Some pre-game notes from Salt Lake City before today’s 3:10 p.m. game against Harvard at EnergySolutions Arena:
The Pac-12 had a pretty good first day in the tournament — Arizona beat Belmont, and Oregon and Cal (both 12 seeds) upset Oklahoma State and UNLV, respectively.
Things didn’t go quite as well in Friday’s games, as both Colorado (a 10 seed) and UCLA (a six) faltered and were sent packing. Rumors are swirling that UCLA head coach Ben Howland might not be back, but he reportedly wouldn’t talk about that after the game.
Still, 3-of-5 ain’t bad, especially for a conference that got the short end of the stick in terms of seeding (three double-digit seeds, two sixes, Pac-12 champ Oregon was a 12).
“I don’t know why people overlook the Pac-12,” said guard/forward Kevin Parrom. “Cal’s a great team, Oregon’s a great team.
“I think pac12 is representing very well. We had a great year in the conf. With the Pac-12, they sleeping on us and we’re winning so it’s good for the conference.”
Oregon will take on four-seed Saint Louis at 5:10 p.m. on TBS, and Cal will face four-seed Syracuse at 7:40 p.m. on the same channel.
Arizona assistant impressed with Chambers
Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson was the lead advance scout for Harvard, and he was wholly impressed with Crimson freshman point guard Siyani Chambers.
“Siyani Chambers, he doesn’t get the national credit he deserves,” Richardson said.
Chambers led the Pac-12 in assists with 5.8 per game and was named to the All-Ivy-League first team and the Freshman of the Year. Richardson said ASU’s Jahii Carson might have been the best freshman point guard in the nation, but Chambers isn’t far behind him.
The craziest part about Chambers’ success, in Richardson’s eyes, is that no one had really heard of him before the NCAA tournament. Chambers played high school ball in Minnetonka, Minn., and was a 3-star, unranked recruit coming out. His only other offers came from Central Michigan and Nebraska, according to Scout.com
“There are no more surprises,” Richardson said. “You know about players since they’re in fifth grade, you have stuff on kids so you know who everyone is. So what he’s doing is amazing.”
Kenyatta Smith emerging for Crimson
Harvard is like Belmont — it has a guard dominated line-up, without much height, and shoots a lot of 3-pointers.
Steve Mondou-Missi is probably Harvard’s best big — the 6-foot-7 forward gets 5.1 rebounds per game. But, against New Mexico, 6-foot-8 forward Kenyatta Smith emerged. And he’ll have to again if the Crimson is going to overcome Arizona’s clear height advantage.
Smith had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes against the Lobos, and is getting 8.0 rebounds per game in his last four.
“Kenyatta’s done a great job had a breakout game against Princeton,” said forward Jonah Travis. “And that’s where he steppd into his own and built up so much confidence that helped us get to the point we’re at now.”
Against Princeton on Feb. 16, Smith had 14 points, seven rebounds and six blocks. He’s had three or more blocks eight times this season, including 10 in one game against Pennsylvania (he also had 20 points and nine boards in that game).