North Carolina Basketball: Keys to Victory vs. Harvard


The North Carolina basketball team opens NCAA tournament play tomorrow against Harvard, who received the automatic bid from the Ivy League.  Now, you may be thinking that this will be an easy win for Carolina.  I mean, Harvard values academics far more than athletics, and most people would be hard pressed to name a single Harvard player.  But Harvard is talented, and should not be taken lightly.  This will be the fourth straight year that Harvard will play in the tournament, so their players have been here before.  And each of the last two years, Harvard has won a game in the tournament, beating New Mexico in 2013 and Cincinnati in 2014.  So what does UNC have to do to avoid being upset by the Crimson?

Live Feed

Cincinnati Basketball: Bearcats announce upcoming matchups against ACC foe Georgia Tech
Cincinnati Basketball: Bearcats announce upcoming matchups against ACC foe Georgia Tech /

Cincy on the Prowl

  • College Basketball: Ranking the Nine "Blue Blood" programsGo Joe Bruin
  • NCAA Basketball: Is NCAA Tournament expansion past 68 teams a good idea?Busting Brackets
  • Miami basketball win rankings over the last 2 seasonsCanes Warning
  • UCLA Basketball: Best wins of the Mick Cronin EraGo Joe Bruin
  • Miami Basketball big opportunity at Kentucky in ACC/SEC ChallengeCanes Warning
  • 1.  Put it away early

    First, and most importantly, Carolina has to get off to a good start.  Last year, Cincinnati was very sluggish early on against Harvard, and the Bearcats were unable to stage a comeback.  Carolina needs to get off to a fast start, like they have done recently in games against Duke and Virginia.  Playing from ahead is easier than playing from behind, and a quick start would demoralize Harvard.  The longer an underdog can hang around, the more confidence they get, and the more likely they are to win.  If Carolina can build a big lead, I don’t think the Crimson will be able to battle back and stage a comeback.

    2.  Control the glass

    Mar 12, 2015; Greensboro, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) shoots as Louisville Cardinals forward/center Chinanu Onuaku (32) defends in the second half. the Tar Heels defeated the Cardinals 70-60 in the quarter finals of the ACC Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Rebounding is Carolina’s strength.  They rank second in the nation in rebounds per game, and are especially good in getting second chances on offense.  The Heels should be able to dominate Harvard inside, as the Crimson rank 171st in the nation in rpg, and are a much smaller team than Carolina.  Harvard shoots just 43 percent from the field (175th in the country), and if Carolina can keep them from getting second chances, it will be very tough for the Crimson to score enough points to beat UNC.

    3.  Continue the momentum

    Carolina has been playing some of its best basketball recently.  They were just a few minutes away from winning the ACC Tournament, nearly knocking off three top-15 teams in three days.  Carolina finally seems to be hitting their stride, and the Heels are hopefully peaking at the right time.  UNC has finally been getting consistent play from its big men, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, and Marcus Paige had a very good ACC Tournament.  I think that Carolina will pick up right where they left off, and continue to play their best basketball of the year.  If they play the way they did when they beat Louisville and Virginia, Harvard will have no chance.

    Prediction: I think Carolina builds off the gains they made in the ACC Tournament and plays a great game.  Brice Johnson scores 23, leading the way to a 78-63 Carolina victory.

    More from North Carolina Tar Heels