You've seen it happen a hundred times before: David notches a colossal win over Goliath, only to fall to a seemingly inferior opponent just days later.
It is possible that I'm a bit biased since I've been in the Boston area during Harvard's rise to greatness (if you can call it that), so I've been in the midst of the media blitz surrounding its 26-4 season and its first trip to the Big Dance since the 1940s.
But the Crimson are underrated. They've been knocking off Boston College like they're middle-schoolers on a playground for years, and with Tommy Amaker at the helm, they are far more dangerous than people tend to give them credit for.
Amaker played at Duke and began his coaching career there as an assistant, then moved on to Seton Hall and Michigan. He was fired from Michigan following the 2006-2007 season after failing to take the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament in six seasons, then promptly moved on to Harvard.
Five years later, Amaker has done with the Crimson what he couldn't do with the big bad Wolverines.
Vanderbilt, alternately, embarked on an incredible late-season run and was able to do what just one other team this season could: beat Kentucky. The Commodores took down Georgia, Mississippi and the Wildcats in succession to win the SEC tournament after finishing second in the conference standings.
The Commodores have beaten three ranked opponents this season (Marquette, Florida and Kentucky), and granted, the competition they face on a weekly basis far exceeds what Harvard faces in the Ivy League. Harvard notched just one win over a ranked team (against Florida State at the Battle 4 Atlantis back in November—true story). Clearly, Vanderbilt's tournament run and its defeat of the seemingly insurmountable Wildcats was more impressive than anything Harvard did this year.
But when you're riding high from that kind of victory and you've just poured your blood, sweat and tears into one game—and then you have to face an unfamiliar opponent with a knack for pulling off the upset just four days later in neutral territory—strange things can happen.
On Thursday, the Crimson will be playing the disrespect card, and they will be desperate to prove they deserve to be dancing, while Vanderbilt may be riding too high to come back down.
Textbook trap game.