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Saturday’s Things To Know: R.J. Barrett’s big day, LSU’s win, Texas Tech stays hot

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: R.J. Barrett, Duke

Barrett, on Saturday, reminded everyone on the planet that Duke is the No. 1 team in the country because they have more than just Zion Williamson on the roster.

The 6-foot-6 freshman returned to his native Canada* to put up 30 points and seven assists on 14-for-20 shooting while hitting 2-of-5 threes in a 75-65 win at Syracuse. He opened up the game by carrying Duke by running the high-post in their zone offense and closed the game as the guy creating looks for his teammates as the Dukies put up 48 second half points against one of the nation’s better defensive teams.

With the win, Duke keeps pace with No. 3 Virginia and No. 8 North Carolina in the ACC regular season title race.

This win mattered for the Blue Devils for more reasons that just the simple fact that Barrett went nuts. For starters, the Blue Devils may have found the guy that is going to be their floor-spacer moving forward. With Jack White officially benched now that he has gone a full six weeks without making a three, Alex O’Connell stepped into the starting lineup on Saturday and performed. He scored 17 of his career-high 20 points and hit four of his five threes during that second half run. He was the zone-buster that helped the Blue Devils break down Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3.

But he also wouldn’t have mattered is Barrett hadn’t dragged Duke through the first half.

This was Barrett’s time to shine, and he sure did that.

*(ZINGGGG!!!)

TEAM OF THE DAY: LSU Tigers

It is hard to overstate just how impressive it is that No. 13 LSU was able to find a way to beat No. 5 Tennessee in overtime on Saturday, 82-80.

Let’s start with this: The Tigers were playing without Tremont Waters, their star point guard, who was sick. Then there’s this: Naz Reid, the second-most talented player on this roster, finished with just one point on 0-for-9 shooting from the floor. They trailed by nine points with six minutes left in the game. Tennessee had the ball with a chance to win at the end of regulation and the end of overtime.

But LSU got it in behind 29 points, five boards and five assists from Javonte Smart and 23 points from Skylar Mays.

And with that win and Kentucky turning Auburn into that piece of chicken you put on the grill on forgot about, the Tigers are now sitting tied for first in the SEC title race.

Not a bad day down in Baton Rouge.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Bryce Aiken, Harvard

Bryce Aiken scored 28 points, including a three at the buzzer, as Harvard went into New Haven and knocked off first place year, 88-86, in a clash of Ivy League heavyweights. Yale now holds just a one-game led on Harvard and Princeton in league standings.

SATURDAY’S WINNERS

NASSIR LITTLE: No. 8 North Carolina landed a massive win on Saturday, avoiding an obvious letdown spot after knocking off Duke on Wednesday and smacking around No. 16 Florida State, 77-59. After playing just 24 minutes in the last three games combined, Little went for 18 points and eight boards in the win over the Seminoles. He also did this:

KENTUCKY: The Wildcats put together arguably their most impressive performance of the season, as they absolutely obliterated Auburn, winning 80-53 in a game where the Wildcats never looked like they were in danger of getting upset. P.J. Washington was once again the star for Kentucky, and now the question needs to be asked: Is this team better without Reid Travis on the floor?

PURDUE: The Boilermakers managed to hold off Nebraska on Saturday afternoon, and what that means is that Purdue will end up in a tie for first place in the Big Ten with just one other team come Monday morning. As it stands, there are three teams tied for first place in the Big Ten standings: Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State. Michigan and Michigan State play twice before the season comes to an end — including on Sunday — and that puts the Boilermakers in a great spot to win the outright regular season Big Ten title if they can find a way to win out this season.

KANSAS STATE: Not only did Kansas State put up 85 points in a blowout win over Oklahoma State on Saturday, they did so while Kansas went into Lubbock and got absolutely drubbed by Texas Tech and Iowa State found a way to lose at TCU. Do the math, and the Wildcats will head into Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night in sole possession of first place in the league with a two game lead on the Jayhawks. That will be a massive, massive game.

WOFFORD: The Terriers have just about sewn up an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament thanks to a conference that has provided them with three Q1 road wins. Saturday was the latest example, as Wofford went into Furman and beat the Palladins. They’ve run roughshod over a conference that, according to the NET, is better at the top than the Pac-12. That’s impressive.

