No. 14-seeded Harvard’s moment in the spotlight has ended, coming to its conclusion Saturday evening with a 74-51 loss to Arizona at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Arizona was led by the senior duo of Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, who had 27 points and 13 points respectively. Those two carried the offensive attack while the defense used its length to disrupt anything that Harvard tried to get going on that end of the floor. It wasn’t a matter of forcing turnovers (the Wildcats turned the Crimson over just eight times) but more about making the Crimson uncomfortable and unable to hit shots.
But how much can we really know about Arizona after the Wildcats made the Sweet 16 by getting wins over Belmont and Harvard? Give credit to them for beating teams that they should have beaten and beating them in the way that they should have. At the same time, both Belmont and Harvard have no real size on the interior, an area where Arizona could wilt against a challenge.
Without experience in the post between Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, and Kaleb Tarczewski, a tough front line in the paint could spell trouble like it did at points in the Pac-12 season.
The other major question will be if the Wildcats can take care of the basketball against a team like Ohio State, who Arizona could meet if the Buckeyes get past Iowa State and advance to the Sweet 16. Mark Lyons is proving that he is the best ball handling option on the roster, but how will he fair against the defensive pressure that point guard Aaron Craft and Ohio State would bring?
Craft would be able to harass Lyons and force the ball elsewhere offensively. Considering that Lyons went 12-of-17 from the floor Saturday, Arizona would have to find a way to score without him if Craft locks him down. In back-to-back losses to UCLA and USC late in the conference season, Lyons shot a combined 6-of-24 from the floor. Effectively eliminating him changes the way Arizona plays.
Just as the 2013 tournament has been so far, it will come down to a matchup. Arizona now must await word of what that match up will be in the Sweet 16.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
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.
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.