Michigan State up against ‘Ivy’ foe

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – It’s more than a figure of speech to say Harvard’s last trip to this stage of the NCAA tournament felt like an elbow to the face – especially if that face belongs to Siyani Chambers.

Early in the second half against Arizona, the Harvard guard took a wicked elbow to the mouth from Kevin Parrom of the Wildcats. Part of Chambers’ front tooth chipped off, and one of his teammates fished the fragment off the floor and handed it to him.

“The tooth hurt for a little bit,” said Chambers, who went to the dentist shortly after to have the incisor repaired. “The loss to Arizona, it hurt a lot more and it hurt for a lot longer time.”

A year after taking a 23-point thumping at the hands of the Wildcats, the Crimson (27-4) are back in the third round. They bring with them all those warm-and-fuzzy Ivy League hopes and dreams, but this year, those are tempered by the fact that Harvard basketball is no longer such a novelty.

Also, their opponent tonight (7:40 p.m. Central time), TNT) might be even better than last year’s. It’s Michigan State (27-8) – a No. 4 seed that’s been looking and acting much better than that since the calendar flipped to March.

Coach Tom Izzo, who has been watching the Harvards and Mercers and Daytons and North Dakota States turn in a steady diet of wins for the double-digit seeds, is the last man to get excited about playing this 12 seed.

“I was hoping for a forfeit, if I was to tell you the honest-to-God truth,” he said.

No such luck, though he’s got a pretty good group to take into this game.

Adreian Payne is coming off a career 41-point day in a 93-78 win over Delaware. If he can’t repeat, Izzo’s got three other double-digit scorers, all of whom are back to full health at the same time for the first time all season.

“Whether it’s us or anybody else, you just have to be better that day, and maybe a team doesn’t play as well as they’re capable of playing that day,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said, when asked about the so-called upsets his team has pulled off in two straight tournaments.

On Thursday, Harvard beat Cincinnati 61-57 in a result that surprised almost nobody.