NCAA Basketball Tournament - Harvard v Vanderbilt

Tommy Amaker speaks, doesn’t say much about Casey, Curry

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Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker addressed the media at Massachusetts media day and proceeded to tell a story about a message he got from President Obama before the start of last year’s NCAA tournament.

“There was a message that we received from someone who did speak to him that he wanted us to know that he did not pick us in his pool,” Amaker said Tuesday. “He picked Vanderbilt, but he wanted us to know privately that he hoped that we were the team to bust his bracket.”

And as great as that soundbite is, it doesn’t change the fact that a return trip to the NCAA tournament took a major hit last month when two of the most important players on the Crimson — forward Kyle Casey and point guard Brandyn Curry — were reportedly suspended for the season for their involvement in an alleged cheating scandal in a Government class.

Amaker is not allowed to comment on the status of either of those two players, but a quick glance at Harvard’s roster — which doesn’t include either player — and Amaker’s statement that “we have who we have, and we are who we are” is a pretty clear indication that the Crimson will be without the two seniors.

What that means is Harvard will head into the year with a talented, but young and inexperienced, roster. Four starters in total, including the graduated Oliver McNally and Keith Wright, are gone. Christian Webster and Laurent Rivard, both veteran wings that have averaged double-figures during a season, return, as do a slew of promising big men. Sophomores Wesley Saunders, Kenyatta Smith and Steve Moundou-Missi are all promising, as are a couple of the newcomers, but none of them are proven quantities, even at the Ivy League level.

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the only point guard on the roster is freshman Siyani Chambers. Chambers had high-major interest coming out of high school, but when your only options at the point are a freshman or someone that isn’t a point guard, it’s not a good sign.

Harvard will still be very competitive in the Ivy and has enough horses to win the league, but they won’t have near the kind of season that they were expected to.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Boise State loses guard Harwell to torn ACL

Leon Rice
Associated Press
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Expected to be one of the favorites in the Mountain West this season, Boise State’s perimeter ranks have shrunk by one player due to injury. Thursday it was reported by the Idaho Statesman that freshman guard Malek Harwell will redshirt after suffering a torn ACL in practice. Along with fellow freshman Paris Austin, Harwell is expected to be a key part of the Broncos’ future beyond the upcoming season.

Now, instead of competing with an experienced backcourt that includes four redshirt seniors, Harwell will work to get his knee back to full strength for the 2016-17 season.

Among the guards who will play significant minutes this season are Anthony Drmic, who took a medical redshirt last season, Montigo Alford, Mikey Thompson and grad transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College). Chandler Hutchison, who started in Boise State’s final 18 games of the 2014-15 season as a freshman, will also compete for playing time.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
Associated Press
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.