Last season, Harvard lost to Yale in heartbreaking fashion in the first round of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament. The Crimson graduated Siyani Chambers and Zena Edosomwan, both of whom made indelible impacts on the program. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a successful Harvard season without Siyani Chambers. And yet, the Crimson comes into the 2017-18 season as the preseason favorite, according to the Ivy Preseason Media Poll. While the poll predicted an incredibly close race between Harvard and familiar foes Yale and Princeton, the sentiment of the voters is clear: No one expects Harvard to take a step back this year. Here are the details on how Harvard hopes to turn high expectations on paper into actual success on the court:
Following our countdown of the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s men’s basketball history this summer, Ivy Hoops Online is delighted to continue celebrating the 60th anniversary of modern Ivy League basketball by honoring the top 60 players in Ivy hoops history (in no particular order). For the next entry in our Ivy 60 for 60 series, we focus on Wesley Saunders, one of the greatest players in Harvard basketball history…
A year ago, I argued that Wesley Saunders was the greatest Harvard player of all-time. Therefore it’s no surprise that Saunders is one of the top-60 Ivy League players of all-time. Here’s why he belongs:
Wesley Saunders graduated from Harvard in 2015 as one of the best players in program history, collecting three consecutive first-team All-Ivy honors from 2013-15, winning a Player of the Year award in 2014 and making four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
A successful stint with the Jazz in the NBA Summer League earned Saunders a shot with the Knicks. He has been assigned to their Developmental League team since Nov. 2, playing in all 30 games.
We caught up with the guard prior to his Westchester Knicks’ matchup with Sioux Falls on Friday night.
IHO breaks down the two games comprising Saturday afternoon’s Ivy conference play-opening slate:
Dartmouth at Harvard, 2:00 p.m.
Last season: The Big Green ended an 11-game losing streak with a surreal 26-2 second-half run en route to a 70-61 win, shocking the Crimson at Lavietes. Alex Mitola, who is no longer with the Big Green, led the way with 18 points, but Malik Gill sparked Dartmouth off the bench with nine points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals in just 25 minutes. Harvard’s Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers combined for 26 points on 7-for-20 shooting from the field, and the Crimson committed 18 turnovers.
Player to Watch
By Peter Andrews
Here are some sentences that I have written about Maodo Lo in the past year. (No two are from the same article.)
“On Friday night, Maodo Lo showed his class. It’s Maodo Lo’s world, and we’re just living in it … This game should serve as Maodo Lo’s coming-out party for a national audience … Every time the ball left his fingertips, the swoosh seemed a mere inevitability … He remains as cool as a cucumber … No Ivy guard can match Lo’s blazing quickness, and when combined with his dribbling skills he is a nightmare to defend … Don’t worry, Columbia fans: The greatest basketball player of all time isn’t graduating just yet.”
Even after five straight Ivy titles and two NCAA Tournament wins, leading this year’s Harvard team to another title would probably be the greatest accomplishment of Tommy Amaker’s career. It’s not that Harvard doesn’t have talent – but other teams may have much more proven talent. Here are my thoughts about the ‘15-’16 Harvard basketball team, taking into account the players’ performances on October 16 at Crimson Madness (the season’s kickoff practice and scrimmage at Lavietes Pavilion, which is open to the public) and how last season unfolded.
Thanks to all those who shared their thoughts on their hopes and expectations for the Crimson this season:
Jonah Travis, Harvard forward ’15: There’s a couple different things that I’m most looking forward to watching this season. I’ll be interested to see which one of our upperclassmen is able to take the reins and steer the team towards another championship. With so many seniors graduating, they’ll be able to influence the team in many ways they haven’t been able to before. I’ll also be interested to see which freshmen step up and put in the work to be a contributor. The opportunity is there for them, it’ll just take a high degree of work ethic to make it happen.
David Tannenwald, Harvard Magazine: I’m excited about a few things for the upcoming season:
On Wednesday, Harvard lost its most important player to a devastating injury. The team announced that captain and starting point guard Siyani Chambers has suffered a torn ACL and will miss the entire 2015-16 season. He will not enroll in school this year, and he will re-enroll in 2016-17 (his final year of eligibility).
Harvard senior guard Siyani Chambers will take a voluntary leave of absence from school this year after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee, the school announced Wednesday.
Chambers is taking a leave of absence because the Ivy League does not permit graduate students to play. Chambers, who has been a starter for the Crimson each of the past three seasons and is a three-time All-Ivy selection, is expected to return for the 2016-17 season.
Harvard will make a bid for a fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015-16, but without Chambers and factoring in the losses of top two 2014-15 leading scorers Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi to graduation, such an achievement seems unlikely, particularly given the greater roster experience enjoyed by Columbia, Princeton and Yale.
Chambers has averaged 11.1 points, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game in his Harvard career, including 9.9 points per contest last season, as Chambers struggled early in the season on offense.
Harvard backcourt players such as junior Corbin Miller, sophomore Andre Chatfield and freshmen Corey Johnson and Tommy McCarthy will have to pick up the slack left by Chambers.