Siyani Chambers, AP Photo

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

AP Photo

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.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

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.