Siyani Chambers, No. 12 Harvard upset No. 5 Cincinnati

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No. 12 Harvard’s star point guard Siyani Chambers was just 2-for-10 from the floor, but he hit the biggest shot of the game, a 16-foot pull-up with just under two minutes left to end a No. 5 Cincinnati run and spur a 61-55 win.

Harvard was up by as many as nine points in the second half, but the Bearcats cut the lead to 54-53 before the jumper from Chambers. He finished with 11 points and just two turnovers against a relentless Cincinnati press, hitting three free throws in the final second to help ice the game.

Defense is what won this game for Harvard. Wesley Saunders, the Ivy League Player of the Year, did a great job slowing down Sean Kilpatrick. The first team all-american got a couple of easy looks from beyond the arc early in the first half, but he finished the afternoon with just 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting, turning the ball over five times and only making four trips to the charity stripe.

The Crimson also did an excellent job on the interior against Justin Jackson, who just could not seem to get a shot around the rim to drop. Jackson finished with 13 points, 10 boards (four offensive) and four blocks, but he was 5-for-15 from the field, the majority of those misses coming from point blank range.

For Harvard, this is the second straight season that they have won a game in the NCAA tournament. Last season, No. 14 Harvard knocked off No. 3 New Mexico. The last time a team from the Ivy League accomplished that feat was back in 1983-84, when Princeton won a pair of games.

But here’s the thing to remember: this isn’t a shocker.

Harvard was the most popular upset pick of the Round of 64, and that’s because the Crimson have as much talent, as much size and as much athleticism as just about any high-major program in the country. This program is recruiting top 100 players. They are landing guys that typically ended up at places like Stanford or Vanderbilt. They are pulling players out of places like Minnesota and California.

So while it is going to be easy to point and laugh at Cincinnati, to crack jokes about how bad the AAC is because it can’t beat an Ivy League team, remember that this Harvard team would have finished, at worst, sixth in the AAC.

The best part?

Most of those guys will be back next season.

The Crimson are almost at a point where they belong in the same conversation as Gonzaga and Wichita State when it comes to the nation’s best mid-major programs.

Harvard will face the winner of No. 4 Michigan State and No. 13 Delaware.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.