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Full Court Press: Aiken shines for Harvard, Never Forget Tribute Classic, Geno Has UConn Women Remaining Strong…

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

 

Freshman Bryce Aiken has made quite an impression in his first eight games playing for Harvard University. Aiken, the team’s leading scorer, has given Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker instant offense off the bench.

The Randolph, NJ native and product of The Patrick School had an amazing college hoop debut when he poured in a team-high 21 points in the Crimson’s 80-70 loss to Stanford. Aiken followed that up with an impressive 17 point outburst against George Washington and a 16 point effort against Fordham.

Most recently, he scored 16 points (4-8 field goals, 6-6 foul line) in the Crimson’s 74-66 win over Boston College.
I had a first-hand look at the 6-foot guard in action against Boston College and was impressed with his skill and on-court poise.

No question he has all the tools to be one of the Ivy’s best.

This season Aiken has the benefit of playing alongside senior Siyani Chambers (Golden Valley, Minn.), one of the best point guards in the country.

Harvard is off to a very deceiving 4-4 start under Amaker but with back-to-back wins over local rivals Northeastern and Boston College the Crimson have started to showcase their true potential. Although extremely young (seven freshmen on the roster), the Crimson have the size and skill that is the rival of a Power 5-type team.

In the win over BC, three Harvard freshmen made huge contributions. In addition to Aiken, 6-foot-9 center Chris Lewis (Alpharetta, Ga) led Harvard with 22 points, while 6-foot-7 power forward Seth Towns (Columbus, Ohio) added 18.

When you factor in NBA prospect 6-foot-8 senior Zena Edosomwan, a dominating low post player, Harvard is my odds-favorite to win the postseason tournament and the NCAA automatic bid that goes with it.

Look for the Crimson to be challenged by Yale and Princeton with Penn a long-shot. But in the Ivy’s, playing back-to-back conference games, you can expect the unexpected. It should be an interesting March weekend in Philadelphia.

Something’s got to give

Perhaps the best game of the early season will take place on December 10 when No. 1 Villanova (9-0) takes on unbeaten No. 22 Notre Dame (9-0) in a non-conference matchup at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ (12 noon tip). The game is part of the Never Forget Tribute Classic and will be the lead into the Army-Navy football clash.

Villanova is off to another fantastic start and recently assumed the top spot in the basketball polls after Kentucky faltered to UCLA. Notre Dame enters the contest with the best start in Coach Mike Brey’s reign in South Bend.

Villanova will have their hands full with the Irish, particularly junior power forward Bonzie Colson, who is playing like he is a candidate for Player of the Year.

Colson was named ACC Player of the Week after leading Notre Dame to a win over Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Colson put on a dominating performance in the paint scoring a career-best 24 points (12-12 from line) along with 17 boards.

If the game boils down to a foul-shooting contest, and in this slugfest it just might, the Irish will hold a distinct advantage. Notre Dame leads the country in foul-shooting efficiency and has two of the top free throw shooters in the nation in Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell.

It promises to be a great college environment on the court and along the sidelines – Mike Brey and Jay Wright have a history going back to their days when they coached at Delaware and Hofstra.

No. 1 at stake, both teams unbeaten, ACC versus Big East – what better way to spend a frigid December Saturday afternoon!

What pressure?

This was supposed to be the year that the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team was going to fall back into the pack. Losing three of the best players in NCAA history, who led the program to four-straight NCAA titles, and the pressure of an 83-game winning streak was going to lead to the Huskies downfall.

Well you can forget all about that as Geno Auriemma has his squad firmly anchored once again as the top team in the country.

UConn proved their right to the top spot with a convincing 72-61 over No. 2 Notre Dame on December 8 in South Bend.

Plain and simple the Huskies (8-0) know how to finish off games better than anyone else, particularly with poise in very hostile environments.

At this point coach Geno Auriemma has no super stars, like a Breanna Stewart or Maya Moore, but what he does have is an excellent starting five that has come together better and sooner than expected.

Depth is an issue for the Huskies and having a number of starters playing extended minutes could prove worrisome come March. But for now have some watching the Huskies – if you enjoy defense – they are playing some of the best team defense seen in recent memory.

Save the date

The Ivy League will host its first men’s and women’s postseason basketball tournaments on Saturday and Sunday March 11-12 at The Palestra in Philadelphia, Pa.

The top four teams in the regular season standings will earn berths in the tournament and play for a berth in the NCAA tournament.

The ESPN family of networks will broadcast all the games.

This ‘n that

Congratulations to Harvard University’s Tommy Amaker on win No. 179, making him the all-time winningest coach at Harvard. Amaker surpassed the previous mark of 177 set by Frank Sullivan.

Amaker, now in his tenth season at Harvard, has directed the Crimson to four NCAA appearances and five Ivy League championships.

Speaking of milestones, Princeton’s Pete Carril (1967-96) is the all-time winningest coach in Ivy League history with 310.

A shout out to coach Chris Mullin’s Red Storm (5-5) who buried Fordham last night, 90-62.

Beware … The Johnnies are going to cause some trouble when the Big East season rolls around!

 

Keep shooting…. see you next week….

Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in college hoop happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob

Bob Whitney

Bob Whitney

Bob is a college basketball columnist here at DoubleGSports.com. He also covers Yale football and the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA.
Bob Whitney
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