East Region NCAA Tournament Betting: #5 Vanderbilt vs. #12 Harvard

2012 NCAA Tournament
Round of 64 – East Region
Thursday, 3/15/12, 4:40 p.m. Eastern, TV: TNT
#5 Vanderbilt Commodores (24-10, 10-6 SEC) vs. #12 Harvard Crimson (26-4, 12-2 Ivy League)
University Arena – Albuquerque, NM
Opening Line: Vanderbilt -7
Current Line: Vanderbilt  -5
Opening Total: 123.5
Current Total: 123
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Vanderbilt vs. Harvard NCAA Tournament Betting Preview
John Jenkins gives the Commodores experience and scoring heading into the NCAA tournament.

The fifth-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores finally met expectations in the Southeastern Conference tournament, handing the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats only their second loss of the season in the championship game last Sunday, 71-64.  Now the Commodores (24-10, 10-6, SEC) will try to avoid a letdown as they prepare for their second-round East Region matchup with the 12th-seeded Harvard Crimson (26-4, 12-2 Ivy League) in the NCAA tournament on Thursday.

Vanderbilt (-5, O/U 123) headed into the 2011-12 season as a Top 10 team, ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll.  By December, the Commodores were out of the rankings following consecutive overtime losses to Xavier and Louisville.  A run of 10 wins in 11 games got Vandy back into the Top 25, but it took finally beating Kentucky for the first time in three meetings and winning the school’s second SEC tourney title to realize this team’s potential.

The Commodores are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games after going 3-5 ATS in their previous eight.  They played outstanding defense during their SEC tournament title run, limiting opponents to an average of less than 53 points in winning and covering all three games.  Led by junior guard John Jenkins (19.9 points per game) and senior forward Jeffery Taylor (16.4 ppg), Vanderbilt has two legit scoring threats who are both capable of making more than 40 percent of their shots from beyond 3-point range.

The only real concern for Vandy has been the team’s recent history in the Big Dance.  Losses in the opening game each of the last two years to No. 12 seed Richmond and No. 13 seed Murray State, respectively, have some experts wondering if the Commodores can overcome those past failures to make a serious run in this year’s NCAA tournament.

Meanwhile, Harvard is coming off its first-ever conference title by virtue of a one-game lead over second place Penn.  Last year, the Crimson lost a one-game playoff with Princeton for the Ivy championship along with the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.  However, they came back even stronger this year and are back in the Big Dance for the first time since 1946.

In addition to being tied to the added surprise success of alum and former player Jeremy Lin in the NBA this season, former Duke point guard and Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker has seen his current team win 14 of 16 straight-up.  But the Crimson have not fared well lately ATS, failing to cover eight of 11.

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