Monday, March 21, 2011

Into The Shredder

TigerBlog has a shredder under his desk. Every now and then, for no reason at all, he'll take a few pieces of paper and put them in the shredder, which provides an unlikely source of entertainment.

The best thing to put in the shredder are unused tickets. Putting them in without separating them results in a long trail of shredding, which, again, is an unlikely source of entertainment.

TigerBlog might as well put his NCAA tournament bracket into the shredder right now. Oh, the compliance people can relax, as there are no money or prizes at stake in the OAC's annual NCAA tournament picking contest, which is dubbed "The Completely Compliant With The NCAA's No-Betting Policy Tournament Pool."

If you work in college athletics, you can't help but be inundated with anti-gambling messages, especially around the time of the Super Bowl and NCAA tournament. And this is rightfully so, especially considering what's at stake if it ever comes out that a coach or players were involved in gambling on the tournament.

Still, here in the OAC, everyone fills out a bracket, just for fun. There's not even a candy bar to the winner.

And TB's bracket? Well, consider his Final Four of North Carolina (still in), Notre Dame (gone), Pitt (gone) and Texas (gone).

The first two (okay, three) rounds of the men's tournament and the first round of the women's tournament show just how different the two events are.

On the men's side, a team like Virginia Commonwealth from the CAA can fly under the radar to the point of having to play in a play-in (okay, first round) game just to get into the main draw, and yet the Rams beat USC (from the Pac 10), Georgetown (from the Big East) and Purdue (from the Big Ten) - all by double figures - and do so in a five-day stretch. It's one of the most remarkable NCAA tournament feats TB can remember, as a matter of fact.

Speaking of Georgetown, TB was rooting hard for the Hoyas, who were never really in the game. Georgetown was one of 11 Big East teams to get a bid - and one of nine who's already lost. Only UConn and Marquette are left from the Big East, and both got to the Sweet 16 by beating another Big East team.

TB has a theory as to why: These teams beat each other up so badly all season that they were just too worn out to be effective this late into March. That makes UConn even more impressive, especially considering the Huskies won the Big East tournament with five games in five days.

And TB can't help but be happy for Richmond and head coach Chris Mooney, a 1994 Princeton grad and all-time TigerBlog favorite, as the Spiders have reached the Sweet 16.

Meanwhile, back at the difference between the men's tournament and the women's tournament, it can be summed up fairly easily.

On the women's side, three double-digit seeds won their first game, two 10s and an 11.

On the men's side, six double-digit seeds won their first game. That group was a 10, three 11s, a 12 and a 13. In addition, six other double digit seeds lost their first round game by three points or fewer, including, of course, No. 13 Princeton against No. 4 Kentucky.

Of the six double-digit seeds who won in the first (okay, second) round, four won again to reach the Sweet 16.

As an aside, any Princeton fan now has to root for Kentucky to get to the Final Four, something that would give the Tigers' performance even more credibility.

Anyway, the deck was stacked against 12th-seeded Princeton yesterday before it took on No. 5 Georgetown in the women's tournament.

While having a 12 beat a five on the men's side is somewhat routine, it's not something that happens for the women. All time in the women's tournament, No. 12 seeds are now 19-88, a winning percentage of .178. Seeds lower than 12, by the way, are 9-288, so at least the 12's have a small chance.

On the men's side, 12 seeds all-time are 55-107, which is a winning percentage of .340, or nearly twice that of the women's.

The difference between the number of good women's teams and good men's teams is still significant. Perhaps the gap will close in the next few decades, but it's not there yet.

For Princeton, there was the extra challenge of having played the Ivy League season the last two months. Yes, Princeton was challenged more this year than it was last year, but the Tigers, even after a loss to Harvard early, were the prohibitive favorites in the league.

As TB watched the women's game yesterday, he thought back to the game he saw at Rutgers, when Princeton lost a one-point game with four seconds left against a team that yesterday beat Louisiana Tech by 25 in its first NCAA game.

Against the Knights, Princeton was fast and physical, and it still had Niveen Rasheed at the time. If Princeton had a steady diet of Big East teams through January and February, it would have been ready for the quickness, pressure and physicality of the Georgetown women.

Unfortunately, Princeton got off to a tough start against that pressure, and the result was a 20-point halftime deficit.

Even with the loss, it was a great infomercial for Princeton women's basketball on ESPN yesterday, as announcers Bob Picozzi and Rebecca Lobo constantly talked about the great work that Princeton had done all year and what a great team it was.

The highlight was when they talked about how assistant coach Melanie Moore couldn't be at the game after giving birth last week. Picozzi mentioned that Tristan Moore was nine pounds, 15 ounces and then went on to talk about something else, and when he came back to Lobo - a mother of four - to ask her her thoughts, she said that she couldn't get past nine pounds, 15 ounces.

Still, the idea that Princeton's women basketball team could be disappointed after its NCAA tournament game shows you how far things have come around here. Not to offend anyone from years past, but Princeton had seven losing seasons in eight years before Courtney Banghart and her staff showed up, and of those seven losing seasons, five were single-digit wins.

Going from single-digit wins to a double-digit seed for the second straight year is very impressive.

Winning an NCAA tournament game is not easy. The Princeton men and women took their shot this year, and it'd be great if one or both will be back next year to try again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Princeton women's game was a great informercial in the metropolitan area and the DC area. For the rest of us across the country, not so much because unlike the men's tournament, we couldn't see it.