New Mexico v Harvard

Ivy League champion Harvard headlines Great Alaska Shootout field

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With nearly all major contributors from this season’s NCAA tournament team due back (led by Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders) and the return of point guard Brandyn Curry and forward Kyle Casey, the Harvard Crimson are the trendy pick in the eyes of many when it comes to the mid-major program that can make some noise in 2013-14.

But with the release of the bracket for the 2013 Carr’s Safeway Great Alaska Shootout on Thursday, the question for Harvard is whether or not their non-conference schedule will give them enough shots at high-caliber opponents.

Tommy Amaker’s team is one of eight in the field, with the event taking a big hit due to Iowa’s decision to instead participate in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Hawkeyes have generated some conversation on the heels of their Postseason NIT run, with many believing that Fran McCaffery’s team has enough talent to be a factor in the Big Ten race.

A possible shot at Iowa would have been a great opportunity for Harvard. Instead their best possible opponent in Anchorage may very well be quarterfinal opponent Denver, which won a share of the WAC regular season title in 2012-13 and makes the move to the Summit League this summer.

Also in the field is Indiana State, which returns point guard Jake Odum and finished third in the 2012 Diamond Head Classic (beating eventual ACC champion Miami in the third place game).

The full schedule for the Great Alaska Shootout:

Wednesday, Nov. 27 – First Round
Game 1 – Tulsa vs Indiana State
Game 2 – Texas Christian vs Alaska Anchorage

Thursday, Nov. 28 – First Round
Game 3 – Pepperdine vs Green Bay
Game 4 – Denver vs Harvard

Friday, Nov. 29 – Consolation Semifinals & Semifinals
Game 5 – Tulsa/ISU loser vs TCU/UAA loser
Game 6 – Pepp./GB loser vs DU/Harvard loser
Game 7 – Tulsa/ISU winner vs TCU/UAA winner
Game 8 – Pepp./GB winner vs DU/Harvard winner

Saturday, Nov. 30
7th/8th-place – Game 5 loser vs Game 6 loser
4th/6th-place – Game 5 winner vs Game 6 winner
3rd/5th-place – Game 7 loser vs Game 8 loser
Championship – Game 7 winner vs Game 8 winner

With the release of the bracket, what Harvard does with its remaining non-conference openings becomes more important in regards to not only the possibility of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament but also their potential seed.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.