With just two months until tip off, Ivy League powerhouse Harvard finds itself scrambling to recover from the news that their captain Siyani Chambers sustained a torn ACL during summer workouts and will be lost for the season. Unlike other conferences, there are no scholarships in the Ivy League, so Chambers is not eligible to take a redshirt season. He will reportedly voluntarily withdraw from Harvard for the school year, in order to return for the 2016-17 season and maintain his eligibility.
After spending decades as one of the least competitive programs in the Ivy League, Harvard has reinvigorated its program and established itself as the team to beat. The Crimson are the winners of the past 5 Ivy League titles and have played in the past 4 NCAA tournaments, coming within 2 points of defeating UNC in their appearance last season. The Crimson were lead by then senior Wesley Saunders and Chambers, and Chambers was projected by many to be Harvard’s best hope in continuing its reign at the top of the Ivy League.
As a freshman, Chambers was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and he has posted a career average of 11.1 points along with 4.8 assists, and perhaps more significantly, 35.5 minutes per game. The loss of Chambers means that Harvard will now have only 2 returning starters, making this team one of the most inexperienced rosters head coach Tommy Amaker will head since assuming the role in 2007. The injury to Chambers also thrusts an inexperienced Harvard backcourt in to the spotlight, as there is no obvious heir apparent.
The Crimson are in need of a facilitator, and on a team suddenly lacking experience, they may look to lean more heavily on junior back up guard Corbin Miller, who averaged 8.2 points, but less than 1 assist last season. Sophomore guard Andre Chatfield is another option, although the Crimson run in to the same scenario of Chatfield’s past as a shooter and not a distributor. The injury to Chambers leaves room for players looking to establish themselves as contributors to carve out a role for themselves. Backup guards Matt Fraschilla and Alex Nesbitt, who is returning from injury, have both been used minimally and will undoubtedly be looking to assert themselves.
The biggest bright spot for Harvard is its incoming recruiting class, which has plenty of potential impact players. To start is 3-star recruit, 6’0 guard Tommy McCarthy, who may be expected to contribute more quickly than originally anticipated with the loss of Chambers. McCarthy has drawn parallels to Chambers because of their small size, shooting ability and natural leadership qualities. McCarthy has been billed as a confident player who is unafraid to take big shots. Along with him, Balsa Dragovic could also provide a boost upfront, but McCarthy is clearly the guy who could fill their current needs from Chambers' injury the best.
There's no doubt that Harvard will have a challenge trying to overcome the loss of Chambers, but if they can tap into some of their other key returners and newcomers, they have a chance to continue their recent success. It's unfortunate to see Chambers go down with injury, but it's certainly not the end of the run for Harvard just yet.