Depending on whom you ask, the Harvard men's basketball team will enter its second-round matchup against Vanderbilt Thursday as the five- to six-point underdog.
Last week, the Commodores made history by knocking off the tournament’s top-seeded Kentucky to win its first SEC tournament in 61 years. The Crimson will end its own long drought in the Thursday matinee—the last time Harvard made the NCAA tournament, FDR ’03 had just finished his third term as president of the United States of America.
Some independent models give an idea of the Crimson’s chances of winning. Ken Pomeroy gives the squad a 33-percent chance of advancing, and a nine-percent chance of reaching Sweet 16. The ELO rubric, which takes both winning percentage and strength of schedule into account, predicts similar figures. With a few conversions, the model is revealed to pick Harvard’s winning its first game 33 percent of the time and its first two 10 percent of the time.
The New York Post has the Crimson’s chances of winning the whole thing at 300/1, whereas it calculates Vanderbilt’s chances at 40/1. The other four potential twelve seeds have an identical 300/1 shot at taking home the whole thing. The ranking puts Harvard’s prospects as the 45th best out of the field of 68.
But don’t be discouraged by these numbers Crimson Crazies. The Post also has Harvard among the 10 teams they believe can make a Cinderella run.
In addition, both teams are no strangers to the underdog role this season. After going 10-6 within the league during the regular season, Vanderbilt’s chances were pegged at 6/1 by the Huffington Post to take the SEC crown. Harvard overcame even more drastic odds, emerging victorious in November in an eight-team Battle 4 Atlantis field that included both No. 4/4 Connecticut and No. 20/22 Florida State.
If the Crimson can pull it out and survive this weekend, it will be coming home to Boston for the Sweet Sixteen next weekend.