ROSS BJORK AND KERMIT DAVIS: The players on the Ole Miss basketball team that took a knee during the anthem as a form of counter-protesting the confederacy rally that was happening in Oxford on Saturday were the brave ones. But credit also has to be given to Bjork, the Old Miss athletic director, and Davis, the head coach, for unequivocally backing the players. It’s not going to be easy for those players to deal with what’s coming at a school whose nickname is the Rebels, but knowing their coach and their coach’s boss have their back will certainly help mitigate that.

MIKE DAUM: South Dakota State’s Daum became the tenth player in college basketball history — and the second player this season — to score his 3,000th career point. Daum scored 25 points in a win over South Dakota, and is now just 68 points behind Chris Clemons on the career scoring list. Clemons scored 41 on Saturday and is now sixth on the career scoring list, just 76 points behind Doug McDermott.

SATURDAY’S LOSERS

SECOND HALF LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals just cannot hold onto a lead. They blew a 10 point second half lead in an overtime loss at Florida State two weeks ago. Last Tuesday, they blew a 23 point second half lead at home against Duke. Last Saturday, they blew an eight point lead against Clemson and needed a miracle block from Jordan Nwora at the end of the game to save them. And today, the Cardinals hit 10 first half threes and led No. 3 Virginia 37-27 going into the break before scoring just 15 second half points in a 64-52 loss.

PEOPLE PLAYING TEXAS TECH: I’m not sure there is a hotter team in the country right now than Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are already the best defensive team in college basketball, and on Saturday, in a 91-62 win over Kansas, they shot 16-for-26 from three. This came on the heels of back-to-back games where they hit 12 three-pointers. They’ve reached double-figures for threes in each of the last four games, and during that stretch, they are shooting 50-for-102 from three. In their recent five-game winning streak, they’re shooting 46 percent from three.

Look out.

Harvard’s Seth Towns and Bryce Aiken remain out indefinitely

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Ivy League favorite Harvard will be without two of its key players for the start of the season.

Head coach Tommy Amaker spoke to reporters on Friday and indicated that reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Seth Towns and starting point guard Bryce Aiken will both remain out indefinitely with knee injuries. While Aiken has been battling knee injuries since being limited to only 14 games last season, the injury to Towns remains a bit more of a mystery.

In the Ivy League Conference Tournament title game last season, Towns sustained a knee injury with 8:20 left in the second half as Penn went on to ultimately win the game and claim the league’s NCAA tournament autobid. Towns also missed Harvard’s next contest when they lost in the opening round of the NIT to Marquette.

A September report from Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports indicated that Aiken and Towns were expected to be fully cleared for basketball activities once practice officially started. But on Oct. 20, Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported that neither Aiken nor Towns played in Harvard’s closed preseason scrimmage against Boston College.

Now that Amaker has indicated that Aiken and Towns will remain out, it’s going to be one of the key subplots to watch in this early college basketball season. The duo combined to average slightly over 30 points per game last season as the Crimson have huge expectations heading into this season.

Harvard is already used to playing (and playing well) without Aiken. But the loss of Towns could be huge — especially since we don’t know the severity of his injury. With the Crimson returning nearly its entire core from a team that just missed making the NCAA tournament, Harvard needs both of those guys back and healthy if they want to meet the high preseason expectations.

(h/t: David Tannenwald)

Harvard captain Chris Egi opts for Wall Street instead of pro basketball dreams

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Harvard forward and team captain Chris Egi is opting to skip potential professional basketball options in order to pursue a career on Wall Street.

In a great profile from Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada, the 6-foot-9 Egi will become an investment analyst at Goldman Sachs after his four-year career with the Crimson ended after this season.

At one point considered a top-100 prospect in his high school Class of 2014, Egi never found consistent footing on the Harvard basketball team as he played sparingly over the course of his four seasons. Injuries and a competitive roster forced Egi to re-evaluate his basketball ambitions as a concussion forced him to miss a lot of his senior season.

“I kind of made an agreement with myself that I’d put it all in for a final shot senior year. But chances were it wasn’t going to be basketball for me unless something great happened,” Egi said in the story.

“[Playing professionally] would be a great experience and part of me wants to do it. But part of me feels like this isn’t the path for me and there are a lot of opportunities here that aren’t about playing basketball and I want to take advantage of those and get started on this new journey.”

While Egi never got stable playing time with Harvard, he could have been an intriguing professional player thanks to his run-and-jump athleticism. Since Egi is also Canadian, he would not have fit under some international league policies that limit the number of American players on certain rosters. If healthy, Egi could have eventually morphed into a serviceable pro after a disappointing college basketball career.

