Harvard didn't quite have the season that the masses -- unwashed and otherwise -- anticipated in 2012. Quietly amassing talent in Cambridge, Chris Wojcik's team only put together a 6-8 campaign last year, never dropping a team with a winning record (the combined record of the opponents that the Crimson beat in 2012 was only 23-63, a run of relative destitutes in even the kindest context). In decompressing Harvard's season, I had this to write about what the Crimson need to do as 2013 approached:
Chris Wojcik has two seasons under his belt at Harvard as the program's head coach, but if the Crimson want to get where they seem to want to go -- to the top of the Ivy League and beyond -- Harvard is going to have to learn how to win. Programs with an established winning culture rarely (if ever) endure two three-game losing streaks during a single season. If Harvard wants to become a consistent player in the Ivy League with Cornell and Princeton, Wojcik is going to need to develop and nurture the kind of results that are concomitant with such programs. The players are there; it's a matter of mounting the hill at this point.
I'm not moving off that point -- stubborness is next to cleanliness, right? -- and with the schedule that Harvard is facing next season, avoiding potential losing streaks is again a concern for the Crimson. There is room to manuever in the Ivy League behind Cornell, but Harvard is going to have to play above what it put together in 2012 if they hope to make a return trip to the Ivy League Tournament championship as they did in 2011.
Watch Your Step
February 23: Massachusetts; March 2: @ Hofstra; March 9: @ Georgetown; March 19: Bryan; March 26: Albany; March 30: Duke
This is far from an impossible non-conference slate, but its terror lies in the potential quality of the teams and the time in which the games are happening. The Blue Devils are obviously the competitive highlight of the run, but it's just not that the Crimson are going to get a visit from a top-five team, it's that Harvard hosts Duke at the end of a month in which the Crimson will be continually tested -- Wojcik's charges will play six games in less than thirty days against some pretty good teams.
But it all starts with a season opener against a Massachusetts team that is somewhat re-tooling and should be the class of THUNDERDOME! in 2013. Then comes back-to-back dates against a Hofstra squad that has the potential to do some damage next year -- a team that lined itself with dynamite last season and ended up in pieces numerous times over -- and a Georgetown team that, under first-year head coach Kevin Warne, isn't likely to just crawl into the fetal position and accept fate. After that, the Crimson will see a Bryant team that will start the year as the favorite in the NEC and is going to hang around the top-20 all year. That is followed by an inter-conference game against an Albany squad with pockets of talent that underachieved a year ago -- despite making the America East Tournament final -- and could be a prickly opponent in the spring.
So, while the run of names isn't among the national elite, the fact that these non-conference games are squished together and feature solid, if not potentially disasterous, opponents could make the season in Cambridge painful.
The Buck Stops Here
April 13: Pennsylvania; April 19: @ Princeton; April 27: Yale
Assuming that Harvard is going to be fighting in the mushy middle of the Ivy League in 2013, it's both a good thing and a bad thing that the Crimson's closing slate features three teams that will, more likely than not, be in a similar position to Harvard. This three-game stretch over two weeks will allow the Crimson the opportunity to play direct ladder games -- win and you automatically hurdle a team in, basically, your spot; lose and things become harder and harder to make the Ivy League Tournament. The word around town is that Mike Murphy is going to have a tough Pennsylvania squad this season, a team that Harvard lost to last year down the stretch, 13-11. Princeton, while trying to figure out its defensive situation after graduating Tyler Fiorito, John Cunningham, and Chad Wiedmaier, is still going to be an offensive handful and is going to be in a competitive situation all year. And Yale isn't going to be an easy out despite their losses both on the roster and on the coaching staff.
This isn't an easy finishing slate, but it does give Harvard a chance to punch its own ticket to a May adventure.