There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview another of the 5-12 matchups, this one between surprise SEC champion Vanderbilt and 12th-seeded Ivy League entrant Harvard.
Related: See Jerod’s analysis of all four 5-12 matchups, including his upset picks.
Vanderbilt-Harvard Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard in East Region
- Vanderbilt-Harvard Date: Thursday, March 15th
- Vanderbilt-Harvard Tip Time: 4:25 ET
- Vanderbilt-Harvard Location: Albuquerque
- Vanderbilt-Harvard TV: TNT
- Vanderbilt-Harvard Announcers: Spero Dedes and Bob Wenzel
- Vanderbilt-Harvard Point Spread: Vanderbilt -6.5
- Tickets: Vanderbilt-Harvard Tickets
- Tickets: All Albuquerque Sessions
- Tickets: East Regional Tickets in Boston
Vanderbilt-Harvard Analysis and Prediction
There will most certainly be at least one 5-12 upset this year, but I just don’t think this will be one of them.
The Commodores come in with confidence after beating Kentucky, and John Jenkins should be able to take advantage of suspect three-point defense from the Crimson.
One of Harvard’s strengths on offense is its ability to get to the stripe, but Vanderbilt has one of the lowest opponents’ free throw rates in the country, which should help them come away with the win.
In closing, feel free to add your own academic-related humor based on these two institutions of higher learning.
Predicted Winner: Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt Commodores Team Capsule
- Conference: SEC
- Record: 24-10 (10-6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 7-3
- Record vs. Tournament Teams:
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama, Davidson, Florida, Kentucky, Marquette, North Carolina State
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Florida, Kentucky (2), Louisville, Xavier
- Player to Watch: John Jenkins (6’4” G, Jr.) – 19.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 44.8 3P%
Vanderbilt Bottoms Line:
Sunday’s win over Kentucky was arguably the biggest of the Kevin Stallings era at Vanderbilt, and the Commodores are now being touted as a sleeper Final Four pick based on a number of the predictions I’ve seen so far. While they are certainly playing better of late, this is still a team that has not tasted post-season success in recent years. That being said, they are a tough matchup for opposing defense.
Led by sharpshooter John Jenkins, the Commodores can light it up from beyond the arc and rank 15th in effective field goal percentage. They also do a decent job of getting to the free throw line, but they are in the middle of the pack in turnover rate and offensive rebounding percentage. On defense, Vandy keeps its opponents off the foul line and limits three-pointers, but there are some question marks in other areas.
Five players do the bulk of the scoring for the Commodores, with John Jenkins leading the way with nearly 20 points per game. Jeffery Taylor is a tough matchup based on his versatility, and he’s had a strong senior season. He’s hitting over 43 percent from long range and can defend multiple positions. Big man Festus Ezeli has been limited because of injury, but he gives the team a strong presence in the low post. He has impressive rebounding percentages on both ends and has posted an outstanding 80.1 free throw rate. At the point, Brad Tinsley has a high assist rate and also shoots 40 percent from deep.
Defense and depth are concerns as the Commodores set out to shed the label of tournament underachievers, but their confidence will never be higher after upsetting the Wildcats on Sunday.
Harvard Crimson Team Capsule
- Conference: Ivy
- Record: 26-4 (12-2 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 2-1
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Florida State, Vermont
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Connecticut
- Player to Watch: Keith Wright (6’8″ F, Sr.) – 10.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 59.4 FG%
Harvard Crimson Bottoms Line:
Thanks to a season-ending win by Princeton over Penn, the Crimson avoided a one-game playoff and earned their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1946. Tommy Amaker’s squad has a number of juniors and seniors, and nine players average over 11 minutes.
The frontcourt duo of Keith Wright and Kyle Casey is the strength of the team offensively. Both also have gaudy defensive rebounding percentages and are effective shot-blockers. Junior point guard Brandyn Curry boasts an outstanding 35.3 assist rate and does a nice job running the show. Laurent Rivard gives the Crimson a solid three-point threat at 39.0 percent from long range, but the team is also in the Top 30 in two-point shooting.
Harvard has posted a strong free throw rate as well, which is good news for a team that makes 75.0 percent from the stripe. Defensively, they rank in the Top 30 in effective field goal percentage defense, defensive rebounding, and opponents’ free throw rate, although some might be quick to cite their competition for some of those impressive stats. Still, this team has talent, and if they can effectively slow the pace of the game, Harvard could make some noise.
Related: Jump to our West Region Bracket Breakdown.
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama