A season-opening defeat of Boston University gave Northeastern some early-season bragging rights. Friday when the Huskies host Harvard, they have an opportunity to make some serious noise not just locally, but on the national scene.
The Crimson visit Matthews Arena having generated considerable buzz coming into the season. One bit of far-too-early bracket predicting lists Harvard as a No. 11 seed, and the Ivy Leaguers rank No. 32 in the Associated Press Top 25 when accounting for “Others receiving votes” tallies.
Friday’s home-opener is quite a potential statement game for the reigning Colonial Athletic Association Tournament champions.
Who: Harvard (1-0) at Northeastern (1-0)
When: Friday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Matthews Arena; Boston, Mass.
Watch: LIVE on FloHoops
Harvard Crimson At A Glance
Longtime protégé of Mike Krzyzewski, Tommy Amaker, began his 13th season at Harvard’s helm on Tuesday with an 84-27 dismantling of MIT.
The Crimson enter this 2019-20 campaign tabbed to win the Ivy League crown, but this season they want to parlay it into an NCAA Tournament appearance. An upset loss in last year’s League tournament left them out of the field of 68.
Names To Know
Despite returning nine players from last year’s Ivy League regular-season championship roster, Harvard opened 2019-20 with a new look. Bryce Aiken, who scored north of 22 points per game a season ago, sat against MIT but could be back for Friday’s contest.
Former Ivy League Player of the Year Seth Towns is scratched indefinitely from an injury that sidelined him the entirety of last season.
Preseason All Ivy Leaguer Chris Lewis scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds on opening night, in just 15 minutes. Chris Ledlum, who came off the bench, had a double-double with 13 and 11.
Harvard typically runs a four-out look on offense. Lewis works an inside-out game with the perimeter players, forcing defenders to chase. That translates to open 3-point looks, and Harvard ranked in the top 100 last year for point percentage off long shots.
Aiken shot a hair below 40 percent from behind the arc last season; ditto Noah Kirkwood. Danil Djuricic shot 37 percent from deep, and Christian Juzang knocked down 36.6.
Juzang and Rio Haskett both hit a pair of triples against MIT.
Harvard’s approach is deliberate; the Crimson played with the nation’s 193rd fastest tempo in 2018-19 per KenPom.com metrics, and had an average possession length of 18 seconds. That translated to typically good looks at the rim, producing an effective field-goal percentage that ranked 64th in Division I.
Lewis is a shot-blocking presence on the interior for Harvard. If there’s any precedent to take from recent Bill Coen-coached Huskies teams, however, it’s that they won’t force contested looks inside. Or outside, for that matter.
Harvard’s coach being a former national Defensive Player of the Year is evident in the team’s intensity. And in recent years, the Crimson have had some of the most tenacious defensive sides in the country.
Since 2010-11, no Harvard defense has rated worse than 130 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. Last year marked the sixth time the Crimson were top 100 in that same time frame.
One key to Harvard’s defensive efficiency, which showed up in the opening night behind Lewis and Ledlum’s board work: The Crimson give up very few second-chance opportunities.
Northeastern Huskies At A Glance
Last year’s CAA representative in the NCAA Tournament, Northeastern began its pursuit of another Big Dance Tuesday with a 72-67 defeat of Boston U.
Coen’s lineup underwent some offseason change, but the cornerstones still at Northeastern provide a foundation for another potential championship run.
Names To Know
Jordan Roland didn’t pick up where he left off a season ago: He shot his way to a whole new level in the 2019-20 season opener. His 39 points paced the Huskies to victory.
Coen’s staff scored quite a recruiting coup with Tyson Walker, and he showed out in his debut: 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, two assists and two steals. Maxime Boursiquot isn’t a new face, but he redshirted a season ago.
He made his presence felt in his return to the lineup with 10 points.
Northeastern’s version of the motion offense under Coen certainly lives up to its billing. The constant action, with off-the-ball players cutting and screening, is designed to make any player on the court a threat to score.
That was the case a season ago, when Bolden Brace, Donnell Gresham and Roland all ranked No. 245 or better in offensive rating among all Division I players.
Brace is back this season, and Roland’s explosive start suggests the Huskies could be even more dangerous than a season ago. Both shoot the 3-point exceedingly well, which helps extend the defense and open up seams closer to the basket.
Against Harvard, Northeastern’s action away from the rim could be vital in drawing out Lewis’ rim-protecting presence. Northeastern employs almost unparalleled patience, playing a style comparable to national champion Virginia when it comes to ball movement.
Recent Northeastern teams have defended well. Last year, however, the Huskies allowed opponents to shoot 53 percent inside the arc.
No matter the iteration of Huskies basketball, Northeastern teams have not been particularly aggressive in creating turnovers. That will be an interesting facet to watch against Harvard.
The Crimson were one of the most turnover-prone teams in the nation a season ago. Northeastern must avoid unnecessary gambles in a contest like this, one in which possession control is likely to have a central role.
Still, the possibility for turnovers is there.