Wednesday, December 3, 2008

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. Harvard University

Two years ago, Boston University's junior class notched its first-ever win. It came at Lavietes Pavilion (78-74) after the Terriers dropped their season opener to George Washington at Agganis Arena. It was a breakout game for the entire team (especially Tyler Morris, who had missed the previous season and scored a team-high 22 points), as hundreds of questions were surrounding the youthful group regarding whether or not they'd be able to be competitive. They were -- about as competitive as you could expect a team consistently starting four rookies to be -- and finished the year 12-18.

This time around, while Morris will once again be looking for a breakout game to help lift him out of his current funk, the Terriers are looking for much more than a "first-win" caliber performance in the final game of their three-game road. Simply put, if BU wishes to be viewed as one of the better mid-major schools in the nation, Harvard is a team they must beat.

Harvard is markedly better than they were a season ago (BU won at Case Gymnasium, 79-72), or perhaps even two seasons ago as freshman forward Keith Wright is close to averaging a double-double through four contests. To counteract what the 6-foot-7 rookie will be doing down-low, look for BU to double the post whenever he gets the ball, forcing Harvard to shoot from the perimeter. HU second-year coach Tommy Amaker isn't afraid to go with a four-guard set, so the Terriers should also be prepared to contest a lot of outside shots.

While BU's zone defense has been passable this season, it hasn't been particularly effective when BU needs to rebound the ball. Naturally, the Terriers will play the large majority of the game in a man-to-man defense, but one of the keys to victory could come in observing how well BU rebounds out of its 1-3-1 or 3-2. If Harvard's leading scorer, Jeremy Lin, begins to heat up, the switch to a zone could soon follow as BU did Saturday to cool down Mount St. Mary's guard Jeremy Goode.

Given that the tempo statistics are relatively identical (65.6, 65.9), the teams should play at a similar pace, although in practice this week, BU coach Dennis Wolff was stressing that if the Terriers have the opportunity to run, they should. So don't be surprised to see more aggressive play on the break from BU. That said, Harvard's a team that likes to apply a lot of ball pressure, so while the Terriers are fairly good at creating steals of their own, taking care of the basketball will be the number one priority.

Injury update: Both Morris and freshman Jeff Pelage were diagnosed with flu-like symptoms following the game against Mount St. Mary's, but both have been cleared to play Wednesday night. Everyone else on the team is completely healthy, including Sam Tully, who returned to practice his week after suffering an ankle sprain.

Note: Tonight's live blog will be hosted in a different format which should promote more reader feedback than the old version. The game starts at 8:00 p.m., but feel free to log on before then and let us know what you think. Then we'll kick things off at 7:30 p.m. with the new live blog format.

Projected starting lineups

BU closes out road trip against crosstown foe Harvard
Harvard ready to take down the Terriers
Lin explodes in great week for Crimson

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