In the classroom at Harvard, however, things were hardly disappointing for Egi. In fact, it appears he might have made the correct decision by going the Wall Street route. Selected to give a commencement speech at Harvard’s underclass graduation late in May, Egi shined as he told his family’s story and personal experiences at the Ivy League school he always dreamed of attending.

Siyani Chambers back at Harvard after a year as a ‘manny’

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Reverend Jonathan L. Walton, Harvard’s Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, foresaw a more patient Siyani Chambers this season.

That isn’t some prophetic prediction. That virtue is required when recovering from an ACL tear, an injury that sidelined Chambers for all of last year.

But Walton says that because, for nine months, he witnessed Chambers’ patience on display inside his own household.

Due to an unusual set of circumstances – an ACL tear, which happened at his summer internship of all places, and an archaic Ivy League rule – led Chambers to become a nanny for Walton’s three children.

In the summer of 2015, Chambers was interning at adidas in Portland. While playing pickup, his left knee gave out. In September, Harvard officially announced that Chambers had torn his ACL and would subsequently take a leave of absence from the school.

Withdrawing from the university was the only option to preserve his final year of eligibility with the Crimson. There is no redshirting in the Ivy League. Staying in school and going to class burns a year of Ivy League eligibility whether or not that student is actually playing in games or even on a team. It’s the Ancient Eight’s way of saying, “academics over athletics.” Student-athletes can apply for a fifth year, but only if it’s based on academic reasons.

Players like Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola and Harvard’s Patrick Steeves elected to stay in school, earning an Ivy League education before becoming a graduate transfer – and becoming eligible immediately – at a different school in another conference. Both ended up transferring to George Washington.

But Chambers’ decision to remove himself from school isn’t uncommon. After suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot in October of 2014, Columbia’s leading scorer, Alex Rosenberg, removed himself from school before returning for his final season the following fall. Harvard’s Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry were forced to take the same route in 2012 when they were linked to a widespread cheating scandal. They both re-enrolled the next year. Yale’s Makai Mason, whose broken foot will likely keep him out this season, is the latest Ivy League star that has to make this decision.

It’s a loophole, but not one many would like to exploit.

“It was definitely a tough decision,” Chambers said. “I didn’t want to take a year off from school and be away from my friends and teammates, guys who’ve I been with this whole time. Evan [Cummings], Patrick [Steeves], Agunwa [Okolie].”

“I wanted to finish out my career with them.”

The leave of absence meant Chambers couldn’t be on campus. He returned to his home in Golden Valley, Minnesota, for the fall semester as he began his rehabilitation. The plan was always to return to Cambridge in January. Chambers’ younger brother, Kamali, was in his freshman season at Boston University, and he wanted to be nearby to support him. The other reason was obvious: to be as close to the team as the NCAA rules would allow him to be.

But with the dorms off limits, where would he live?


Jonathan Walton was preparing to go on sabbatical at University of Penn, where he would be doing academic research for a book about ethical readings of The Bible. This meant leaving his wife, Cecily, as the sole caretaker of their three children: 12-year-old twins Elijah and Zora, and 4-year-old Baldwin.

“When I was preparing to go on sabbatical, our previous nanny got another job,” Walton said. “It was about the same time Siyani got hurt. I was talking to him, and he was explaining to me that he had to go home. The only way he could stay he was to have a job. And of course, to find a job and find a place to live and pay rent in Cambridge is just unthinkable. He told me, ‘In a perfect world I can just stay here [on campus], but I can’t stay in the dorms.’ So I went home and had a conversation with my wife, Cecily, and I said, ‘Siyani needs a job. I wonder if he can help you out.’ And she said, ‘Great idea. Ask him to see if he’s interested.’

“I asked him, ‘Do you want to become a nanny?’ It was as simple as that. And he was like, ‘Sure. Absolutely.’”

And like that, arguably the most decorated player in Harvard basketball history became a “manny.”


Chambers and Walton both began their time with the Harvard basketball program in the fall of 2012. Chambers was a freshman point guard Amaker and his staff fervently pursued, and Walton, head of the Memorial Church, was beginning a stint as the faculty fellow for the team.

Just before the fall semester, Harvard was rocked by the academic scandal that Jay Harris, the Dean of Undergraduate Education, called, “unprecedented in its scope and magnitude.” Harvard announced that nearly half – 125 students in total – of the Introduction to Congress class from the previous spring was being investigated for a take-home final. They were suspected of cheating, or worse, plagiarizing answers on the exam.

