As recently as the week of Feb. 6, the Harvard Crimson were not only comfortably in the projected NCAA tournament field but ranked in both polls. The Harvard basketball brand, without an NCAA tournament appearance or a week as a ranked squad in more than 65 years, was rising as quickly as any school's this side of Butler. The Crimson had been ranked eight consecutive weeks in the coaches poll and were undefeated in the Ivy League, with two ACC and two A-10 wins under their belt.
At one point, Harvard's two losses against 20 wins were fewer than every other team in the country outside of the Syracuse Orange, Murray State Racers, Kentucky Wildcats, Saint Mary's Gaels and Missouri Tigers. And Tommy Amaker was recruiting with the big boys -- one-time top-100 forward Mike Hall committed in the fall, and one-time top-100 forward Zena Edosomwan may still.
While Harvard charged out of major athletics obscurity, the Mississippi State Bulldogs appeared to have solved some long-battled problems -- or, at least, figured enough out that their talent was able to carry them. During the same week of Feb. 6, the Bulldogs were celebrating their 11th consecutive week ranked in both polls (12th in the AP).
Transfer Arnett Moultrie was a serious All-America candidate. The enigmatic Renardo Sidney, once the No. 1 player in the 2009 high school class, had already played in more games during the 2011-12 season than he had in his tumultuous previous two seasons put together. Mississippi State was 18-5 and concerned about seeding, not selection.