The long wait is over. The Harvard Crimson are in the first NCAA tournament since the troops returned home from World War II (1946). The reward: a game against the team that just beat the #1 overall team in the country.
#5 New Mexico vs. #12 Long Beach State, 4:10 in Portland (TBS). Long Beach State played a tough schedule in the non-conference, playing competitively with Kansas and North Carolina on the road. The issues for Long Beach are they were probably under seeded, but now draw a good New Mexico team. Guard Larry Anderson is questionable with a knee injury, and is the team’s best three point shooter. They have plenty of bodies along the front line, but can any contain Drew Gordon of New Mexico. Coach Steve Alford’s team plays off Gordon to get their shooters open, and they are pretty good at hitting the open shots. They also rebound well with Gordon dominating the glass. Casper Ware of Long Beach, one of the funnest players to watch in this tournament, will have his hands full.
The Line: New Mexico by 4. The Pick: I really want to pick Long Beach. I like whoever wins this game to advance to the Sweet 16. I’m just not sure how the Anderson injury impacts them. New Mexico -4.
#5 Vanderbilt vs. #12 Harvard, 4:40 in Albuquerque (TNT). Vandy has been one of the hottest teams in the country, overcoming the early loss of Festus Ezeli. Now, they have interior players, and three shooters in Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins, and Brad Tinsley who have in the gym range. Harvard got a bad draw, so star player Kyle Casey will need to stay out of foul trouble and provide big minutes. Harvard has defended the three well all year, but Vandy is so balanced that if you overextend on the shooters, they are good enough to beat the Crimson inside.
The Line: Vanderbilt by 5.5 The Pick: Harvard is a solid underdog, but I think this Vanderbilt team is peaking and won’t be caught off guard in the first game of the tournament again. Vandy -5.5.
[photo via US Presswire]