Despite multiple teams being represented in the course, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, two stars from Amaker’s budding basketball program, seemed to grab all of the headlines. In all 70 students withdrew from school, including Casey and Curry.

Walton, who had hosted an annual season tip-off, in which he invited all the players into his home, decided to start ‘Basketball Sunday.’

“We bring in the men’s and women’s teams,” Walton said. “One of the reasons was for members of the larger community can get to know these kids as human beings and what kind of standup individuals they are and that these are just nice thoughtful kids. And that sort of came out of the negative attention that Harvard basketball received during that whole ‘cheating scandal’ that wasn’t.”

“Of course that was something that impacted a lot of teams, but because of the basketball team’s success, two basketball players were featured. It was something that really upset me because these kids were thrown out there.”

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22: Siyani Chambers #1 of the Harvard Crimson reacts in the second half against the Michigan State Spartans during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2014 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Harvard’s Siyani Chambers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Who better than the affable Chambers to lead the integration of the basketball team into the wider Harvard community?

“He is a fan favorite,” Walton added. “But one of the reasons he’s a fan favorite isn’t just because he’s fast as lightning. One of the reasons he’s a fan favorite is because everyone knows him as that nice, smiling kid. He’s always talking to children. You can stop and hold a conversation with him.”

That engagement he had with fellow students, faculty and children is why Chambers was invited into Walton’s home this past year.


Chambers moved on the third floor of the Waltons’ on-campus residence. His daily duties involved getting the children ready for school, shuttling Elijah to theatre practice and Zora to track practice. He’d go out and pick up dinner (“He can’t cook a lick,” Walton says), and help the kids with homework. He also became versed with PAW Patrol, a Nickelodeon cartoon about rescue dogs.

“We often didn’t know who was having more fun with all the PAW Patrol toys, whether it was Siyani or Baldwin,” Walton said.

“I think every day was funny and entertaining in its own way,” Chambers added. “I’m really glad I had that opportunity.”

With Elijah, Zora and Baldwin in school most of the day, it allowed for Chambers to rehab, either on his own or at Massachusetts General Hospital.

While he couldn’t be with the team, he could easily be spotted behind the bench during homes games at Lavietes Pavilion.

“He handled it beautifully,” Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker. “Didn’t surprise me at all.”

“As you can imagine our focus was geared toward our guys, as long as we knew Siyani was in a good place.”

With no games or practices to participate in, Chambers’ competitiveness was reserved for Walton Family game night, whether it they were playing Monopoly and Pictionary.

“He found himself yelling and screaming and throwing pieces when he was losing,” Walton said. “I got a sense of what his teammates felt like.”

“Siyani would stand up and be like, ‘Boy what’s wrong with you?’ He was hyper-competitive and on the other hand he was hyper-compassionate, especially with my youngest son. I think it helped his temperament and patience.”


Chambers was fully cleared over the summer, but naturally, it took almost two additional months for him to feel comfortable with his surgically repaired knee.

After the graduation of Wesley Saunders and season-ending injury suffered by Chambers, the Crimson fell to a 14-16 (6-8) record, good for a fourth-place finish in the Ivy League last season. Harvard returns all-Ivy League forward Zena Edosomwan, as well as Corey Johnson. Amaker also brought in a freshman class that includes three players in the Rivals Top 150.

Princeton was voted as the preseason favorite, but Harvard is certainly a contender, as is defending champion Yale despite the loss of Makai Mason. This March, Chambers could cap his career as the most decorated player in program history. He could potentially appear in four NCAA Tournaments and finish top-10 in scoring and top-5 in assists and steals.

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22: Head coach Tommy Amaker talks to Siyani Chambers #1 of the Harvard Crimson in the first half against the Michigan State Spartans during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 22, 2014 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker and Siyani Chambers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

“I’ve always said this about him, he’ll go down as arguably the most important player that we’ve ever had,” Amaker said. “He’s always been the most important player on our team. He hasn’t always been the best player. But there’s never been anyone as important since he’s been here with the role he plays, the position he plays, the production he’s given.”

“He’s the smartest player I’ve been around since Shane Battier.”

In a losing effort on Friday night against Stanford, in a season-opener played in Shanghai, Chambers showed no real rust, scoring 12 points, grabbing three rebounds and recording four assists (committing zero turnovers).

This year’s roster features almost double the freshmen and sophomores as it does upperclassmen. He’s dealing with a different kind of youth this year.

There would be times in the Walton household where Chambers would look at Elijah, Zora and Baldwin and reminisce about what he was like at their ages. And it’s possible that when he looks at a freshman like Bryce Aiken or a sophomore like Corey Johnson, he’s reminded of what he was like his first few years in college.

