As season comes to close, nothing certain for Ivy favorites Harvard

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CAMBRIDGE, MASS. – Coming into the season, the general consensus was that the Ivy League was Harvard’s to lose.

With their entire roster returning from a year ago, the Crimson were in the enviable position of boasting continuity and talent – plus a little nudge from Linsanity – to break down the door and earn the program’s first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament in the modern era.

That can still happen. In fact, the odds are that it will happen, but the road to March Madness is now anything but a sure thing, as the Crimson now find themselves tied for first in the Ivy with just a pair of games to play, following the Penn’s come-from behind victory on Saturday night.

“I mentioned to our kids before that we have a lot of basketball to be played,” Crimson head coach Tommy Amaker said after the loss to the Quakers. “There are many games to be played. Right now, I don’t think my kids are able to digest all that. But we’ll get there in our practice next week leading up to our travel.”

“All that”, in this situation, is Harvard’s two remaining road games against Columbia and Cornell, and Penn’s three remaining games against Brown, Yale and Princeton. If both teams win out, the two will play for the third time this season to determine the league’s automatic berth recipient. The Bulldogs and the Tigers, currently third and fourth in the conference, respectively, also have an outside shot at creating a mini-playoff to determine the definitive league champion.

Some claim that Harvard’s non-conference victories over Florida State, St. Joseph’s and Central Florida is enough to yield an at-large berth, but there’s no way that’s a discussion being had amongst the Crimson’s personnel.

Instead of a week of premature celebrating and discussing the inevitable history-in-the-making angle, there’s a sizable amount of leg-work remaining.

Additionally, because of the focus on academics nearly all Ivy League games are played on Friday and Saturday — a scheduling quirk allows for a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking, a lot of time to think about what went wrong before getting a shot at redemption.

This elongated pondering has extended into the student body.

“In general, I think people here are a bit nervous,” said Scott Sherman, The Crimson men’s basketball beat writer. “Every road game in the Ivy League is tough and there is a lot of travel involved in going to Columbia and then to Cornell.”

“The Crimson came as close as you could come last season without actually winning it. There were really high expectations coming into the season.”

Asked what his primary focus will be at practice this week, Amaker kept focusing on “us”.

“There’s no question that we need to make sure that our psyche and our spirits are right,” he said. “It’s not like the sky is falling…but now we get to fully and honestly evaluate things and figure out where we are.”

By next week, Harvard will know if they’re going dancing for the first time since 1946.

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.

Brooks’ big game leads No. 15 Oregon over Fresno State 78-73

Dillon Brooks, Torren Jones
AP Photo/Chris Pietsch
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks had 21 points and 10 rebounds and No. 15 Oregon staved off a late rally by Fresno State for a 78-73 victory Monday night.

Chris Boucher and Elgin Cook added 14 points each for the Ducks (6-0), who led 70-52 with 6:35 to play before Marvelle Harris scored 13 points in a 16-2 run by the Bulldogs (5-1) that cut the deficit to four.

A driving layup by Brooks put Oregon up 74-68 with 1:20 left, and the Ducks held on by making four of six free throws in the final 45 seconds.

Harris, who didn’t score until the 12:04 mark of the second half, led Fresno State with 18 points, while Paul Watson added 11 and Torren Jones had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bulldogs won the rebounding battle 41-32 behind Jones and Karachi Edo, who had nine rebounds and 10 points.

Freshman Tyler Dorsey, Oregon’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, finished with 12.

The Ducks scored the game’s first 11 points, went up by as many as 14 and took a 37-25 halftime lead. The Ducks did most of the damage from inside the 3-point arc (9 of 10) and at the free throw line, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-5.

Fresno State, meanwhile, missed its first six shots from the field, shot 29.0 percent (9 of 31) and saw its top two scorers, Harris and Cezar Guerrero, held scoreless for the first 20 minutes.

The senior guards came in averaging 20.2 and 13.2 points per game, respectively.


Fresno State: Harris, the preseason choice for Mountain West Conference player of the year, needed one point to crack the Bulldog’s all-time top 10 in scoring. After going scoreless in the first half, he finished with 18 to rank 10th with 1,425, one behind Tod Bernard in ninth place, in 107 career games. . The Bulldogs fell to 2-10 all-time against Oregon. They last time they beat the Ducks, who have won the last five meetings, was in 1995. . Fresno State hasn’t beaten a Top 25 team on the road since 2000.

Oregon: The double-double was the second of the season Brooks and fourth of his career. . The Ducks are 40-2 against nonconference opponents since moving into Matthew Knight Arena five years ago. . The 6-0 start is Oregon’s second in the last nine years. The Ducks started 13-0 two seasons ago.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.