Can The Harvard Crimson Be The Cinderella Darlings Of The 2015 NCAA Tournament?

The Harvard Crimson men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year, after topping arch-rival Yale 53-51 on Saturday night.

Senior co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi hit a 15-foot game-winner with 7.2 seconds remaining to give the Crimson the victory in the ninth ever playoff game in Ivy League history. Yale had a chance to send the game in overtime but Javier Duran’s runner was off the mark.

The game was close throughout, as neither team was able to lead by double digits. Harvard matched its largest lead when Siyani Chambers’ jumper put Harvard up 48-40 with 4:47 left in the game, but Yale used a 9-0 run to take a 49-48 lead with 1:48 remaining.

Wesley Saunders, who scored a game-high 22 points and dished out a game-leading four assists, converted a three-point play to put the Crimson back ahead 51-49. Duran then sank a pair of free throws to tie the game with 55 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Moundou-Missi missed a jumper with 38 ticks to go but Saunders hustled and grabbed the offensive board. Saunders was credited with the assist on Moundou-Missi’s game-winner after driving into the lane before kicking it out to him.

Harvard will look to advance to the third round of the tournament for the third straight year. The Crimson (22-7, 11-3 in Ivy League) will likely receive a No. 12 or No. 13 seed when the tournament bracket is revealed tomorrow.

Harvard (22-7, 11-3 Ivy), which possesses a RPI of 62, has won 10-of-their last-12 contests. The Crimson are 9-5 in road/or games at a neutral site. They have four decent wins — two over Yale, as well as against Northeastern and Massachusetts — and four bad losses (against teams with a sub-150 RPI).

The Crimson, who are 2-3 in their last three tournament appearances, are an experienced team that prides itself on defense. Harvard surrenders 57.2 points a game (12th in the nation) and is ranked No. 32 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency according to NBC College Basketball Talk’s Rob Dauster.

The Crimson have good size, solid front court depth, and are athletic. However, they are limited offensively. Saunders, Chambers and Moundou-Missi lead the way.

Saunders, one of the top players to don a Crimson uniform, moved past current Los Angeles Laker Jeremy Lin into fourth place on the school’s scoring list.

“I’ve always said about Wesley as I said about Jeremy Lin — it’s not about the points he scores but it’s always about the points he’s responsible for,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “I thought the way Wesley played this afternoon was he put us on his back and he carried us in stretches.”

Saunders currently averages 16.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game. He shoots 44.4 percent from the floor and 40.9 percent from beyond the arc while also coming up with 1.9 steals.

Chambers averages 9.9 points to go along with a team-high 4.4 assists while Moundou-Missi averages 9.9 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds. Moundou-Missi was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year this week.

[Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images]

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