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.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.

VIDEO: New Mexico loses game on blown call by officials

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Nothing like a nice, controversial finish to get the blood flowing.

New Mexico was on the receiving end of a rule misinterpretation on Saturday afternoon, and that interpretation likely cost the Lobos a win over San Diego State and, arguably, a shot at the MWC regular season title.

Here’s the situation: New Mexico is up by three with 12 seconds left and the ball under their own basket. Their allowed to run the baseline, so Craig Neal calls a play where the inbounder throws the ball to a player running out of bounds.

Totally league as long as the player establishes out of bounds before touching the ball. The referee rules that he doesn’t.

Here’s the video:

The problem?

According to the rules, Xavier Adams — the player receiving the pass from Cullen Neal — only needed one foot on the floor out of bounds in order to establish himself as an inbounder that was able to catch that ball. He got one foot down (see the picture above), but the referees appeared to rule that he needed to have both feet down.

That was incorrect, according to the Mountain West office.

“While this was a very close judgment call made at full speed, it has been determined after careful review of slow-motion video replays the call was in fact incorrect,” the league said in a release. “The New Mexico player did get one foot down (two feet are not required) out-of-bounds before receiving the ball, thus establishing his location in accordance NCAA Basketball Playing Rules 4.23.1.a and 7.1.1.  By rule, the officials were not permitted to go to the monitor during the game to review this play.”

And here’s the kicker: When SDSU got the ball back, they hit a three to send the game into overtime, where the Aztecs won. But if New Mexico had won this game, they’d be sitting at 8-2 in MWC play, one game behind SDSU in the loss column with a return game against them in The Pit.

Instead, they’re now three games back with seven to play, meaning that the race is effectively over.

It’s tough to blame the referees here — it was a bang-bang call that is only clear in slow-motion replay — but man, that’s a big call to miss.