Jonah Travis, Tommy Amaker

Harvard releases 2013-14 schedule

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In the most highly anticipated season in Harvard basketball history — in fact, perhaps in Ivy League history — where there is already speculation of the Crimson beginning the season ranked in the Top 25, all but winning the Ivy League, and even making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, the pressure is also at an all-time high for Tommy Amaker.

Now in his seventh season in Cambridge, Amaker has brought Harvard from the basement of the Ivy League to the top of college basketball. Whether you like it or not, Harvard will be a story for the entire season. A big part of that story obviously revolves around who they play. Earlier today, Harvard released their schedule.

It is a solid schedule as a whole with games against several good teams, but it is by no means a rigorous schedule. At first glance, there projects to only be one team ranked in the Top 25 to begin the season on it, and that is Connecticut — Colorado is on the slate as well, but they are a fringe Top 25 squad.

The preceding two teams highlight the schedule, but a home game with Boston College — a team that Harvard has beaten five straight years, if you can believe it — provides Harvard with an opportunity for a quality win as the Eagles will be much improved this year.

Where Harvard got unlucky was with the field in the Great Alaska Shootout — a tournament that has gone down in quality over the years. They play what will be a good Denver team in the opening round, but quality wins after that may be hard to come by after as the remaining six teams in the field are relatively weak, save for Indiana State (Alaska, Green Bay, Indiana State, Pepperdine, TCU, and Tulsa).

Amaker spewed nothing but coach-speak commenting on the schedule:

We are excited about the schedule we have put together for this coming year. Our non-conference schedule will provide us with many opportunities to improve as a team before beginning another competitive Ivy League campaign. We look forward to getting the season underway.

A team’s resume is everything come NCAA Tournament time, and Harvard will need schools like Denver, Vermont, and Boston University to be Top 100 RPI teams at season’s end to help bolster their resume. Wins over teams outside the Top 100 won’t exactly impress the NCAA Selection Committee.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.