CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Tommy Amaker sat down, and the bulk of the media in the room for the second annual Massachusetts media day converged at the table. We all wanted to hear what the Harvard coach would say about the recent academic scandal that forced his top two players to withdraw from school for the season.
Amaker couldn't say much, though, citing student privacy laws.
"I'm not allowed to comment," Amaker said.
The Crimson roster, which did not include the names Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, did most of the talking for him. Casey and Curry, who were set to be co-captains on the 2012-13 squad, will miss this season after being accused in the academic scandal that has hit nearly 125 students on the campus. Both are expected to return in 2013-14.
That means Amaker's team goes from the heavy Ivy League favorite to a team that will boast minimal depth and an excess of inexperience.
"We're excited about this season," Amaker said with a smile. "We have who we have, and we are who we are."
But let's face it: Amaker can't be happy. This was supposed to be Year 2 of Harvard's league dominance. The Crimson won the league last season and earned their first NCAA tournament berth since 1946. Despite losing Keith Wright and Oliver McNally this season, Harvard was a prohibitive favorite to repeat. And with the abundance of talent that Amaker has rolling into the program these days, it's difficult to imagine anyone competing with these guys for a while.
But that changed. At least for this season.
"It's not always 75 degrees and sunny out," Amaker said. "There are cloudy days, rainy days. There might be a storm. That's the real world we live in. But as long as we continue to teach, lead and serve, we feel good about where we are."
Senior Christian Webster and junior Laurent Rivard slide into Casey and Curry's roles as co-captains and leaders. Webster is capable -- as he showed two seasons ago when he averaged 13 points per game -- but his production dropped to 4.5 points a year ago. Rivard is a heck of a shooter who averaged double figures each of his first two years at Harvard, but now he'll need to do more than just shoot the ball. Amaker raved about sophomore Wesley Saunders, saying he was the best player on the overseas trip the team took this summer. However, Saunders still averaged 3.3 points as a freshman.
Siyani Chambers was slated to back up Curry this season. Instead, the 6-foot freshman from Minnesota will be the primary point guard -- no, make that the only point guard -- on the roster. There are other talented young guys -- like sophomores Steve Moundou-Missi and Kenyatta Smith in addition to freshman Jonah Travis. But this was supposed to be a special year for Amaker and the Crimson -- another special year. He could have gone elsewhere, for more money to a higher-profile league, but he stuck around. Amaker loves it in Boston. So, too, does his wife.
However, this was a tough blow losing your top two players not long before the start of the season. Take away anyone's top two returning players and it's difficult to imagine a league title within their grasp. Casey would have likely been the Preseason Player of the Year and Curry was the Crimson's most indispensable player, a floor leader and also a terrific defender.
Amaker is saying all the right things, how he might need to be more of a leader, how they aren't concerned with exterior expectations and how this will allow the young guys to grow and gets experience.
"We will get a chance to learn and see who we are and who we can become," Amaker said.
What Harvard is no longer, without Casey and Curry, is the Ivy League frontrunner and a team to be feared this season.