Chambers the Biggest Surprise Entering Conference Play

Published by David Freed on January 12, 2013 at 10:12PM

With the Harvard men’s basketball team tipping off its conference slate against Dartmouth Saturday, The Back Page takes a look at some of the biggest surprises and disappointments both at Harvard and around the Ivy League before the beginning of the conference season.The biggest surprise of the season to date for Harvard has been freshman point guard Siyani Chambers. The Golden Valley, Minnesota native ranks first in the Ivy League with 6.0 assists a game. His 89.8 percent mark from the free throw line also leads the conference. Chambers has scored in double digits in all but four games this season and has averaged 7.2 assists over his last five games. After the departure of Oliver McNally and Keith Wright, as well as Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey, Chambers and sophomore wing Wesley Saunders have helped fill the scoring void for the Crimson. Chambers has been at his best when the team needs it most, posting 21 points, five assists and three steals in a win against ACC foe Boston College and making all five of his three-point attempts against St. Mary’s, finishing with 16 points and seven assists in a narrow loss.

The biggest disappointment of the season to date for the Crimson, has been the team’s inability to close in its few chances to notch statement nonconference wins. Against St. Mary’s, the Crimson led by as many as 18 points in the first half and 10 with four minutes to go. Against UMass, Harvard took a five-point lead on a pair of Saunders free throws with 81 seconds left but then gave up eight unanswered points to finish the game without hoisting even a single shot (the Crimson turned it over on both possessions). The team’s last chance for a marquee win comes next Saturday against Josh Pastner’s Memphis squad.

After being picked third in the conference’s preseason poll, the Columbia Lions have been the biggest surprise thus far into their nonconference slate in an Ivy League that (with the exception of Princeton and Penn, who has stumbled to a 2-12 start) stands at the onset of nonconference play almost as predicted. The Lions hold an impressive +5.4 scoring margin and lead the Ancient Eight in free throw percentage and are second in three-point percentage. The Lions rarely turn the ball over and their assist-to-turnover ratio is best in the league as a result. Despite ranking in the middle of the pack in steals and blocked shots, Columbia is the best defensive rebounding team in the league and holds opponents to just 41.7 percent shooting, a statistic that bodes well for the Lions as they begin league play next Saturday at home against Cornell.

Nearly unanimously selected to be first in the conference’s preseason poll, the Princeton Tigers have been a bit of a disappointment with a slow start to begin the season. Star senior forward Ian Hummer has produced as expected (16.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game), but the team stumbled out of the gates to a 3-6 record and only scored 42 points in an overtime loss to Wagner. The team has dropped six decisions by seven or less points, with the other being a 20-point loss to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, but has won three of four heading into Ivy League play.