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Meet Harvard, which can be tough when it limits turnovers

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It’s that whole limiting part that’s difficult.

NCAA Basketball: Harvard at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Amaker is in his 12th season as the head coach at Harvard, and while he’s only gotten the Crimson to the NCAA tournament four times, it’s inarguable that this constitutes an outstanding job. After all, before Harvard got to the NCAAs in 2012, it hadn’t been in the tournament since 1946. That’s a long time to spend in purgatory.

Amaker has routinely had the Crimson near the top of the Ivy League standings, and they’d have been back in the NCAAs this year if not for a loss in the league tournament final to Yale. It might be small potatoes in the grand scheme, sure, but Harvard hasn’t been this consistently competitive within its league at any point since the invention of the television. That counts for something!

This Harvard team is led by junior point guard Bryce Aiken, who is putting up 22 points per game. Aiken accounts for an enormous chunk of the offense—nearly 34% of the shots while he’s on the floor—and has made 40% of his threes this season. His biggest value is his ability to get to the free throw line, where he is an 86.4% shooter. He draws more than seven fouls per game, which ranks ninth nationally. He keeps the Crimson in games by working through shooting droughts with free throws.

Harvard shoots it well but has a significant problem with giveaways—most of the guys in its rotation turn the ball over way too frequently for their occupations; it ain’t like they’re all asked to handle the ball a lot or carry the offense otherwise, but they make a lot of mistakes.

And that hurts especially when you shoot it well in general. If the possession doesn’t die with some fumbly-assed hands, there’s a good chance Harvard is getting some points.

Freshman wing Noah Kirkwood is a good example: he’s a 40% three-point shooter, but he also turns the ball over on 26% of his touches, which really undermines his effectiveness.

The Crimson don’t have a senior in their rotation and could turn a corner next season, but as it happens now, they’ve been hamstrung by a negative turnover margin in most games. If they can keep the turnover margin evenish on Sunday night, they can give themselves a chance, but if their usual carelessness gets the better of them, NC State is going to make that hurt.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes State by 12.