The Crimson will have to dust off its dancing shoes — this week, Harvard will be dancing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1946.
Harvard (26-4, 12-2 Ivy) is the no. 12 seed in the East Region of the tournament bracket and will face the no. 5 seed Vanderbilt Commodores (24-10, 10-6 Southeastern Conference) in the second round.
Both the Cantabs and the Commodores did not have to sweat out Selection Sunday waiting for an at-large bid to the tournament, as both teams received their conferences’ automatic bids. Vanderbilt ran the table in the SEC conference tournament to punch its ticket, toppling no. 1 Kentucky (32-2, 16-0 SEC) in the final 71-64 in New Orleans earlier today. Harvard earned the Ancient Eight bid by winning the school’s first outright Ivy League regular season crown.
The Commodores will be looking to cut down the nets in New Orleans for a second time this season, but their road to the Final Four in April will have to go through a stingy Crimson defense that ranks fourth in Division I allowing only 54.8 points per game.
If Harvard can survive against a Vanderbilt team that was ranked no. 7 in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls in Albuquerque, then the Crimson will face the winner of the match-up between no. 4 seed and no. 13-ranked Wisconsin (24-9, 12-6 Big Ten) and no. 13 seed Montana (25-6, 15-1 Big Sky) on March 17.
Two wins in the Big Dance and the Crimson would become the de facto home team, as Boston will host the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds of the tournament for the East region.
On the ESPN program “Bracketology” that followed the release of the tournament bracket, the panel of experts discussed Harvard’s chances in the tournament.
Former Duke baller and college basketball guru Jay Bilas asserted that the Crimson are a threat to Vanderbilt — particularly with their ability to slow the game down on defense — but he and the other panelists also focused on the game as a showdown of some of two of the premier institutes of higher learning.
“At Vanderbilt they call Harvard the Vanderbilt of the northeast,” Bilas joked.
The Crimson will tip off against the Commodores on March 15.