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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Harvard

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Gophers close out non-conference schedule in first-ever Harvard meeting

Harvard v North Carolina Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

If it feels like you’ve already aged a few years this season, you’re not alone. The Gophers have given us enough peaks and valleys to fill an entire season, and we’re just scratching the surface of this year’s slate. The non-conference schedule mercifully comes to a close on Saturday as Minnesota hosts an under-performing Harvard squad.

The Crimson come into the game at 5-7 with a couple head-scratching losses to Holy Cross and Cal State-Fullerton. They edged St. Joseph’s earlier in the season, but haven’t had a whole lot to report in a season where they’re expected to compete for a league championship.

This is the first meeting between the two schools, which is kind of hard to believe considering how old each institution is. Still, head coach Tommy Amaker has found success against the Gophers, and is 8-6 in his career which included time at Michigan and Seton Hall.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Harvard Crimson (5-7)

What time are they playing?

Sat., Dec. 30 @ 1 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Williams Arena

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, 100.3 KFAN.

Tell me more about the opponent.

Harvard is having a rough go of it so far this season. They’re having trouble scoring, which has led to some tough outcomes already this season in toss-up games. How ineffective has the offense been? The Crimson haven’t topped 77 points yet this year and twice have been held below 50 points total.

Things begin and end with sophomore standout Bryce Aiken, who is building on a breakout freshman campaign by averaging more than 17 ppg, which includes a handful of 20-plus point games. He’s been day-to-day with an injury, so his game-time status is up in the air. If he doesn’t play then Harvard is in big time trouble against a stout interior Gopher defense.

The Crimson like to slow things down, but that hasn’t resulted in an efficient offense yet this year. They can’t hang onto the ball, are having trouble scoring and are an atrocious three-point shooting team to boot. If the Gophers play to their own strengths they should cruise to a victory.

Keys to the Game

Get some steady play from Isaiah Washington

Nate Mason is (thankfully) only day-to-day with an ankle injury, so it looks like a major injury was avoided. Still, his status for Saturday’s game is unclear, but if the team can do so it would be nice to give him even more rest so he’s at full-strength when conference play kicks off.

That may mean that Isaiah Washington will get another starting nod and be expected to handle the PG reins. He’s showing progress, but still looks really raw, so if he’s thrust into major action again he’ll need to be a calming presence, instead of what’s been a circus of ups, downs and interesting shots.

No one get hurt

For the love of God.

Predictions

KenPom likes the Gophers in this one, predicting an 15-point win, 81-66. I’ll take the Gophers by 18.