#85 Harvard Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Harvard Crimson
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #85
Conference Rank: #2 Ivy League
After securing five straight Ivy League titles, Harvard took a big step back last season. The Crimson finished 14-16 overall and just 6-8 in conference action. Teams like Yale and Princeton took advantage of Harvard’s shortcomings, but it will not be so easy this season. Coach Tommy Amaker returns plenty of talent and also brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. For the Crimson to get what many consider one of the top ten recruiting classes in the country is absolutely amazing. Not only will it be a big boost for the program moving forward, but this class is good enough to play a huge role for Harvard as freshmen and lead them to an Ivy title.
2015-16 Record: 14-16, 6-8
2015-16 Postseason: none
Coach: Tommy Amaker
Coach Record: 175-94 at Harvard, 351-234 overall
Who’s Out:
Harvard does lose a few important players, most notably starters Evan Cummins and Agunwa Okolie. Cummins was a regular starter in the frontcourt and averaged 6.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. Okolie, a big 6-8 wing, was second on the team 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per contest. In a season that did not have too many bright spots, the play of Okolie was one of them. Patrick Steeves was the other senior on the roster. He averaged 9.1 points per game, mostly off of the bench, and provided the Crimson with a nice offensive spark. Little used Hunter Myers is not back on the roster this season.
Who’s In:
This is where it gets very interesting. This seven man class will carry Harvard for four years to come, but for now the playing time will be extremely fierce amongst the freshmen. The biggest need is in the frontcourt where Seth Towns, Chris Lewis and Robert Baker are all among the top 150 recruits in the country heading into the 2016 campaign. Towns is an athletic 6-7 forward who can play multiple positions. Lewis is the more traditional post player and at 6-9 and 235 pounds, he is the player who has the size and strength to be a major force in the paint right away. Baker is 6-10 and 202 pounds, but he could need some time to develop his game and gain some strength. The frontcourt also adds 6-10 center Henry Welsh. The big time recruit on the perimeter is Bryce Aiken. Justin Bassey and Christian Juzang are also joining the team this season, but it is Aiken who has the best shot at cracking the starting lineup. He can run the point, but is also a very good scorer who can play off of the ball. Bassey is a superb pure scorer. He may not knock down a ton of three-pointers right away, but he will find ways to go if given the opportunity. At 6-5, he also adds some nice size to the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
The Crimson return three starters and one key reserve from last season and that does not even count Siyani Chambers, who missed last season. The point guard has had an amazing career with Harvard and his return gives Harvard steady leadership on the ball. While Chambers was gone last year, big man Zena Edosomwan took over the team. He averaged 13.1 points and 9.9 rebounds and is a beast in the paint on both ends of the floor. Corbin Miller will be another senior leader for the Crimson this year. Miller is a great shooter off of the bench and expect him to fill that role again for much of his senior season. Miller is capable of scoring more than the 7.1 points he averaged last season, but he probably will not need to this time around. Tommy McCarthy and Corey Johnson were part of last year’s freshmen class that was pretty good too. Johnson ranked third on the team with 9.8 points per game and McCarthy dished out a team high 3.6 assists. Johnson will find his starting spot in danger with the addition of Aiken and Bassey and McCarthy will almost certainly be relegated to the bench with the return of Chambers. But starting or not, they will provide quality depth.
Final Projection:
And the quality depth just keeps coming for Harvard. It would make sense for players like sophomores Weisner Perez and Balsa Dragovic and juniors Chris Egi and Andre Chatfield to see more playing time this season, but with the class Harvard has coming in, it is tough to see where the minutes will come from. Coach Amaker has an enviable problem on his hands and he should be able to narrow down the regular rotation sooner or later. It might just leave some very good players a ways down the bench, but Harvard fans will certainly not mind having too much depth and talent on this team. The key to winning the Ivy League over some other quality teams in the conference will be the depth in the post and the maturity of the team as a whole. Experience and senior leadership tend to mean more in the Ivy League than some other conferences and there are some very good teams in this conference with a lot more senior leadership than Harvard.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Siyani Chambers, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Bryce Aiken, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Corey Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 9.8 points per game
Seth Towns, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Zena Edosomwan, Senior, Center, 13.1 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 66.7 (302nd in nation, 8th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.2 (44, 2)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.5 (152, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.6 (41, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (136, 5)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.7 (20, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 59.6 (345, 8)
Rebound Margin: 3.0 (75, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.1 (64, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.5 (315, 8)
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#98 Chris Lewis
#112 Bryce Aiken
#121 Robert Baker
#124 Seth Towns