“When you’re a freshman or a sophomore, you’re just trying to ‘Go, go, go,’” Chambers said. “But now as a senior, I just want to take in my last year and enjoy every minute of it.”

VIDEO: Columbia beats Harvard on Alex Rosenberg buzzer-beater

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Harvard’s hopes of making a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament took a significant hit this weekend, as the Crimson dropped home games against Cornell and Columbia. Saturday night’s loss to Columbia, one of the preseason favorites to win the Ivy League, came as a result of Alex Rosenberg’s fadeaway as time expired.

Rosenberg’s shot capped a wild comeback for the Lions, who trailed by as much as 20 in the first half and by a score of 33-16 at the half.

Harvard’s now 1-3 in Ivy League play, a full three games behind Columbia and Yale. While it is early in league play, the fact that the Ivy doesn’t have a conference tournament (they label their conference slate as the “14-game tournament”) makes these regular season games that much more important.

Video credit: Ivy League Digital Network

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 3 Oklahoma takes Diamond Head Classic crown

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Oklahoma 83, Harvard 71

Trailing by two at the half, the third-ranked Sooners went on a 21-0 run to take control of the Diamond Head Classic title game. Buddy Hield scored 34 points and Jordan Woodard added 28 for Lon Kruger’s team, but can they be a national title contender? Read more about those possibilities here.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

Hawai’i 79, Auburn 67: Roderick Bobbitt reached the 30-point mark for the second straight game, scoring 30 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line (he scored 32 on Oklahoma Wednesday night), to lead the Rainbow Warriors to third place at the Diamond Head Classic. The depth advantage for Eran Ganot’s team, which also received 21 and eight boards from Stefan Jankovic, is why they were able to close the game on a 19-4 run.

Horace Spencer and Tyler Harris both fouling out for Auburn, and Kareem Canty had to spend some time on the bench in the second half with four fouls. Canty led the Tigers 22 points, bouncing back from his 1-for-15 outing against Auburn, and Bryce Brown added 20.

BYU 84, Northern Iowa 76: Dave Rose’s Cougars picked up a quality win for their resume in the Diamond Head Classic’s fifth-place game, using a 19-2 first half run to establish the distance needed to hold off the Panthers. Chase Fischer scored 26 points, hitting four more three-pointers, and Kyle Collinsworth tallied 12 points, 17 rebounds and six assists to lead the way for BYU. UNI scored 24 points off of 15 BYU turnovers, but their inability to hit shots (40 percent from the field) when not benefitting from Cougar mistakes proved to be the difference.

Washington State 82, New Mexico 59: The Mountain West took another hit Christmas Day, as the Lobos were blown out by Washington State in the seventh place game at the Diamond Head Classic. Josh Hawkinson, who played just seven minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, scored 12 of his 19 in the second half and as a team Wazzu shot 54.2 percent from the field and 11-for-20 from three.

Hawkinson led five Cougars in double figures. After getting off to a good start to the season the Lobos once again struggled defensively and with turnovers, and they have many kinks to work out ahead of their Mountain West opener Wednesday night.

STARRED

Buddy Hield and Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma: Hield and Woodard combined to score 62 points on 20-for-27 shooting from the field in their win over Harvard.

Zena Edosomwan, Harvard: Oklahoma did not have an answer for the Harvard big man, who tallied 25 points and 16 rebounds in a losing effort.

Chase Fischer, BYU: One game after hitting nine three-pointers Fischer hit four more, scoring 26 points in the Cougars’ win over Northern Iowa. Fischer shot 13-for-25 from three in wins over New Mexico and Northern Iowa.

Roderick Bobbitt, Hawai’i: Bobbitt shot extremely well in scoring 30 points in a win over Auburn, shooting 8-for-13 from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line.

STRUGGLED

Cullen Neal, New Mexico: Things got so bad for the redshirt sophomore that he was benched for the entire second half in the Lobos’ loss to Washington State. In eight minutes Neal went scoreless and didn’t have an assist, committing five turnovers.

New Mexico’s three-point shooters: Neal wasn’t the only one who struggled, as the Lobos shot 0-for-10 from three on the day.

Patrick Steeves, Harvard: In 28 minutes off the bench Steeves made just one of his eight shots from the field, scoring two points.

Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma: Cousins didn’t have the night teammates Hield and Woodard had, scoring seven points on 2-for-11 shooting.