Harvard Basketball: Crimson primed for breakthrough 2019-20 season

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HONOLULU, HI – DECEMBER 25: Zena Edosomwan #4 of the Harvard Crimson dunks the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Stan Sheriff Center on December 25, 2015 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

Harvard Basketball has fallen just short of the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, but an experienced roster has the Crimson poised to breakthrough in 2019-20.

Harvard Basketball had one of the better mid-major runs in recent memory from 2012-2015, making four straight NCAA Tournaments and earnings two victories. All four of the school’s tournament appearances in the 21st century have come under head coach Tommy Amaker.

(Credit to KenPom, sports-reference, Barttorvik and hoops-math for statistics and ACC Digital Network, The Ivy League and Next Ones for GIFS)

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The Journey Back To The Big Dance

2015-16, 2016-17

Since 2015, Harvard has been scratching and clawing to try and get back to the Big Dance, but to no avail. A combination of injuries and graduations led to an understandable down season in 2015-16, but a strong recruiting class that included Bryce Aiken and Seth Towns got the Crimson on the right track in 2016-17 (lost in Ivy League tournament semifinals).

2017-18

Harvard lost its best player in Bryce Aiken to injury halfway through the 2017-18 season, but the team still finished top-two in the conference alongside Penn. Unfortunately for the Crimson, however, Penn hosted the conference tournament and took advantage of their home-court edge, beating Harvard in the tournament final.

2018-19

Last season brought an even more difficult conclusion to Harvard’s season. The Crimson were without another key contributor in Seth Towns for the entire season due to injury, but again managed to be a top-two team in the conference, this time alongside Yale. Although analytics regarded the Bulldogs as the better team, the Crimson actually beat them twice in the regular season. This put them in a seemingly great position to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.

Just like Penn the season prior, however, Yale happened to be hosting the conference tournament. It also took advantage of the home-court edge, beating Harvard in the tournament title game 97-85 (the tournament has historically been hosted by Penn, but will rotate among the schools through at least 2025; started with Yale in 2019). The Crimson accepted an invitation to the NIT, where they fell in the 2nd round as a 6-seed.

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This upcoming season, however, things might finally come together for Tommy Amaker’s squad. Harvard will host the 2020 conference tournament, meaning it’ll avoid the unfortunate luck of the past two seasons. More importantly, the Crimson bring almost everyone back, losing no notable contributors.

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