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Q&A with Harvard Alum John Ezekowitz on the CU-Harvard game

Discussion in 'Colorado Basketball Message Board' started by jgisland, Nov 22, 2013.

  1. jgisland

    jgisland Club Member Club Member

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    John Ezekowitz graduated from Harvard last May, he's a big basketball fan and is smarter than you. When he was at Harvard he wrote about basketball stats at the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective (HSAC) – you should follow him on twitter here. For some reason he agreed to do a Q & A with me in anticipation of the CU/ Harvard game.

    He had this to say about CU:

    Before the questions, I must say I've been a bit of a Buffs fan since I saw them take down UNLV in Albuquerque in 2012 (Harvard lost to Vanderbilt earlier that day). The fan support was very, very impressive.



    Q – Harvard has gotten a lot of press early in the season with possibly being the best Ivy League team ever, with the return of basically 6 starters (after Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry who were suspended last year are back and eligible), while Curry is out with a foot injury as is starter Kenyatta Smith, what are realistic expectations for this team? And what’s up with the foot injuries?



    I think the talk of Harvard has a top-20 team is a bit premature (and the Final Four talk is even more so). The Crimson have the potential to achieve that level of success, but they have yet to be tested. This week (at Colorado, the Great Alaska Shootout) will be the first measuring stick.


    The foot injuries are quite frustrating for Harvard fans, but luckily the team has good depth this year. I think it is questionable whether Brandyn Curry will play against the Buffs, and Kenyatta Smith probably won't play at all on this trip out west.


    Players like Jonah Travis and Steve Moundou-Missi have stepped up in big ways to fill voids in the front court. Steve (or STEEEEEEVE as he is known to the Harvard student section) had one of the best games of his career this Wednesday against Bryant (23 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks). The biggest issue for Harvard will be if Curry does not play, and point guard Siyani Chambers gets into foul trouble against CU's bigger guards.

    Q – I’m going to get straight to the point, CU can’t play against the zone, is Harvard going to play a zone?



    Harvard does mix in the zone, but I would expect Amaker to come out in man-to-man and play the majority of the possessions in man. I am excited to see Wes Saunders matched up defensively against Spencer Dimwiddie.

    Q – I see that according to hoop-math.com that Harvard allows 23.1% of FGA to come in transition, how is your transition defense overall? (spoiler, CU struggles with teams that are good in transition D)



    Transition defense has been okay so far this year. Harvard players, especially Curry, excel at getting their hands on the ball in transition without fouling. With that said, the Crimson have not seen the kind of talent that Colorado will put out this year, so I wouldn't put too much predictive stock in their performance so far.

    Q – Explain to me why Harvard isn’t dubbed the “Wesley Saunders Show”? (He’s got an offensive rating of 130.1 and uses 25.5% of Harvard’s possessions while playing 73% of the minutes)


    Wes's improvement as a player has been incredible to watch. He has gone from not shooting a single jumpshot in over 400 minutes as a freshman to becoming an 80+% free throw shooter and a legitimate threat from the perimeter. Wes is also one of the best finishers through contact I have seen in Division-I. He is very strong and seems to hang in the air, getting his shot off just when the defender is coming down (you can see that in his excellent free throw rate). He doesn't get as much of the publicity, but he has become Harvard's most gifted offensive player.


    Q - Zena Edosomwan was probably the biggest recruit ever for Harvard – how important of a get was he and what’s the early return on him?



    Zena came in with unfair expectations. He is still learning his place in the defensive system (something that took Kenyatta Smith a full 1.5 years to learn), and his touch has let him down a bit offensively, but he clearly has the tools to become a very good post player. I don't think he will play as large a role in the non-conference as people expected, but come February and March, I expect to see him contributing solidly.

    Q - Harvard takes 48% of their shots at the rim while CU allows below 50% shooting at the rim, how do you see this playing out?



    I think this game will come down to the foul situation. Harvard's bigs are effective, and Saunders and Kyle Casey excel at getting to the paint (and thus the free throw line), but the Crimson have a maddening tendency to pick up cheap fouls inside. If Harvard gets into foul trouble, you could see a more perimeter-oriented attack, which I think favors Colorado.

    Q – Harvard played MIT last week, what goes on in the post-game handshake? (I’m imagining a lot of “no you’re going to work for me”, "I’ve secured more VC $ than you" and "when can you get those derivatives over")



    Harvard has gotten the better of MIT on the basketball court, but on the eve of the Harvard-Yale football game, I must salute MIT for one of the best pranks of all time (http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2012/11/16/day-mit-crashed-harvard-yale/)

    Q – At this point you can’t mention Harvard basketball and not mention Jeremy Lin, he was an Economics major, did he just pick the NBA because he couldn’t hack it at a Greenwich hedge fund? (he only had a 3.1 GPA)



    I'm sure Jeremy would do (and will do) just fine in the business world. Having seen the time demands placed on athletes at Harvard, I know there is inevitably a trade-off between commitment to athletics, academics, and extracurriculars. You can excel at maybe one or two of the three. The instances where athlete do not fulfill their academic commitments usually grab the headlines, but it's worth remembering that the vast majority of D-I athletes have to find the right balance between academics and athletics.

    Q – What do CU fans need to know about Harvard?



    The Crimson are experienced and have little fear of playing tough opponents. Don't expect Harvard to beat themselves on Sunday. I expect Colorado fans to come out of Sunday's game disliking Kyle Casey, respecting Siyani Chambers and Steve Moundou-Missi, and wishing Wes Saunders was on their team.

    Q – Why is Harvard going to win this game?



    Harvard has only shot 25% from three this year despite returning 90% of the minutes from the 8th best three-point shooting team in the country last season. If Siyani Chambers and Laurent Rivard get hot from three, the Crimson will be very, very hard to stop. Harvard will win if they can shoot well, rebound defensively, and exploit Colorado's turnover issues.


    Q – Why is CU going to win this game?



    Harvard's early schedule has been extremely soft. They have yet to play a true road game and have yet to play a top-100 team. Colorado will win if they get the Crimson into foul trouble early. I think Harvard will be able to put up points, but I'm concerned about the defense holding up for 40 minutes at altitude.

    Q – What’s your prediction for the game?



    Harvard's win over Colorado in Allston almost 4 years ago to the day was the first major win for this group of seniors. Since then, Harvard basketball has reached heights previously unattainable. I think the Crimson football team will beat Yale for the 7th time in a row on Saturday, and the basketball team will take a very close game on Sunday, 75-71.
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  2. Goose

    Goose Hoops Moderator Club Member Junta Member

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    Damn good read. Thanks JG. Rep to you.
     
  3. DBT

    DBT Club Member Club Member

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    He isn't smarter than I!!!
     
  4. Ruckus

    Ruckus Peep my words. Club Member

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    He probably stole his stat stuff from a fellow student. That's what they do.
     
  5. Quattro

    Quattro Banned BANNED Club Member

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    Harvard has a bit of a turnover problem as well
     

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