Thursday, March 3, 2011

Adding It Up

TigerBlog looked at a word problem in Little Miss TigerBlog's math work book and couldn't believe what he saw.

Basically, the problem was comparing two geometric objects, one of which was four feet taller than the other, though they were essentially of the same shape. It then asked for a conclusion about area.

The only problem to TB was that the two objects being compared were the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

This appalled TB for two reasons: 1) the book has to be more than 10 years old and 2) the school sits about two miles away from a 9/11 memorial that honors the spirit of 18 local residents who were killed that day.

Perhaps math hasn't changed much in the last 10 years - or the last 40 or 50 for that matter - but still, is there nobody who has noticed the inappropriateness of using a book that references the World Trade Center, even in such a benign way?

For all TigerBlog knows, he had the same question in the same math workbook way back when.

Math was always one of TB's best subjects, especially geometry. For some reason, the logic of it really appealed to young TB.

He also was a big fan of the probability and statistics class he took his sophomore or junior year, even though it was dominated by the genius kids a year older than he was, including Lenny Ganz, who to the best of TB's memory never got less than a 100 on any test ever and is today a cardiologist. Lenny was always destroying any chance for a curve on the tests in that class, but TB still managed to get a good grade.

Somewhere along the line, TB veered away from the math world and directly into things like literature and history and eventually writing. Still, had it worked out differently, maybe TB could have traded all this for a long, distinguished career as an actuary.

Of course, math comes in handy all the time, especially when it comes to figuring out what is involved as the men's and women's Ivy League basketball races reach the final days of the regular season.

Starting on the women's side, there are three teams mathematically in contention for the championship and NCAA tournament bid: Princeton at 10-1, Yale at 9-3 and Harvard at 8-3.

Princeton hosts Dartmouth tomorrow night and Harvard Saturday and then travels to Penn Tuesday. Between the Princeton game, Harvard is at Penn tomorrow night and at Dartmouth Tuesday. Yale hosts Columbia tomorrow night and Cornell Saturday night.

A win in any of its remaining three games clinches for Princeton at least a share of its second-straight title. Any combination of Princeton wins and losses by the other two totaling two sends Princeton back to the NCAA tournament.

A Princeton win over Harvard alone would eliminate the Crimson. Should Yale win out and get to 11-3, then Princeton would have to win two of its last three to win outright.

The only way for Princeton not to get at least a share of the championship would be to lose all three of its games and have either Harvard or Yale win out as well.

Should there be a three-way tie for first, it could get a bit complicated in terms of who would get the No. 1 seed and avoid the first game in a playoff, but TB will wait until after this weekend to see if that's a bridge that needs to be crossed.

In the meantime, Princeton knows that if it keeps winning, it'll be in the NCAA tournament. Harvard and Yale could both win out and not get a share of the title or get to the tournament.

As an aside, the second-place team in the Ivy League is guaranteed a bid to the WNIT. Should Harvard and Yale tie for second, then Yale would get that bid because of its sweep of Harvard.

The men's race is different than the women's race in two ways: 1) only two teams - Princeton and Harvard - are mathematically still in the running and 2) both know that they would get to the NCAA tournament simply by winning out.

In fact, if Harvard defeats Penn tomorrow night, then Princeton cannot get to the NCAA tournament without beating Harvard a second time, though it might have two chances to do so.

Princeton is currently 10-1, while Harvard is 10-2. Unlike the Harvard women, the men have already completed their two games with travel-partner Dartmouth, so all that's left for the men in the regular season are the home games this weekend against Penn and Princeton.

The Tigers, of course, go to Dartmouth tomorrow, Harvard Saturday and Penn Tuesday.

If Princeton wins all three, it'll be 13-1 and the Ivy League champion. If Harvard wins both of its games, then it'll be 12-2 and guaranteed of no worse than a tie for the title and playoff for the NCAA spot.

If Harvard loses to Penn and Princeton defeats Dartmouth, then Princeton will have clinched a tie for the title and would only need to defeat either the Crimson or Penn to win it outright.

On the other hand, should Princeton go 1-2 in its final three, then Harvard would win the outright title by going 2-0, which means one of the two would have been over Princeton.

There have been many times where Princeton has gotten to its regular-season finale against Penn where the winner would either clinch outright or force a rematch in a playoff game a few days later. This time, the game Tuesday night could be a situation that TB doesn't recall, where Penn could be playing simply to knock off Princeton and give the title to a third team.

Regardless, by as early as tomorrow night for the women and Saturday night for the men or as late as a week from Saturday in a playoff, there will be an NCAA bid for the two Ivy League representatives.

Of the 16 teams who play on both sides, only five are still in the running for those two bids, and two of them are from Princeton.

Should be a fun weekend.

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