Harvard Must Stay the Course After Winning Great Alaska Shootout

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 4th, 2013

High expectations can sometimes have an adverse effect on a basketball team, magnifying moments of failure and creating unnecessary pressure that otherwise would not exist. After pulling off an unexpected upset over #3-seed New Mexico in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Harvard entered this fall with entirely different expectations from a year ago. Whereas the 2012-13 Crimson squad was largely written off before the year began with star upperclassmen Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey having withdrawn from school due to an academic scandal, this season’s club returned both of those All-Ivy players in addition to four starters and a strong recruiting class to boot. Needless to say, expectations were sky-high coming into this season. And for a program that only recently became a regular contender in the Ivy League, a presumed conference championship and possible single-digit seed in the Big Dance inevitably meant there was going to be a certain amount of pressure.

Tommy Amaker will look to keep his team focused heading into the New Year.(Getty)

Tommy Amaker will look to keep his team focused heading into the New Year.(Getty)

So it probably came as a relief for head coach Tommy Amaker that his team— after narrowly losing a winnable game at NCAA-caliber Colorado the Sunday prior—bounced back in resounding fashion over the holiday weekend by knocking off Denver, Green Bay and TCU on its way to capturing the Great Alaska Shootout. Despite playing without Curry and junior big man Kenyatta Smith, both of whom remain out with foot injuries, Harvard managed to win each game by a comfortable margin and was only really pushed in the second half by Green Bay. Guard Wesley Saunders, picked by many to win Ivy League Player of the Year, took home MVP honors by averaging 14 points, eight rebounds and nearly five assists a game, and sharpshooter Laurent Rivard—who struggled from behind the arc in the second half against Colorado—seemed to find his stroke in the final two games in Anchorage, shooting 10-of-24 from deep. Also notable was the Crimson’s dominance on the offensive glass throughout the tournament: The team gathered a combined 43 offensive boards to its opponents’ 23, leading to a bunch of second-chance points.

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The Great West Conference Finds a Home For Its Champion

Posted by nvr1983 on September 29th, 2009

Last year we brought you news about the creation of the newest Division I basketball conference, the Great West Conference, which will start organized operations this season. As we noted at the time, the league wasn’t exactly a “Who’s Who” of basketball powerhouses. In fact, the most notable program in the league was the New Jersey Institute of Technology, which went 0-29 in the 2007-2008 season before finally winning a game last season.

The full list of GWC members:

  • Chicago State University
  • Houston Baptist University
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • University of North Dakota
  • University of South Dakota
  • University of Texas-Pan American
  • Utah Valley University

Not exactly a murder’s row of programs that will challenge the ACC in the conference power rankings any time soon.  However, most people expect that under current NCAA guidelines the GWC could have an play-in automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by 2020. This would obviously impact the NCAA tournament by either removing one at-large team (unlikely) or expanding the NCAA tournament (more games = more money = very likely). The question for the GWC and its teams is what they are supposed to strive for until 2020. Theoretically they could qualify for an NCAA at-large bid (or maybe more realistically an NIT bid) if they hired some renegade coach who loaded them up with players who needed a little “SAT help.”  However, barring that not altogether improbable scenario (seriously, have you seen the headlines out of college basketball this week?) the champions would be relegated to watch the 2nd half of March from their couches like the rest of us.

CIT logo

Fortunately for the GWC and its members, the people at the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) have stepped into that void by offering the conference’s tournament champion an automatic bid in the CIT’s 16-team field. For those of you who missed the CIT last year, here is a rundown of the teams that participated, which was won by Old Dominion. While you shouldn’t expect to see ESPN and CBS keeping cameras in the offices of the James Madison Dukes this March to see if they are crushed when they don’t make the CIT, it does mark the first time that a D1 conference has had an agreement to get one of its teams an automatic bid into a tournament other than the NCAA Tournament and it also offers the new league something (albeit something very small) to entice recruits to join it in its formative years.

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