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Harvard has the talent and experience to make a return to the NCAA tournament. Their first challenge comes against Northeastern, who's also laden with senior leadership and talent.
The Crimson are hoping to avenge their loss to the Huskies last season, where Northeastern won 81-71. This year's contest takes place at Matthews Arena at 8 p.m. EST.
Harvard is ready for a breakout seasonThe Crimson return almost all of their experience and scoring production from last year's successful season, where they won an NIT game. Leading the way for Harvard is senior guard Bryce Aiken. Aiken led the team in scoring with 22 points per game. Along with him, another player who should have an instant impact is guard Justin Bassey who excelled on the defensive end.
Play in the paint should also be a strength for Harvard as they return forward Chris Lewis. Lewis made more than 60% of his shots last season, indicating how reliable he can be.
All told, this Harvard team is deep and talented. Against Northeastern, look for the Crimson to employ a balanced offensive attack where they test the Huskies' interior presence. A player to watch is point guard Christian Juzang. If he is able to make three-point shots early, it adds another element to the Crimson offense that'll be tough for Northeastern to guard.
Jordan Roland leads the wayIn Northeastern's season-opening win against Boston University, it was apparent who the star of this team would be. Senior guard Jordan Roland led the Huskies in scoring with a career-high 39 points. Tyson Walker complemented Roland's prolific offense by adding 11 points, which is not bad for his freshman debut.
On the defensive end, Northeastern struggled to contain Boston. The Terriers were able to build a lead in the first half thanks to solid guard play. This could be a preview of coming attractions on Saturday when the Huskies face a Harvard squad loaded with guard talent. If Northeastern starts slow again, they might not be able to keep pace with the Crimson.
Offensively, they'll need to find more balance. Roland is a formidable force no doubt, but against a Harvard team that thrives on solid defense, expect them to challenge Roland's shots. This is where another player such as Walker could step up. Northeastern cannot be one-dimensional offensively or they're in for a long night.
Trends found on Covers.com Northeastern is:
- 1-3-2 ATS in last 6 non-conference games
- 6-2-1 ATS in last 9 road games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Both teams possess ample leadership and experience, but Harvard has a more balanced offensive attack. Because they have so many players Northeastern has to account for, it provides a unique challenge to a Huskies' defense that struggles to contain teams consistently. Further, Harvard has a solid defensive core lead by the steady play of Bassey. Look for the Crimson to challenge Roland's shots to disrupt his rhythm. And if he's unable to score, the Huskies don't have the offensive depth to keep pace. Harvard, behind a strong defensive effort, wins this one.
Prediction: Harvard -2
Full-Game Total Pick
Northeastern plays its best defense at home. They're 7-0 in the Under in their last seven home games and given both teams' strengths on the defensive side, I expect this to trend to continue. Look for Harvard to zero in on Roland, forcing the Huskies to come up with other plays while the Crimson uses their size and strength in the paint to their advantage. This remains a low-scoring close game Harvard wins by one possession.
Prediction: Under 141