Harvard’s best player, Bryce Aiken, is injured (nothing specific — the school says it’s just minor and he is day to day), but coach Tommy Amaker reacted with an unusual lineup choice against Boston University on Thursday. He started four players — Chris Egi, Andre Chatfield, Zach Yoshor, and Robbie Feinberg — who hadn’t played all season.
Weisner Perez joined them in the lineup and played well. The normal starters ended up playing more minutes than the first-time starters, and the Crimson beat BU, 74-63.
A Harvard spokesman said the lineup change was to reward some players who had excelled in practice.
Against George Washington Saturday, Amaker did it again, but the foursome only played two minutes before the usual starters returned. The Crimson lost in Washington, 58-48, mostly because of an awful shooting night (16 for 57).
It’s been a strange year for Harvard and right now they don’t look like a solid contender in the Ivy League. If Aiken returns at full strength, things could change, but obviously things are not going smoothly.
More oddities: Texas A&M suspended three players, D.J. Hogg, J.J. Caldwell, and T.J. Starks, last week. Hogg is the Aggies’ leading scorer. It’s the second suspension for both Caldwell and Starks. No specific reasons were given by coach Billy Kennedy, but he better get things under control before a potentially great season goes bad. And he should just tell the truth about why the players were suspended.
Predictable praise from me: For Oregon State for playing a nonconference game at Kent State. It didn’t work out well — the Beavers lost, 79-78 — but it would be a better college basketball world if more of these types of games occurred. It was the first time since 1978 that a Power 5 school played at Kent. ‘‘This is the only Power Five school I think is coming to a school in our conference,’’ said coach Rob Senderoff said. ‘‘I’ve got to give coach [Wayne] Tinkle credit. I call 50 schools a year to try to get somebody to do this (two games for one home game). They’re the only people who were willing.’’
Predictable complaint from me: Another tradition seems to have gone away. The coaches at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu are no longer wearing Hawaiian shirts in school colors. Most were wearing plain polo shirts with the school logo on it. They could wear those anywhere.
Trae Young update: Readers, you need to go out of your way to see the most entertaining player in the nation. He had 31 points and 12 assists as Oklahoma routed Northwestern, 104-78, Friday. That comes on the heels of tying the NCAA record for assists in a game with 22. He leads the nation in scoring and rebounding.
A look back at the last week in college basketball:
Elevator going up:
Arizona: “IT IS ALIVE.’’ The Wildcats’ three-game losing streak in the Bahamas is almost forgotten. They’ve won seven straight since then. ‘‘Our defense seems to have turned a corner,’’ coach Sean Miller said after a victory over UConn. ‘‘Not just tonight, but the last few games.’’
Ball State: The victory at Notre Dame might have been less fluky than I thought since the Cardinals have won seven in a row. They are 8-4 and all of the losses are excusable: All on the road — at Dayton, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Bucknell. Another contender in the MAC.
Georgia State: Sully’s Court favorite Ron Hunter has another good team and this time it’s not because of his son (former Celtic R.J. Hunter). The Panthers had a surprising win at UMass last Wednesday and then followed that up by beating Chattanooga to reach 9-4, tied for the best nonconference record in school history. They’ve won six of their last eight, and the two losses came in overtime.
Portland State: The Vikings acquitted themselves pretty well at the PK80 tournament over Thanksgiving and they’ve continued to do so. They are 10-3 and had never won 10 games before Christmas. They’ll be in the thick of the Big Sky race.
Saint Bonaventure: The Bonnies are back on the elevator after getting their first-ever win at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome. They also have a seven-game winning streak. Bona had lost 14 straight games to Syracuse. Their previous win in the series came on Jan. 26, 1981.
Escalator going down:
Bryant: Tim O’Shea, former BC assistant, needs to get things turned around. The Bulldogs have lost eight straight.
Georgia Tech: The Jackets have already had a season’s worth of bad losses, losing home games to Grambling and Wright State (the most recent) and a road game to Wofford.
Holy Cross: The Crusaders have lost eight of their last nine. I don’t think things are going to get better in the Patriot League.
Indiana: Another crushing home loss for Archie Miller in his first season as the Hoosiers got trounced by Fort Wayne. It will get better at some point, just not soon.
UNC Wilmington: Kevin Keatts left for N.C. State just in time. His former team is 2-9 after losing to Howard (3-12).
Penn State: The Nits seemed to be on the verge of something good and then they turned around and lost at home to Rider.
Rutgers: The Knights were riding high after upsetting Seton Hall and then turned around lost a home game to Stony Brook.
This week’s Final Four: Villanova, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Arizona State. I had to drop North Carolina out after a home loss to Wofford. Arizona State continues to exceed expectations by a large margin.
This week’s national champion: VillanovaJoe Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org