Harvard gets 12 seed, will play Vanderbilt

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Harvard gets 12 seed, will play Vanderbilt

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Kyle Casey remembers hearing Vanderbilt called "The Harvard of the South" when he was recruited by both coming out of high school.

Vanderbilt, which has the advantage of playing in the Southeastern Conference, was in his final three with Harvard and Stanford. But Casey, who's from Medway, Mass., chose to stay close to home with the goal of trying to get Harvard back into the NCAA tournament for the first time since the Truman administration.

"I couldn't be happier with my decision to come to Harvard," the Crimson forward said Sunday after they were given a No. 12 seed and a matchup with fifth-seeded Vanderbilt in Albuquerque, N.M., in the first round of the NCAA tournament. "I'm at THE Harvard University. There's no beating that."

Harvard has not been to the NCAAs since 1946, and it had never won an Ivy League title before sharing the crown with Princeton last season. With no conference tournament, the schools played a tiebreaker for the right to the league's automatic NCAA berth, and Princeton won the game on a buzzer-beater with 2.6 seconds left.
This year, Harvard (26-4) won the Ivy title outright, clinching it when Princeton beat Penn in the regular-season finale on Tuesday. But even though they knew their name would be called during the selection show, the Crimson players still looked tense waiting for the brackets to be filled out on television.

"Last year, just praying and hoping our name is going to come up on the board, just makes the moment even more special for us," guard Brandyn Curry said.

Sitting in a function room in the school's athletic administration building, with an eight-seat crew shell suspended from the ceiling above them, the players waited as two other regions were announced. During commercials, they tapped away on their cellphones while fans - at least one wearing a Jeremy Lin Harvard jersey - milled around.

When they were finally announced, the players jumped into the air and hugged.

"To make the tournament and see our name come up to make it legit, all the specifics didn't mean anything to me," guard Oliver McNally said. "I love the sport of college basketball. I love the tournament; I think it's the best sporting event. This is one of the dreams I've had in my life."

He's about to experience reality.

Vanderbilt (23-10) was still in New Orleans, where it upset No. 1 overall seed Kentucky on Sunday in the SEC tournament final, when it learned that it was a No. 5 seed. The Commodores are making their third straight NCAA tournament appearance and fifth in the last six years; they have lost three straight first-round games.

"We were just excited to hear our name called," said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who played in the tournament when he was at Duke. "We know this great tournament is going to be as sensational as it's always been, with a number of great games that we hope to be a part of."

Harvard set a school record with 26 wins this year, breaking into The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in its history and climbing as high as No. 21. The Crimson also won with Battle 4 Atlantis tournament over Thanksgiving, beating then-No. 22 Florida State in the process.

"We've done a lot of things a lot of players have come here to do," Casey said. "It's really humbling to do something here that's never been done before, when so many things have been done here."

Harvard's last NCAA tournament appearance was in 1946, when the Crimson lost to Ohio State and then fell to NYU in a regional third-place game. If the Crimson can win their first NCAA game ever, they would face either fourth-seeded Wisconsin and No. 13 seed Montana for a chance to reach the round of 16.

But if they do, they would be playing the regional semifinals at the TD Garden in Boston.

"I want to win. My career's over when we lose so I want it to last as long as we can," said McNally, a senior. "It's just going to be heartbreaking if you don't win. We wouldn't be competitors if that's not how we looked at each game."

Roasted: Ortiz apparently thought Pedroia's real first name was Pee Wee

Roasted: Ortiz apparently thought Pedroia's real first name was Pee Wee

BOSTON — It took until 2015, apparently, but David Ortiz now knows Dustin Pedroia’s full name.

The couple days leading up to the jersey retirement ceremony tonight for Ortiz have been packed. Around lunch time Thursday, Ortiz had a street near Fenway Park named after him — a bridge wasn’t enough — the street formerly known as Yawkey Way Extension. (It’s between Brookline Avenue and Yawkey Station.) On Friday morning, he was at Logan Airport where JetBlue Gate C34 was designed with a new theme to honor Ortiz.

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Tonight's the big night, so to speak. But Thursday night will probably go down as the most entertaining.

Ortiz was roasted at House of Blues on Thursday, joined on stage by Pedroia, Rob Gronkowski and a handful of actual comedians. Bill Burr was the biggest name among the professional joke-tellers. It was a charity event to benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which helps to provide lifesaving surgeries for children.

All the comedians — Lenny Clarke, Sarah Tiana, Anthony Mackie, Josh Wolf, Adam Ray (a young man dressed up as an old Yankees fan) — ripped on everyone on stage, including Pedroia. Naturally, Pedroia was mocked for being short over and over and over.

When he took the podium, Pedroia said it was a good thing the height of the microphone was adjustable. If he had to stand on his wallet, he said, he’d be up to the roof.

Most jokes were not suitable for print or broadcast. But the story Pedroia told about being in the on-deck circle when a catcher needed a ball once was a highlight. It's from just two years ago.

“So I had already played with David for, I don’t know, nine years?” Pedroia said. “And I hit right in front of him for nine years.”

The Red Sox were playing the Indians at home. The umpire had to use the bathroom and the ball rolled near Pedroia. So the catcher said hello to Pedroia, using the second baseman’s first name.

“David walks over and goes, what the [expletive] did he call you?” Pedroia said.

“I said, ‘Dustin,’” Pedroia said. 

Ortiz was confused. “’Why’d he call you that?’” he said.

“I go, that’s my [expletive] name,” Pedroia said. “He goes, 'Oh, is that right?’

"I’m like, ‘Yeah, bro. I’ve had 1,600 games with you. They’ve actually said it 5,000 [expletive] times: now batting, No. 15, Dustin Pedroia.’”

“I thought it was Pee Wee," Ortiz went.

“This is dead serious,” Pedroia said. “Now the umpire comes back — I’m standing there, I got to hit...and I’m looking at him, ‘You thought my parents would name me [expletive] Pee Wee?’ 

“And he’s just looking at me, and we’re having a conversation. The umpire’s yelling at me, the catcher’s laughing at me because he can hear kind of what he’s saying.”

No jersey retirement speech will be that funny.