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Why Harvard will/will not upset Vanderbilt in NCAA tournament 03.13.12 at 9:13 pm ET
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Harvard is not your traditional Ivy League team. Forget about back-door cuts and stalling. This team wants to take on its opponents man-to-man, and let’s find out who has the better team.

That strategy worked in the Ivy League, as Harvard’s talented front line led the way to the school’s first-ever outright title.

Now, the Crimson (26-4) turn their attention to the NCAA tournament. A 12 seed, they have a date with fifth-seeded Vanderbilt (23-10) on Thursday in Albuquerque, N.M.

Can Harvard’s athletes compete with those from one of the top teams in a major conference? It worked once this season, with a win over Florida State in November. Let’s take a closer look at why Harvard will or will not be able to duplicate that feat in the NCAA tournament.


1. Look at Vanderbilt’s recent NCAA tournament results

Only one team suffered upsets as a single-digit seed in the first round three times in the past four years. That team: Vanderbilt. The Commodores were bounced by 12th-seeded Richmond last year, by 13th-seeded Murray State in 2010, and by 13th-seeded Siena (a 21-point rout) in 2008.

Vandy coach Kevin Stallings acknowledged that last year’s loss probably was affected by the loss the year before, as the tightness and nerves returned in the second half against Richmond. What do you think will happen if Harvard has a second-half lead? Of course the Commodores will start worrying about being upset victims for a third straight year — and how that will reflect on their coach.

‘€œI think all of us are in a place where we have our backs against the wall, especially us seniors,’€ swingman Jeffery Taylor told The Tennessean. ‘€œBut as far as coach feeling any pressure, I don’€™t think so. He shouldn’€™t feel any pressure.

‘€œThe two teams we lost to [in the last two NCAA tournaments] were two really good teams and both of them went down to the wire. And it just happened that the other team made a couple of more plays than we did. But I don’€™t think that falls on the coach. I think that falls on the players.’€

And it’s mainly the same players this year.

2. Forget past NCAA results, Vanderbilt has shown its vulnerability this season

Yes, the Commodores won the SEC tournament title Sunday, but Kentucky had already sewn up the top seed in the NCAA tournament and had little left to accomplish. What’s worth noting is that Vandy went 5-5 in its final 10 regular-season games, including losses to Mississippi State and Tennessee (neither of whom made the NCAA tournament). Earlier in the season, Vandy suffered nonconference losses to Cleveland State, Xavier and Indiana State — all at home.

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