Harvard University and Northeastern University were both featured prominently on CBS’ Selection Sunday coverage as their respective men’s basketball teams found out their opening opponents in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Harvard is the No. 13 seed in the West regional and they’ll face No. 4 North Carolina (24-11) on Thursday night (7:20, TNT) at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. Northeastern is the No. 14 seed in the Midwest regional and they’ll meet No. 3 Notre Dame on Thursday afternoon (12:15 p.m., CBS) at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA.
This is Harvard’s fifth NCAA Tournament appearance (they are 2-5 all-time). The Crimson (22-7 overall, 11-3 Ivy League) captured the Ivy League with a thrilling 53-51 win over Yale on Saturday in a one-game playoff for the conference title. It is the fourth straight season that head coach Tommy Amaker’s team will be in the field of 68 (longest streak in Ivy League since Princeton from 1989-92). This year’s Harvard is not as dominant as they have been the last few seasons but in senior shooting guard Wesley Saunders (16.3 points per game) and junior point guard Siyani Chambers (9.8 points per game, 4.3 assists per game) they have two outstanding players that were key parts of the teams that beat New Mexico in 2013 (68-62) then Cincinnati (61-57) last season before falling in their round of 32 contests.
This is the eighth time (3-7 record) that Huskies (23-11 overall, 12-6 Colonial Athletic Association) have made the NCAA Tournament and their first appearance since 1991. Former BC assistant coach Bill Coen is in his ninth year in charge of the Huskies. Northeastern has been off since last Monday when they beat top-ranked William & Mary 72-61 in the CAA title game. Three guys average double-figures in scoring for Northeastern: senior center Scott Eatherton (14.6 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game), junior shooting guard David Walker (13.4 points per game) and junior swingman Quincy Ford (10.4 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game).
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The common theme of Harvard and Northeastern’s opponents is that they both compete in the heavyweight Atlantic Coast Conference, one of the top leagues in college basketball which has six teams in this year’s tournament. Harvard’s only taste of the ACC was their lowest moment of the season: a 76-27 (not a misprint) loss at Virginia on Dec. 21. Conversely, one of the highlights of Northeastern’s season was their 76-73 win at Florida State on Nov. 18. Virginia is the No. 2 seed in the East while Florida State didn’t make any postseason tournament.
If the Crimson manage to pull off another memorable upset, they would meet the winner of No. 5 Arkansas/ No. 12 Wofford on Saturday for a berth in the Sweet 16. If the Huskies get past the Fighting Irish, they will face the winner of No. 6 Butler/No. 11 Texas on Saturday.