harvard boasts. The reason we're preaching patience, though, is because the pieces don't always gel. You just can't essentially hand a team a championship before the actual games begin, like ESPN did today. What if the early success gets to their head? What if Wright or Kyle Casey gets injured? I hesitate to think guys like Zack Rosen and Douglas Davis and Greg Mangano will let Harvard roll to the league title without having something to say about it.
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