March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (5) Cincinnati vs. (12) Harvard

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Cincinnati Bearcats 27-6, 15-3
Winners of the American Athletic Conference regular season championship in their first year since departing the Big East, the Bearcats are making their 28th tournament appearance all-time and fourth consecutive. They enter it with aspirations of getting past the Sweet 16, a feat they have not accomplished since their 1996 run to the Elite Eight behind Danny Fortson and Darnell Burton. This season, senior guard Sean Kilpatrick has cemented himself as one of the best players in program history, putting up 20.9 points a contest while eclipsing the 2,000-point mark in his career. Along with one of the premier scorers in the country, the Bearcats also bring a top five defense that only allowed 58.4 points a game this season while playing the 75th most difficult schedule in the country. They finished with the 15th ranked RPI with quality wins against Louisville, Connecticut and Memphis (twice). Their lone loss to a team outside of the RPI top 50 was at Southern Methodist. The trap the Bearcats cannot fall into is relying too heavily on Kilpatrick, who is also their top playmaker with 2.6 assists per game. He’s going to need help from his supporting cast, especially Justin Jackson, in order to survive in advance. In their five regular season losses he shot 31 percent from the field, nearly 12 percent less than his average. Opposing defenses are going to look to take him away at all costs.

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Harvard Crimson 26-4 (13-1)
Crimson head coach Tommy Amaker has done it. He’s turned one of the nation’s most prestigious academic institutions into a perennial NCAA Tournament team in basketball. Prior to Amaker’s arrival, the Crimson’s last tournament appearance was all the way back in 1946. Now they’re dancing for the third consecutive season after earning the Ivy League’s automatic bid with a 13-1 regular season record. Just getting to the field of 68 is no longer an accomplishment for the Crimson. After upsetting New Mexico in the second round last year and the bulk of that team returning, they’re entering with aspirations of surviving and advancing even further this time. They are led by the Ivy League player of the year in Wesley Saunders, who put up 14 points, four rebounds and nearly four assists a game this season. However, five other players average at least nine for the Crimson. The Crimson went 0-2 against the RPI top 50, losing to Colorado and Connecticut, but only by an average of 6.5 points. With their discipline oriented style, you can expect the Crimson to make few mistakes and force their opponent to execute at a high efficiency in order to beat them.