Brandyn Curry (Photo credit: AP)

Harvard wraps up third consecutive NCAA tournament berth (VIDEO)

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On February 8 the Yale Bulldogs handed Harvard its first Ivy League loss, beating the Crimson 74-67 with Justin Sears’ 21 points and 11 rebounds leading the way. Yet even though Sears was a handful on that night, the biggest problem for Harvard was finding the quality looks that they generally haven’t struggled to get in league play. Yale switched ball screens, keeping point guard Siyani Chambers from turning the corner consistently, and this contributed to Harvard shooting just 39% from the field.

In order to win the rematch, and clinch a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, Tommy Amaker’s team needed to adjust to the way in which Yale would defend ball screens. The Crimson made those adjustments Friday night, shooting 56.8% from the field on their way to the 70-58 victory.

RELATED: NCAA tournament primer on the Harvard Crimson

Chambers, who finished the first meeting with ten points (3-for-9 FG), three assists and three turnovers, was far more effective in the rematch. The sophomore made five of his nine field goal attempts, scoring 17 points to go along with six assists and one turnover. And he was a key figure in Harvard’s 16-2 run to start the game, factoring into nine of those points (two points and three assists). Joining Chambers in double figures were forward Steve Moundou-Missi (16 points, six rebounds) and guard Brandyn Curry (14 points).

Harvard still didn’t have an answer for Sears, who finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds, but the difference this time around was that the Crimson did a much better job of keeping his teammates in check. Bulldogs other than Sears combined to shoot 7-for-34 from the field, with Armani Cotton and Javier Duren (0-for-11 FG) scoring a total of eight points. In the first meeting those two combined to score 28 points, with Cotton posting a double-double (13 points, ten rebounds).

Without Curry and Kyle Casey last season much was asked of Chambers and Wesley Saunders as freshmen and they delivered, leading Harvard to a win over New Mexico before falling to 6-seed Arizona. With all four players, in addition to Moundou-Missi and Laurent Rivard, part of the rotation there’s a feeling that this group may be better equipped to enjoy success in the NCAA tournament. And it wouldn’t come as a surprise if that turned out to be the case.

Sun Belt approves new scheduling format

Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt Conference
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With an 11-member setup the Sun Belt Conference has played a 20-game conference schedule the last couple of years, which may be seen as a positive when it comes to determining the regular season champion (home-and-home between every team). But for a conference that spans from North Carolina (Appalachian State) to Texas (UT-Arlington, Texas State) travel was far from easy in that setup.

And with Coastal Carolina joining next season, it was clear that the league needed to do something with its scheduling.

Thursday the Sun Belt members approved an 18-game conference schedule, which will begin with the 2016-17 season when the league consists of 12 members. Included in the agreement is the assignment of travel partners (similar to setups in the Pac-12 and Ivy League), and teams playing no more than three consecutive conference games on the road.

Schools will also be guaranteed at least five weekend home games during conference play, and there will be no more weekends in which teams play conference games both home and away (thus cutting down on travel). Obviously with the addition of Coastal Carolina the Sun Belt needed to make some changes in their scheduling, and this week the conference made the moves they needed to make.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.