NCAA Tournament Pick Against the Spread – Harvard vs. Vanderbilt

#12 Harvard Crimson vs. #5 Vanderbilt Commodores -5

Oh what a difference a few weeks make… in the middle of February, you’d have been hard pressed to find many people still willing to put up with the disappointing and occasionally disinterested Vanderbilt Commodores.  Then, they storm through the SEC Tournament, knock off mighty Kentucky in the Final, get an unbelievable break in Syracuse (the #1 seed in their region) losing their leading rebounder and shot blocker 48 hours before the start of the tourney, and now everyone is talking about the ‘Dores in the Final Four.

I’m not saying I disagree with you (as a matter of fact, read my regional previews and you’ll see I picked Vandy BEFORE Fab Melo’s suspension – I obviously like ‘em even more now), but let’s deal with first things first.  Before anyone starts cutting down the nets, Vandy needs to get past a Harvard squad that has already knocked off Florida State this season on a neutral floor.

Harvard, the champs of the Ivy, flirted with potentially becoming the first at-large Ivy League team EVER, before eliminating the need for history by winning the Ivy League’s regular season title and automatic berth in the final game of the season.  Tommy Amaker’s club was ranked for a large part of the season (albeit inappropriately) and finished with a sparkling 26-4 record, but upon closer inspection of their final four weeks, you’ll find a team not playing its best basketball.  They went just 5-2 down the stretch with losses to Princeton and Penn, however it is really their wins that concern me.  Harvard beat Princeton by three at home, a lousy Cornell team by just four and needed overtime to beat Colombia.  Does this seem like a team that can touch the scorching Commodores right now?

Vanderbilt has one of the most talented starting lineups in the country, and as long as they can stay out of foul trouble that could expose some depth issues, they can play with any team in the country.  John Jenkins is the most lethal shooter in the nation and his game reminds me a ton of a collegiate Richard Hamilton.  He has a lightning quick release and an uncanny knack for springing himself open.  Perhaps JJ Reddick might be an even more apt comparison.  Either way, no matter how much attention is shaded Jenkins’ way, he still manages to find just enough room to squeeze off lethal three-point daggers.  He has hit at least three three-point field goals in each of this last nine games.

Add the interior size and defense of Festus Ezili and the athleticism, shooting and slashing of Jeffrey Taylor and I don’t see anyway Harvard can slow them down or even hang with them.  Harvard will try to slow it down, but Vandy is a fantastic half court team with size and lethal shooters.  If they try to speed it up, Vandy runs them off the court.  Pick your poison.

Either way, it’s going to be a tough afternoon for the Crimson.  I like Vanderbilt to win and to cover relatively easily.

Free Pick:  Vanderbilt Commodores -5

Chris Scheeren / Author