Harvard is not a great matchup for UNC


If the NCAA Tournament selection committee came to me before the brackets were released earlier this evening and asked me to name one quality that I wouldn’t want in a UNC opponent, I would have said a slow tempo. UNC has struggled all season long against teams that slow it down. Andrew Carter of the News and Observer found a great stat before the Miami game that shows the struggles UNC has had against slow teams this season. From his February 27th article…

"The loss Tuesday was, according to data tracked by college basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, the slowest game of the season for the Tar Heels. There were only 60 possessions, and UNC is 1-5 in games with fewer than 65 possessions."

Now remember, that was back on the 27th, and since then, UNC beat Miami and Virginia, two teams that prefer that slow it down tempo. Regardless, UNC has struggled in games against slow it down opponents. Check out these stats in UNC’s six games this season with less than 65 possessions, per kenpom.com…

Two-point field goal %
Under 65 Poss: 43.12% (104/235)
Season: 51.3%

Three-point field goal %
Under 65 Poss: 27.27% (24/88)
Season: 34.5%

Under 65 Poss: 15.16 per game
Season: 17.7 per game

Carolina’s offense struggles when given less possessions to work with. They have proven that they can win games against slower opponents, like Clemson, UVA and Miami, but, I would just rather not play a slow team if I were UNC and I had the choice.

The problem for the Heels? Harvard is a one of the slowest teams in the country, ranking 332nd in the country per kenpom.com in average possession length. In adjusted tempo, again per kenpom.com, Harvard is 317th. For reference, Virginia is 341st and 349th in those two stats.

UNC is more talented than Harvard clearly. They have a better roster from 1-12, have more talented players, and are bigger, faster and stronger.

UNC has a much better resume than Harvard — the Heels have played the second hardest schedule per kenpom.com’s pythagorean SOS formula and have 24 wins, while the Crimson have played the 149th toughest schedule and won 22 games.

UNC has played waaaay better against similar opponents. Harvard lost 76-27 to Virginia back in December and lost to Boston College in January, while UNC beat both those teams this season.

UNC is better statistically. Comparing the two teams in offensive and defensive efficiency, two kenpom.com metrics, proves UNC as the superior basketball team.

Offensive Efficiency
UNC: 115.3 (12th in the country)
Harvard: 102.0 (170th in the country)

Defensive Efficiency
UNC: 95.0 (45th in country)
Harvard: 94.5 (34th in country)

The two teams are similar on defense, but Carolina knocks Harvard out of the park on offense.

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Harvard also really just has one great player, Wesley Saunders, and if UNC puts Tokoto on him, Harvard might not be able to do anything on offense and Carolina could roll to an easy win.

Carolina is a better basketball team, and they should win. But that is the point of a 4-13 matchup. The four team is clearly better on paper, but this 4-13 matchup just scares me. I could see Harvard hanging around in a low scoring game, hitting a couple shots in the second half and making it really tough for the Tar Heels.

UNC is favored, and I like UNC to win. But out of all the teams UNC could have faced in a 4-13 pairing, Harvard is not a great matchup for the Heels. Their tempo scares me. Don’t overlook the Crimson as you plot in your minds Carolina’s march to the Final Four.