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Harvard to face Vanderbilt in NCAA Tournament

Posted by Leonard Neslin  March 11, 2012 06:30 PM

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By Lenny Neslin, Globe Correspondent

The Harvard men's basketball team earned the No. 12 seed in the East region and will face No. 5 Vanderbilt University in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will be played in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday. This will be Harvard's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1946.

With head coach Tommy Amaker at the helm, Harvard (26-4, 12-2 Ivy) earned its second consecutive Ivy League crown, its first outright. Amaker reacted to the team's bid to the Big Dance in a press conference this evening.

"Obviously a big day for us," said Amaker. "It's an incredibly exciting day and an incredibly exciting moment. It was so neat to see these guys jump for joy when our name was brought up in the broadcast in one of the brackets. We’re thrilled to represent our conference, our university and, certainly, our program, and we’ll do the best we can."

Amaker said he had "no thoughts" on the seeding.

"I don’t get wrapped up in that and try to figure that out," he said. "These guys are familiar with figuring out the information on Bracketology with [Joe] Lunardi; our staff does that at times. But we were just excited to have our name called. And Vanderbilt, with what they’ve done today, beating Kentucky in the finals of the SEC tournament, obviously we know how tremendous of a ball club they have and have been."

The Commodores (24-10, 10-6 SEC) defeated the tournament's No. 1 overall seed Kentucky today to claim the Southeast Conference tournament title. Junior guard John Jenkins leads Vanderbilt in scoring per game (20.0) and netted 17 against Kentucky.

"I know they’re a veteran basketball club," said Amaker. "With a number of seniors and certainly within the Southeastern Conference, you know how talented and good that ball club is the way they’ve played in the past."

Harvard junior forward Kyle Casey, who received All-Ivy League first team honors, leads the Crimson with 11.3 points per game.

"You know, it was just hard work paying off and to be able to celebrate with these group of guys, we’ve been through so many things, ups and downs during this season, so to be able to celebrate and see our names up there on the screen is priceless," senior co-captain Keith Wright said. "You can’t really explain it. There aren’t any words to describe the feeling that I have."

Senior co-captain Oliver McNally commented on the four-year journey to the Dance.

"The whole day was pretty special for me, especially getting there and sitting there and seeing how many people took the time to be there when our name was called," he said. "Again, it’s something we’ve talked about, and it’s something I’ve talked about a lot with the media in the last week or so, it’s just the transition of this program and where we came from a few years ago when I got here – the year before when Coach [Amaker] got here and to where we are right now, it’s probably the best part of everything to me."

The winner of Harvard vs. Vanderbilt will face the winner of No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Montana.

No. 1 Syracuse, No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Florida State are the heavyweights in the East.

UConn and Vermont were the other New England teams to earn a bid to the round of 68, as No. 9 UConn will face No. 8 Iowa State in the South region, and Vermont will play Lamar University in one of The First Four games. The winner will earn a No. 16 seed and play No. 1 North Carolina in the Midwest region.

Globe reporter Michael Vega contributed reporting in this article.

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