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Arizona-Harvard: Prediction

Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson’s defense will be key to stopping Siyani Chambers and short-circuiting Harvard’s attack. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

SALT LAKE CITY — Arizona takes on Harvard for a berth in the Sweet 16, and I trust the Wildcats defense to get this down.

Harvard is more athletic than a typical Ivy League team, but Arizona, as it did against Belmont on Thursday, has the superior size and talent. Sometimes, you don’t have to make things more complicated than that.

Arizona’s Nick Johnson has taken the defensive assignment on all manner of talented point guards in recent weeks, from lightning fast Jahii Carson, to big Spencer Dinwiddie, to passing ace Larry Drew II … and now look for him to get after Harvard freshman Siyani Chambers.

(Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson calls Chambers a consummate point guard.)

Sophomore wing Wesley Saunders is the Crimson’s leading scorer at 16.5 points per game, with Solomon Hill likely drawing the primary defensive assignment there.

Although Harvard is smaller — center Kenyatta Smith is the only starter taller than 6-5 — the Wildcats don’t have to be worry about this being a bad matchup for 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski. Smith isn’t the type of player who can pull Tarczewski away from the basket with his outside shooting. Zeus can stay in his comfort zone close to the basket, and the Crimson will get precious few second-chance points because of Arizona’s tall front line.

Harvard is capable of an epic game from behind the arc, and results from a difficult non-conference schedule suggest a competitive game. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is close well into the second half, but Arizona’s depth, defense and dominance on the glass will eventually kick in.

The Wildcats wear down the Crimson late and win 69-60.

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