Boston Colleges: College Basketball

Amaker announces he's staying at Harvard

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
Though he hinted that it wasn't exactly a fait accompli, Tommy Amaker will be staying in Cambridge.

"After thoughtful deliberation, I continue to realize my heart is at Harvard," Amaker said in a statement released by the school Saturday. "To teach, lead and serve at this amazing institution, and in this special community, is truly meaningful to me."

Amaker's name had been floated in connection with other high-profile openings, including one across town at Boston College.

Because he has an ACC pedigree (playing for and coaching with Mike Krzyzewski at Duke), experience at high-major institutions (at Seton Hall and Michigan) and a record of success on the court and on the recruiting trail, and because he wouldn't even have to move in order to take the BC job, Amaker was a logical candidate for the Eagles.

But in the end, Amaker decided to stay with the Crimson -- the team he has led to six straight wins over BC.

Harvard athletic director Bob Scalise praised Amaker as "a great leader, a great coach and a great educator."

"He is an inspiration to many in the Harvard community," Scalise said in the statement. "We are excited he will continue to lead our men's basketball program."

In seven seasons as the Crimson coach, Amaker has overseen a transformation from perennial Ivy League also-ran to powerhouse. The Crimson have won four straight Ivy titles, including a share of the title in 2010-11 and outright titles the past three seasons, and played in the NCAA tournament in three straight seasons.

After they upset No. 5 seed Cincinnati in a second-round matchup this season, the Crimson have won NCAA tournament games in back-to-back seasons. Prior to those wins, Harvard had never won an NCAA tournament game.

Amaker is 139-71 overall at Harvard, including a 67-31 mark in Ivy play, and has led his team to 20-plus victories in five straight seasons -- the first Ivy team to do so since Penn had a run of six consecutive seasons with 20 or more wins from 1970 to 1975.

Though the Crimson lose key veterans Kyle Casey, Brandyn Curry and Laurent Rivard to graduation this season, Amaker returns a strong core for 2014-15.

Point guard Siyani Chambers, star guard Wesley Saunders (Ivy Player of the Year in 2013-14) and big man Steve Moundou-Missi will all be back, meaning three-fifths of the starting five will remain in place as Amaker & Co. chase a fifth straight Ivy League crown.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Championship Week preview

March, 9, 2014
Mar 9
It's Championship Week in college hoops, with conference tournaments either underway already or just about to start, which means bragging rights and automatic NCAA berths are on the line.

Here's where the seven Division I schools that call Massachusetts home stand heading into the postseason:

Team: Boston College (8-23, 4-13 ACC)
Tournament dates: Wednesday-Friday, Greensboro, N.C.
The skinny: The Eagles finished a disappointing 2013-14 season with a 78-68 loss at NC State on Sunday and will have a couple of days to rest up and prepare for the ACC tournament. Steve Donahue's team has been maddeningly inconsistent this season, alternating stretches of disciplined, dangerous play with haphazard, harmless play. But if BC is on from long range, it has proven it can beat more talented teams (ahem, Syracuse).

The Eagles will face Georgia Tech (15-16, 6-12) in the first round on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET). The Yellow Jackets swept the Eagles in two games this season.

Team: Boston University (24-9, 15-3 Patriot League)
Tournament dates: March 3-12, various (higher seed hosts)
The skinny: The Terriers were a unanimous pick to finish first in the Patriot League in their inaugural season in it. So far, they've proven that prescient. Joe Jones' crew won the regular-season title, finishing two games ahead of second-place American (19-12, 13-5), and cruised through the first two rounds of the Patriot tournament.

Now it comes down to a winner-take-all, No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup when American visits BU for the championship game at Agganis Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. CBSSN).

Team: Harvard (26-4, 13-1 Ivy League)
Tournament dates: NA
The skinny: Though dyed-in-the-wool fans of the Ancient Eight will maintain that the Ivy is a 14-game tournament, if given truth serum even the hardest-dying of die-hards would admit that they wish their favorite teams weren't sitting at home while all across the country other teams play for a postseason berth. By virtue of its at times dominant regular season, Harvard became the first team to punch a ticket for the NCAA tournament when it beat Yale this past Friday night.

The Crimson set program records for most Ivy wins overall (13) and Ivy road wins (7) and matched the program record for wins in a season (26). Tommy Amaker & Co. can now rest, recuperate and prepare for postseason play as they wait to see who and where they'll play.

Team: Holy Cross (19-13, 12-6 Patriot League)
Tournament dates: March 3-12, various (higher seed hosts)
The skinny: The Crusaders quietly had a quality season, finishing third in the Patriot League behind senior Dave Dudzinski (averaged a career-high 15.4 points per game) and junior Malcolm Miller (10.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG). Five of Holy Cross' six conference losses came against the two finalists for the league crown, American and BU. The last loss will hurt the most, though, as the Crusaders held a second-half lead on the Eagles in the Patriot semifinals but couldn't put the game away for a shot at the Terriers in the final.

