Harvard (26-4) vs. Cincinnati (27-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 20, 2:10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Spokane Arena (12,210) -- Spokane, Washington. Television: TNT. NCAA Record: Harvard 1-4, Cincinnati 43-26. Series Record: Harvard leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The 12th-seeded Harvard Crimson shoot for another upset in the NCAA Tournament, as they take on the fifth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats in second round action of the East Region at Spokane Arena.
A year ago Harvard, then a 14 seed, knocked off third-seeded New Mexico to earn its first-ever win in the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson are back for more this season after earning their third straight Ivy League title, winning 13 of 14 games against conference foes. They are also sporting an impressive 26-4 overall record, with the 26 wins setting a new program record.
Cincinnati was the top seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, also capturing the league's regular-season title, although by coin flip since it tied with Louisville at 15-3 in league play. The Bearcats were unable to utilize their top seed in the tourney, falling to Connecticut (58-56) in the semifinals. They are making their fourth straight, and 28th overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which they have won twice (1961, 1962).
Harvard won the only previous meeting between these two programs with a 77-76 victory back in 1974. The winner this time around will take on either fourth- seed Michigan State or 13th-seeded Delaware in the next round on Saturday.
Since the Ivy League does not hold a conference tournament, Harvard has been idle since the regular-season finale against Brown. The Crimson pulled out a 98-93 victory in that contest, as they were led by Steve Moundou-Missi, who posted a double-double consisting of 21 points and 11 rebounds.
There is plenty of NCAA Tournament experience on this Harvard squad. Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard were all starters last year against New Mexico, while Moundou-Missi played 20 minutes off the bench. Saunders (14 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.9 apg) is the leader and the best offensive option for the Ivy League's highest scoring team (73.6 ppg). Chambers (11.1 ppg, 4.6 apg) plays well with the ball and creates for himself as well as for others. Moundou-Missi (10.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Rivard (10 ppg) and Kyle Casey (10 ppg) round out the starting lineup, which gets the majority of the playing time.
Sean Kilpatrick went the length of the floor, but missed a layup as time expired in Cincinnati's 58-56 loss to UConn in the AAC semifinals. Kilpatrick, far and away the best player for Cincinnati, missed way too many shots in the contest, going just 5-of-15 from the field, while the Bearcats hit on just 37.9 percent from the floor as a team.
Playing in such bruising battles is commonplace for Cincinnati, which ranks among the top-15 in the country in both scoring defense (58.3 ppg) and opponent field goal percentage (.394), while netting just 68.7 ppg itself. Kilpatrick (20.7 ppg) is really the only consistent offensive force on the roster, although he can be prone to fits of erratic shooting because of the overwhelming pressure he carries. Justin Jackson (11.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.8 bpg) is the team's only other double-digit scorer, but is more important for his efforts on the glass and in protecting the rim.
Cincinnati's ability to bring the tempo to a grinding halt often throws opponents off their game. That won't be true for Harvard, which is also a strong defensive squad (60.5 ppg), and is extremely comfortable playing at a deliberate pace. Expect a tighter game than the seedings would suggest, but one the Bearcats ultimately pull out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 66, Harvard 63
03/20 10:24:39 ET