Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Women's Basketball: History, And Current Events

The first women's basketball game in Princeton history was played 38 years ago yesterday, Groundhog Day 1972. Princeton, for the record, lost to Centenary 42-28 to start a 3-4 season that included a win over Villanova and a loss to Trenton State College.

Three years later Princeton would win the first Ivy League women's basketball championship - and then win the next three as well. Back then, the title was not awarded as a result of regular-season round-robin but instead by an Ivy League tournament, which was actually held in midseason.

It was in 1979-80 that each team in the league played all of the other teams once each during the season, but the league champion was still the team that won the tournament (which moved to the end of the year). The 1982-83 season was the first that saw a double round-robin regular-season schedule to crown the league champion, though Columbia did not compete in women's basketball until the 1986-87 season.

Those four championships that Princeton won in those four early Ivy League tournaments eclipses the total that the program has won in the 31 seasons that have followed, when Princeton has won the championship in 1985, 1999 and most recently in 2006. The Tigers have never played in the NCAA tournament.

When Richard Barron left as Princeton head coach to become an assistant at Baylor (he's now at N.C. State), the all-time record for Princeton women's basketball was 442-442. TigerBlog, being a math genius, knows that that's somewhere around .500.

Right now, Princeton's all-time record stands at 478-481, three games under .500. Don't be fooled by that, though.

Courtney Banghart went 7-23 in her first season as Tiger head coach and 4-9 to start her second season. Since that 11-32 start, she is 25-7. That is the second-best 32-game stretch in school history and the best since the program went 27-5 overlapping the end of 1976-77 and then most of 1977-78.

Princeton's leading scorer is a freshman, Niveen Rasheed, who averages 15.5 points per game. There are four players averaging in double figures: a freshman (Rasheed), two sophomores (Lauren Edwards, Devona Allgood) and a junior (Addie Micir).

Princeton's 71.8 points per game leads the Ivy League in scoring offense; the 52.5 points per game allowed lead in scoring defense.

Princeton ranks in the top 10 (of 332 teams) in Division in four team statistical categories: scoring defense (sixth), field goal percentage defense (sixth), won-loss percentage (eighth) and scoring margin (ninth).

The Tigers also received four votes in the AP poll this past week, which would leave them ranked 32nd if the rankings extended that far. Princeton is ranked fifth in ESPN's mid-major poll.

Last weekend was the annual Pink Zone event, which is a national initiative of the women's basketball coaches to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer. The result was a crowd of 1,304 for Saturday night's game against Yale, which Princeton won 69-42 to run its record to 15-2 overall, 3-0 in the Ivy League (all three league wins have been by at least 21 points).

TigerBlog understands that the Pink Zone event helped drive attendance, but the 2010 event drew 500 more people than the one a year ago. Can this all be attributable to the event, which features free admission for those dressed in pink, as well as free pink cookies and cupcakes with pink icing?

Or does it have to do with an awareness of what the women's basketball team is starting to put together?

Perhaps this weekend will shed some light, as the two most accomplished programs in Ivy League women's basketball history come to Jadwin Gym. Harvard and Dartmouth haven't dominated Ivy women's basketball like Princeton and Penn have on the men's side, but it is close. As for Dartmouth, Banghart was a big part of the Green's recent dominance, as both a player and then assistant coach.

The Tigers host Harvard Friday night and Dartmouth Saturday night. Princeton is alone in first place right now at 3-0, while Harvard and Dartmouth have one loss each (as does Columbia, who lost to Harvard and beat Dartmouth last weekend).

In fact, Princeton's next three games are against the three teams with one loss each, as the Tigers are at Columbia Friday, Feb. 12. By the time those three games are played, the Ivy League race could have any number of different looks to it.

Should these four teams be playing down to the wire, well, then the end could be wild, as Princeton hosts Columbia on Feb. 27 before making the Dartmouth/Harvard trip and then finishing with Penn on March 9, the same night Dartmouth is at Harvard.

The prize for the winner, of course, is a spot in the NCAA tournament, something that Princeton has never experienced.

The current women's basketball bracketology (TB is fascinated by the concept and how it's taken off) on ESPN has Princeton as a 13 seed, playing No. 4 seed Florida State in Tallahassee on March 20.

Yes, there's a long way to go between now and then, and the race could look completely different come Sunday morning.

Still, there's a lot more going on at women's basketball games these days than just pink icing.


Anonymous said...

The perennial interest in bracketology is very consistent with TB's oft-repeated observation that GoPrincetonTigers readers are much more likely to view pre-game feature stories than post-game news stories. People like to spend their time thinking about what might happen more than they like hearing about what has already happened.

Anonymous said...

Coach Banghart's success is a wonderful reward for her and for Princeton. Her irreverence is refreshing and engaging and while it may causes gastric distress elsewhere, there is no muting her enthusiasm and tamping her drive. I think she's thrown open a window and the Tigers are roaring through. I get the sense of the same energy (without personal knowledge) from Surace--that makes a difference to eligible recruits.
Keep up the good work...

Anonymous said...

Coach Banghart has positive energy and winning attitude that is boosting this team to win. She's done so much in so little time and this is just the beginning for the Tigers. Her positive energy goes beyond that of the basketball court and those who know her would whole heartily agree. Way to knock down two Ivy's in two days! Shante