Team: Northeastern (11-21, 7-9 Colonial Athletic Association)
Tournament dates: March 7-10, Baltimore, Md.
The skinny: After a surprise run to the first CAA regular-season title in program history in 2012-13, Bill Coen knew this season's edition of the Huskies would face a tall task: replacing senior stalwarts Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith. It's safe to say that Northeastern was unable to do so without missing a beat. Though junior forward Scott Eatherton was a beast all season long, finishing second in the country with 18 double-doubles in 30 games (ahead of such luminaries as Julius Randle and Jabari Parker), he couldn't do it alone.

That said, the 5-seed Huskies were able to knock off 4-seed Drexel in the CAA quarterfinals before falling to 1-seed Delaware in the semifinals on Sunday.

Team: UMass (23-7, 10-6 Atlantic 10)
Tournament dates: Wednesday-Saturday, Brooklyn, N.Y.
The skinny: The Minutemen dropped their season finale at home to No. 17 Saint Louis, coming down to the wire and, despite a last-second heave that had a chance, falling just short 64-62. But coach Derek Kellogg and a deep team led by point guard Chaz Williams (7.1 assists per game, third in the country) had UMass in the Top 25 for the first time in a long time this season, and the Minutemen finished the regular season ranked 12th in RPI. A win or two in the A-10 tourney would certainly help with seeding, but the Minutemen should be dancing regardless.

Team: UMass-Lowell (10-18, 8-8 America East)
Tournament dates: March 8-15, Albany, N.Y.
The skinny: After starting the season 0-7 and 1-11 in their first season in Division I, the River Hawks found their stride (helped by the unexpected return of Antonio Bivins) and went 9-7 the rest of the way to finish fifth in America East. As part of their transition the River Hawks are ineligible for postseason play until 2017-18, so they'll be watching like everyone else as teams such as Stony Brook and Vermont battle it out for a Big Dance invite.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

Five things: Connecticut-Boston College

November, 21, 2013

Here are five quick thoughts from No. 18 Connecticut’s 72-70 win over Boston College on Thursday evening at Madison Square Garden:

X factor: When people talk about UConn, they usually start with the talented backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. But DeAndre Daniels is the player who can turn this team from good into great.

The 6-foot-9, 195-pound junior scored just 19 points in the Huskies’ first three games, including a goose egg against Yale. But in the team’s past two games, he’s exploded for 24 against Boston University and 23 versus Boston College.

Daniels is a matchup nightmare -- he can shoot the 3 or take it to the rim and has some crafty moves in the paint. If he turns into a reliable offensive threat, watch out.

The other end: Napier and Boatright didn’t have great games offensively. Napier did score 20 but shot just 6-for-17 from the field with only two assists; Boatright scored nine. But they did an excellent job on defense, blanketing Boston College star guard Olivier Hanlan.

Hanlan, last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year, came in averaging 24.5 points per game and went off for 38 in BC’s last game, a win over Florida Atlantic. But Napier and Boatright shadowed Hanlan everywhere he went Thursday night.

Hanlan still managed to score 19 points, but he had to work awfully hard to get them.

Contenders: We’re only five games into the season, but we’ve seen enough to say this Connecticut team is capable of making a run to the Final Four.

Four different players are capable of scoring 20-plus on any given night -- sophomore guard Omar Calhoun has that potential, too. They have capable, if somewhat raw, bigs. And they have experience, despite being ineligible for the postseason last year.

Speaking of Hanlan: Yes, he finished under his scoring average. But he was impressive nonetheless.

The best part about Hanlan’s night was he didn’t force the issue. Most big-time scorers would feel the need to hoist up shots regardless of the defense. Hanlan played under control (5-for-14 from the field, 7-for-8 from the foul line), scoring when he could and trying to create for teammates when he couldn’t.

Many teams BC will face this season won’t have guards as quick as Napier and Boatright. Hanlan will have plenty of big games.

Eagles forecast: Boston College did a very nice job hanging around against a more talented opponent. The Eagles could have wilted twice -- when they fell behind by 11 in the first half and when they again fell behind by 11 in the second half. But they bounced back both times to remain within striking distance.

They even had a 3-point shot attempt from near midcourt at the final buzzer that would have won the game, but Boatright blocked Lonnie Jackson’s attempt.

On a hot shooting night, Boston College could beat just about any team in the country. But the Eagles shot just 8-for-25 from beyond the arc Thursday night. That wasn’t quite good enough to take out UConn.