Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday's Pregame Beat: Slow night highlighted by a great matchup

No. 24 Harvard @ No. 9 UConn: This matchup is all kinds of interesting. You have a UConn team that is stocked with potential pros going up against a Harvard team stocked with their future financial advisors. This difference this year, as you can tell by that little number next to Harvard's name, the Crimson are legit this year. The question is how legit. They already own a win over a top 25 team, but Florida State (who was 20th in the country when Harvard beat them) has since fallen off.

There are basically going to be two things that Harvard is going to have to focus on if they want to win this game: defensive rebounding and hitting their threes. Harvard has a front line that can matchup with a lot of high-major teams, but UConn has a front line with size and athleticism that ranks up there up Kentucky as the most impressive in the country. With guys like Alex Oriakhi, Andre Drummond and Tyler Olander, they get on the offensive glass as well as anyone. The other issue is that Harvard is going to have a size disadvantage at the wing positions as well, as the like of Deandre Daniels, Roscoe Smith and Jeremy Lamb will drawf their Crimson clad counterparts.

The make up for that, Harvard is going to have to start hitting their threes. They have a handful of players that can really stroke the ball -- Oliver McNally, Laurent Rivard, Christian Webster -- but have been struggling with their shot early in the year. Getting those guys into a rhythm early could counteract the points they are going to inevitably give up on second chances.

I'm also curious to see Brandyn Curry go up against UConn's point guards. Curry is underrated on a national scale, but he's a heady and tough player that deserves more attention. Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, however, are both dynamic playmakers that are going to give Curry the toughest challenge that he will likely face this season. Surprisingly enough, Harvard is only a 5.5 point underdog heading into this game, and that number has gone down since the line was set. A road game against one of the most talented teams in the country is never an easy game to win, but if Harvard can have a good showing even with a loss, they can quell some of the critics of having an Ivy League team ranked.

9:00 pm: West Virginia @ Kansas State: Bob Huggins returning to the Octagon of Doom to take on one of the only coaches in the country that is as intimidating as him? I'll take it. Both of these teams play similar styles -- they are expected to be the tougher, more physical team and attack the offensive glass. Above all else, both Huggins and Frank Martin demand hard work out of their players. This won't be the prettiest game you see all season, but if you like games that devolve into all-out dogfights, then you'll love this.

Other notable games:

- 7:00 pm: Boston College @ Providence
- 7:30 pm: Maine @ Notre Dame
- 8:00 pm: Oral Roberts @ Oklahoma

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