In their first-ever game as a ranked team, the Harvard Crimson drew the task of playing the Connecticut Huskies at Gampel Pavilion, a building in which the Huskies have been near unbeatable for non-conference opponents. UConn had won 36 straight non-conference games at Gampel, and under Jim Calhoun the Huskies were 115-4 against New England non-conference opponents. Feel free to add another win to those marks, as the Huskies proved to be too much for Harvard in their 67-53 win.
The schedule for Thursday is light in terms of the number of games, but there's an excellent matchup between ranked teams in Storrs to keep an eye on. #9 Connecticut (7-1) hosts #24 Harvard (8-0) with Tommy Amaker's team looking to remain undefeated and retain the program's first Top 25 ranking in school history for another week. An interesting fact regarding this contest is that they could have played in the Battle 4 Atlantis over the Thanksgiving holiday, but UConn's loss to UCF prevented that and Harvard went on to win the tournament.
Just one day after a Top 5 team (Connecticut) suffered its first loss of the season, the nation's top-ranked team fell in the title game of the Las Vegas Invitational. North Carolina (5-1) fell 90-80 to UNLV (7-0) in a game that featured two standout performances from forwards...and neither played for the team with the frontcourt that many judged to be the nation's best. Mike Moser scored 16 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out six assists while Chace Stanback scored a game-high 28 to go along with ten caroms to help first-year head coach remain undefeated at his alma mater.
Prevailing wisdom had Florida State and Connecticut playing on Saturday in the title game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Well, they'll be playing on Saturday...but with third place on the line as both lost their semifinal games in disappointing fashion. The Huskies looked to be in good shape as they held a 50-33 lead on UCF early in the second half, despite a lackluster shooting performance from Jeremy Lamb. But it was almost as if UConn turned off their "power source", and the Knights took full advantage.
The championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational provides undefeated UNLV (6-0) with not only a great opportunity but also a great measuring stick, as they take on #1 North Carolina (5-0) at the Orleans Arena. The Rebels fought off a USC team that may not be long on talent but they do make you earn everything, and UNC wasn't challenged much by South Carolina in the nightcap. Whether or not Dave Rice's team can beat the Tar Heels likely depends on the play of their most recent UCLA transfer, forward Mike Moser (15.0 ppg, 13.0 rpg, 3.2 spg).
While people didn't necessarily give up on Santa Clara when it came to discussing who could win the West Coast Conference, there weren't a lot of outside believers in Kerry Keating's team once forward Marc Trasolini was lost for the season in the summer due to a knee injury. And there were even fewer folks left in the aftermath of their 89-56 loss at UCSB just over a week ago. But if their 79-76 overtime win over New Mexico in a 76 Classic quarterfinal showed anything it's that Santa Clara remains capable of being a factor in the WCC race.
Tommy Amaker's Harvard Crimson came into this season loaded, with all five starters and many of their key reserves back looking get to the NCAA Tournament. After blowing out Utah on Thursday night the Crimson will take on a far stiffer challenge on Friday afternoon, as Florida State is one of the best half-court defensive teams in the country. This will offer an interesting contrast, as Harvard is one of the better teams in the country when it comes to points per possession.