Harvard basketball’s ‘neat’ journey to the NCAA tournament

Siyani Chambers and the Harvard men's basketball team will need to play its best game of the year to upset New Mexico. (Photo: Getty)
Siyani Chambers and the Harvard men’s basketball team will need to play its best game of the year to upset New Mexico. (Photo: Getty)

Not long after a cheating scandal took away his co-captains last fall, Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker uttered these words: “We believe in our system, our philosophy and our approach.”

Essentially, losing his leading scorer and starting point guard in Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, respectively, only meant that the components had changed. The formula remained the same. And by reaching the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, Amaker’s belief in that formula has been validated.
Of course, so much of the credit goes to the players who bought into the system, philosophy and approach. Amaker stressed in that early-season meeting with reporters that the scandal, in a way, provided an opportunity for “exceptional growth or surprises” and “neat stories.”

“Maybe this is another one that’s in our favor,” he said.

Among those surprises and neat stories is Wesley Saunders, a swingman who was a bit player on last season’s team and emerged, without Casey in the way, to become the top scorer in the Ivy League. One glimpse at a Harvard game and it’s easy to see why – Casey just moves in a different manner from the rest, almost like a seasoned pro trapped in the body of college sophomore.

Another neat story developed when Siyani Chambers, a freshman given an opportunity without Curry in the way, became a revelation as the Crimson’s new point guard. Amaker had his eye on Chambers from when the player was in eighth grade, but not everyone knew their union would yield such immediate success. Chambers ranks second on the team to Saunders in scoring and led the league in assists.

Chambers not only joined Saunders as an Ivy League first-teamer, but also won the league’s defensive player of the year honors, remarkable achievements for a kid who figured to learn from Curry for a season.

“With the youth of our team, the way these guys have responded — accepting different roles, stepping forward, young guys stepping in,” Amaker said Sunday after learning that his team would meet New Mexico on Thursday in the second round. “You can’t say enough about what this team has done for this season.”

Make no mistake, Saunders and Chambers were eyed by others. Amaker has a reputation as a top recruiter, even at a school like Harvard. But what happened with them, and their teammates, in 2012-13 goes beyond Amaker’s ability to sign talent. The players have to buy in, accept their roles, play hard and keep their noses clean. With that, success can come, and Thursday offers up a chance for Amaker’s formula to do something special.

Wouldn’t that be a neat story?

Three storylines to watch:

1. Chambers good to go – Sometimes freshman can hit a wall near the end of their first collegiate campaign. Chambers ended the regular season with a flourish. He scored 16 points in both of Harvard’s must-win games on the final weekend, shooting 11-for-15 from the floor and making 3-of-4 3-pointers.

2. Youth vs. experience – The age differences at the college level are never extreme, but while Harvard has just one senior on its entire roster, the Lobos rely almost exclusively on upperclassmen, many of whom were involved when New Mexico won its opening game in the 2012 tournament before nearly upsetting Louisville in the third round.

3. Tommy Amaker vs. Steve Alford – The coaches have a history in this tournament. They met as players in the Sweet 16 in 1987, when Amaker’s Duke Blue Devils fell to Alford’s Indiana Hoosiers. Amaker scored a game-high 23 points but it was not enough to slow down the eventual national champs.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

City Council to vote on bill banning anonymous…

One of the two bills would make it so any type of communication paid for or okayed by a campaign disclose that they are involved in any way.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Movies

Review: 'To Be Takei' has George Takei's charm…

Actor, activist and Internet star George Takei gets a life-spanning documentary in "To Be Takei," which captures his charm and passion.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, Aug. 20: 'Extant,' 'Legends'…

See a two hour block of Halle Berry's scifi show, "Extant."

The Word

The Word: Mischa Barton in trouble, not that…

  People are really, really worried about Mischa Barton. Again. The former "O.C." star is reportedly in deep financial trouble and can't seem to get…

Movies

Review: 'The One I Love' has a top…

Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass play a frayed couple who happen on something mysterious in "The One I Love," which we can't spoil.

NFL

Jace Amaro continues to deal with issue dropping…

Jets second-round pick Jace Amaro has been plagued by drops since minicamp in June.

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

Parenting

Fun family activity: Off-Broadway show for pre-teens

"The Love Note" is an off-Broadway musical your pre-teen won't roll his or her eyes at.

Parenting

Barnes & Noble partners with Samsung to release…

Barnes & Noble releases the first full android tablet optimized for reading.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Food

The Chic Wife tells us how to use…

Kris Schoels, aka The Chic Wife, grew up on a farm with peach trees. August is National Peach Month, but Kris Schoels doesn’t need a reason…