Tuesday, February 2, 2010

To The Groundhog

TigerBlog understands that not every movie made is trying to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. In that vein, he's never understood the complete disdain so many people have for the movie "Groundhog Day."

TB saw it in the movies when it came out in 1993, and he's seen it about a thousand times since. It's a perfectly harmless, funny, at times charming, certainly inoffensive movie, and yet there are so many people who flat out hate it.

As an aside, TigerBlog was always confused as a kid by Groundhog Day, as six weeks after Feb. 2 takes you to March 16 (or March 15 in a leap year), which is still winter. He never quite understood the whole "six more weeks of winter" thing. Shouldn't it be more like 10 more weeks of winter if the point is that figuratively speaking spring will be late to arrive?

So what was the point?

Oh yeah.


Don't say it.

Leave it alone.

Just leave it alone.

Don't say it.

Too late:


For starters, let TB say that he's happy for the Cornell men's basketball program, which moved into the Top 25 yesterday after its convincing 36-point win over Harvard Saturday night left the Big Red at 18-3 overall, 4-0 in the Ivy League.

What Cornell is doing this year is great for the Ivy League. On top of that, TB has never had a bad dealing with anyone associated with Cornell men's basketball, and the current group of players and coaches for the Big Red have always come across as classy players who are great representatives of their school and the league.

Having said that, TigerBlog could not believe the onslaught of stories last week that sort of ignored, oh, 50 years of Ivy League basketball history.

You couldn't go anywhere in the world of sports media late last week without stumbling upon the anticipation of the Cornell-Harvard game (TB saw it coming a mile away on PTI), which was fine with TB, who understood that here were two teams with strong records.

The problems that TB had were this: 1) the certainty that there as no doubt that Cornell and Harvard were the class of the league, before Princeton (who finished second last year) had played a minute in the conference and 2) that the Ivy League had never seen anything like this before.

The Wall Street Journal article proclaimed:
"For the first time—arguably ever—the Ivy League has two legitimate NCAA Tournament-caliber teams." Uh, no.

The Sports Illustrated piece shouted:
"So it is that when Harvard visits two-time defending Ivy champ Cornell this Saturday, it will be the most anticipated conference game in decades.' Uh, no.

For starters, before 1975, conferences were not permitted more than one bid. There were all kinds of years in the 1950s and 1960s and into the early ’70s when the Ivy League had two teams deserving of bids.

Take 1969, for instance. Princeton went 14-0 in the league and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time under Pete Carril. That same year, Columbia, with the great Jim McMillian, went 20-4 and reached No. 14 in the AP poll. With a 65-team field, Columbia would have been a lock.

Take 1959, for instance. Dartmouth (with Rudy LaRusso) and Princeton (coached by Cappy Cappon) both went 13-1 in the league, but Dartmouth defeated Princeton 69-68 in a playoff. Princeton was 19-5, with two losses to Dartmouth and one each to Lafayette, Ohio State and Michigan. Princeton, a Top 20 team, would have been in a 65-team tournament.

Take 1972, for instance. Penn went 25-3 under Hall-of-Fame coach Chuck Daly and won the Ivy League, rising to No. 2 nationally in the rankings. Princeton went 20-7, was a two-point early-season loss at Dartmouth away from tying Penn for the league title and ranked 14th in the AP poll. Again, in a 65-team field, Princeton was in.

Take 1999, for instance. Princeton had non-league wins over Texas, Florida State, UNC Charlotte and UAB, as well as one over Ivy champ Penn. Princeton was clearly a bubble team before not getting into the field; the result was a trip three rounds deep into the NIT.

Those are just a few examples of times when the Ivy League has had two legitimate NCAA contenders. Yes, in recent years, that hasn't been the case, and yes, Cornell and Harvard have reasonable non-league portfolios. Still, as the season goes along, both teams will see their RPIs start to fall by virtue of playing the other league schools, which includes three teams with RPIs greater than 300 and a fourth at 274.

And then there's the idea that this was the most anticipated conference game in decades. Yes, there was a lot of anticipation for this game, but that's because it didn't involve a team named Princeton against a team named Penn.

Princeton and Penn played games of this value with this anticipation twice a year pretty much every year since Ivy League basketball began. For those who don't remember:

* Princeton and Penn represented the Ivy League in every NCAA tournament from 1963 through 2007 except for three years (1968, 1986, 1988)
* Both Princeton and Penn have reached the NCAA Final Four
* The Ivy League's breakdown of NCAA tournament appearances by team goes this way:
1. Princeton/Penn 23 each
3. Dartmouth 7 (most recent in 1959)
4. Cornell 4 (won the last two)
5. Yale/Columbia 3 (Yale's last was 1962; Columbia's last was 1968)
7. Brown 2 (last in 1986)
8. Harvard 1 (1946)

In other words, Cornell or Harvard could win each of the next 15 Ivy League titles and still not approach the historical legacy of Princeton and Penn.

Now, you could make the point that nobody cares about the past and that the big question is the future. True, but TB likes where Princeton is right now, and with Cornell and Harvard both facing huge graduation losses, the league should actually be pretty wide open next year.

As for Penn, somehow TigerBlog thinks the Quakers will be back.

Ivy League men's basketball has been through the years somewhat like the movie "Groundhog Day." Year after year, it was Sonny and Cher (or Princeton and Penn) who sang "I Got You Babe." Then, after it seemed that it would always be like that, one day it was a different morning show on the radio, one that in this case involved Cornell and Harvard.

And hey, Cornell's big win Saturday night vaulted the Red into the Top 25, which is great for them.

It just doesn't change the historical record.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Clever analogy to the movie Groundhog Day and the sudden disappearance of Penn-Princeton spotlight. At least one half of the matchup should return soon.

I'm hopeful for Princeton next year as you refer, but have you seen players 6 through 10 on Cornell who will be returning, along with that soph guard wroblowski? If they had their own team, they would finish in second this year to the cornell seniors. I'm serious, it's scary.