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.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.