At Harvard’s first Selection Sunday, the Crimson found out that it would be the No. 12 seed in the East region. Its ranking met the low end of most bracket projections, leading some observers to feel that Harvard was underseeded. Personally, twelve is just a number. Far more compelling than the Committee’s opinion of the Crimson’s bona fides is the road that they have laid out for the Cantabs.
First up is Vanderbilt. Fresh off a win over No. 1 Kentucky, the SEC champions enter the opening round on a tear. The Commodores have a triumvirate of NBA prospects
in junior guard John Jenkins, senior forward Jeffery Taylor, and senior center Festus Ezeli. The trio averages 20.0, 16.3,
and 9.7 points per game respectively, with Jenkins and Taylor shooting better than 43.0 percent from three and 54.0 percent from two.
Vanderbilt is a tough matchup for Harvard. The Commodores are well balanced (allowing just .924 points per possession on defense while racking up 1.151 points per possession on the other end), battle-tested, and athletic. But Vanderbilt does shoot a lot of threes (almost 42 percent of its attempts), and if Harvard can play at its preferred pace and force an off-shooting night, the Crimson stands a chance of the ubiquitous 5-12 upset.
If Harvard survives the opening round, it will likely have a date with No. 4 seed Wisconsin. This game would be an eyesore. Both teams like to slow it down and d-up. The problem for the Crimson is that the Badgers are slightly better on both ends of the floor. Still, Wisconsin does not have to personnel to overwhelm Harvard athletically, and the slow pace alone should make for a competitive game. If the Crimson can somehow manage to upset the Badgers, like Cornell in 2010 it will have a Sweet Sixteen homecoming (at the Garden likely against No. 1 Syracuse).
Things could definitely be worse for Harvard. Both games are potentially winnable contests against perennial March underperformers. The location, however, could not be worse. Albuquerque is the least accessible/fun destination for the opening weekend. The only upside is that the location equally affects all four of the teams in the East region (Montana is the No. 13 seed). At least the Crimson stands a chance of becoming the sentimental favorite among non-allied fans.
In any event, the brackets are out, and for the first time I can pencil Harvard as national champions. March Madness has arrived.