ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It's one thing to be the Harvard of the South. It's another thing to be Harvard.
Although there's hardly time this week to break down the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the classrooms at Vanderbilt (24-10) and the school that gave us Jeremy Lin, the gap -- if there is one -- between top SEC and Ivy League basketball talent will be on display Thursday in a second-round East regional game at The Pit.
This is one of those 5 vs. 12 matchups that always intrigues the office-pool players. But it doesn't take a 4.0 GPA to know that the schools playing in this matchup (Vandy's the 5, Harvard's the 12) are a bit different from the rest.
"People keep bringing that up since we got matched up with them," Harvard guard Oliver McNally said.
Though the NCAA selection committee steadfastly has denied it looks for irony when it sets the brackets, this kind of game certainly has some meaning in a year like this -- with big-name universities across the country seeing their reputations sullied by sports programs that seem to have little connection to the academic mission.
"There are a number of different terrific programs that do it in a way that you're attracting great kids," Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. "You love being around and teaching and coaching those kind of individuals."
Amaker has seen this story from both ends. He played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, where educational standards are high, then went to Michigan and tried to clean that program up after years of scandal. He did clean things up but didn't win enough.
After he got fired, Amaker took the job at Harvard -- a school with, well, a pretty good academic reputation but absolutely no tradition on the basketball side.
This is the Crimson's first NCAA appearance since 1946.
Like all Ivy League schools, Harvard (26-4) plays the majority of its games on Friday nights and Saturday to avoid missed class time. There's no conference tournament. ESPN rarely shows up. And there aren't a ton of basketweaving classes available on the course catalog.
Although nobody raises a stink at Harvard if you go 50, 60 years without making a dent on the national scene, The Commodores walk a more delicate line: "They want us to be Harvard Monday through Friday and beat Alabama on Saturday," as Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings puts it.