To get into Harvard, you have to study hard. But to beat the Crimson in basketball, the Wolverines hope they don’t have to.
When it takes the Crisler Arena floor at 7 p.m. tonight, Michigan will be playing its fifth game in eight days. For Harvard, it will be just its third game of the season.
With the seemingly non-stop games, the Wolverines have not had much chance to practice. Following Wednesday’s close contest against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker voiced some concerns about the flurry of early-season games.
“We are trying to make sure that we are ready for game night and prepare for our opponent, and so there’s a lot of slippage in our game right now,” Amaker said. “That’s the downside of having a lot of games very quickly at this time of the year. We are still a work in progress obviously, and not having the time to get on the practice floor to work out some of the kinks that we need to hurts us.”
But when asked if there was an upside to playing so many games to start the season, Amaker had a simple reply.
“Well, the fact that we’re 4-0.”
Senior Dion Harris proposes another positive of the frequent games.
“I think it keeps you in a rhythm,” Harris said. “When you have a week off between games, sometimes your rhythm isn’t there. I think it’s been great so far.”
Few would argue with the results the incessant games have produced. The Wolverines have faced some early-season tests, notably matchups against tournament-seasoned Davidson and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but have come out on top each time. These tests have allowed Michigan to gain a little experience in overcoming adversity, and adjusting to the style of the team they face.
But one player who hasn’t had to withstand much of a challenge so far is center Courtney Sims.
The senior has played against just two players taller than 6 foot 9 (Eastern Michigan’s Chris Knaub and Kyle Dodd) in three games. For the 6-foot-11 Sims, neither the Eagles’ big men or the rest of his vertically challenged opponents presented much of a problem.
On the young season, Sims is averaging almost 18 points and seven rebounds per game. He finished with fewer than 17 points in just one game, and has been demanding the ball in the post more frequently than in past seasons. And when he gets the ball, he’s been finishing.
“It’s what he should do,” Amaker said. “If he has a size advantage, then we should take advantage of it. It’s nice to see him produce the way we think he’s capable of.”
Tonight’s game might provide a taller order for Sims. The Harvard (1-1) roster includes 7-foot center Brian Cusworth, who averages 22 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, both of which lead the team. In the Crimson’s recent loss to Boston University, he tallied 24 points, nine boards and three blocked shots.
But for Sims, who has traditionally struggled against the big, talented players he sees in the Big Ten, it’s not the height of the player that prepares him for the conference season.
“Our conference is the most physical conference, so it depends on how (Harvard’s) big guy is,” Sims said. “Eastern had a 7-footer too, so it really depends on how the big guy plays, you know, if he’s physical, if he’s a finesse-type player. Just because a guy is tall doesn’t mean he’s going to be tougher.”
With the lack of available practice time due to the constant game action, the players have not had too much time to look at Harvard before tonight’s game. Even the Boston native Sims was not familiar with the 7-footer on the team.
But the Wolverines can infer at least one thing about the Crimson.
“I expect them to be an intelligent team,” Harris said.
Harvard at Michigan
Matchup: Harvard 1-1;
When: Tonight, 7 p.m.
Where: Crisler Arena
TV/Radio: WTKA 1050