Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thoughts and notes from Albuquerque - March 14th

by Scott Reed
WHRB Sports

Here are some notes and thoughts following a day of press conferences and open practices here at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

-Harvard is here to win. The players seem very focused. Senior Co-captain Oliver McNally had this quote: "we're not just happy to be here and win our first solo Ivy title and just throw in the towel. We're here to win, and that's what we're we're expecting to do."

-Vanderbilt is very, very good - they just beat #1 overall seed Kentucky for the SEC title, after all- and seems intent on not being upset in the first round again. They are likely the strongest of the 5-seeds in the 2012 tournament. The others? Wichita State, Temple, and New Mexico. John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor on the offensive end will be difficult to stop.

-The size and power of the Commodore front court is an advantage for Vanderbilt. Taylor stands at 6-7 and averages sixteen points and six rebounds a game. Together with six-foot-eleven Festus Ezeli, he represent sa match-up issue for Harvard interior players Keith Wright and Kyle Casey.

-The homecoming of Taylor, who graduated from nearby Hobbs High School, is a big story for the local media here in Albuquerque. Around half of all questions directed to the Vanderbilt players this afternoon dealt with Taylor's return.

-The altitude may play a factor tomorrow. During the open practice today, Harvard players were visibly straining to get through the workout. The Crimson seemed like they still had to acclimate to the altitude, which at Albuquerque is about 5,300 feet above sea level. Vanderbilt, course, will face the same issue. It was difficult to see whether the Commodores were affected today, as their open practice was more of an informal shootaround.

-The games may not sell out -there are reportedly a few thousand tickets available for the games tomorrow and Saturday. That both New Mexico State and New Mexico play tomorrow in Portland at the same time would be a contributing factor - not that it matters to the Crimson of course, appearing in their first NCAA tournament since 1946.

-Baylor, who is competing in the South Regional here in Albuquerque, seems very athletic in person. Vanderbilt and especially Wisconsin, whom the Crimson could face in the Round of 32, are better draws for Harvard athletically.

-Colorado, also in the South Regional, is fighting for some respect, for themselves and the much-maligned Pac-12. Buffalo coach Tad Boyle: "We've got work to do though on a national scale in terms of respectability. We've got an opportunity tomorrow night to start on that journey." Colorado plays UNLV in the opening round.

-Tomorrow will be exciting. Tune in to 95.3FM in the Boston area to hear WHRB's coverage of Harvard-Vanderbilt. The game will tip at 4:40 eastern, with coverage beginning at 4:00.

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