Monday, February 18, 2013

20 For 33

The first year of double round-robin Ivy League women's basketball was 1982-83. Before that, the league champion was decided in a tournament format.

Princeton went 4-8 in that 1982-83. For the two years after that, it was also a 12-game double round-robin.

The 1985-86 season featured 12 league games, though not a complete round-robin, as Columbia had a team for the first time. There was also an Ivy tournament at season's end.

It wasn't until the 1986-87 season that the full 14-game league schedule that still exists today.

Doing a little math, Princeton played four Ivy weekends for four years (TigerBlog says that equals 16) and then began to play six a year beginning in 1987. From that point until Courtney Banghart became head coach for the 2007-08 season, Princeton played 126 Ivy weekends (21 years, six weekends).

Add in the other 16 and you have 142 Ivy League weekends prior to Banghart's arrival. Of those 142 weekends, Princeton won both games by double figures 16 times.

Banghart is in Year 6 as the Tiger head coach. This past weekend was her 33rd Ivy weekend so far.

And how many of those 33 have been two wins, both by double figures?

The answer is 20.

Princeton's women's basketball team is on an extraordinary run right now, having won 31 straight Ivy games, including 22 straight by double figures. Princeton is 35-0 in Ivy League games in which Niveen Rasheed has played, and the team has won 53 of its last 54 Ivy games (Princeton went 13-1 in the season that Rasheed missed with a torn ACL).

Beyond the numbers, maybe the most amazing part of what Princeton has done in women's basketball came from the very real sense that there was something wrong with the Tigers because they didn't lead 25-0 at the first media timeout in either game this weekend at Jadwin.

Oh, Princeton still won. Both. Defeated Dartmouth Friday by 12 and Harvard by 16 Saturday.

And that's how high Princeton has raised the bar.

Princeton is now 7-0 in the league, having beaten each team once. Penn is next at 5-2, followed by Dartmouth and Harvard at 4-3.

In other words, for Princeton not to go to the NCAA tournament, the Tigers will have to lose twice in the next seven games, Penn will have go 7-0 and then Penn will have to win the one-game playoff.

Or, if Penn loses once, then Princeton would have to lose three times to be part of a playoff.

Disclaimer - past performance is no indication of future success, and no race is over until it's over. In athletics, anything can happen.

And so it's not quite time to judge this team in its historical context, only in the present.

Princeton is hardly a one-woman show, and Banghart has so many options to go with that she could put five backups on the court and still put up points.

In that way, it's a function of the team's mentality, which is simply this: Be relentless.

Defensively, the team never lets up. Offensively, the team is always in attack mode.

Either way, the opponent always feels the pressure. It comes in waves, and it offers no chance ever to let up. It is constant pressure on both ends of the floor.

As a result, tie games become 10-point games in the blink of an eye, and 10-point games become 30-point games just as quickly.

There were 1,715 fans in Jadwin Saturday night for Princeton-Harvard, and they were drawn by more than just free admission for wearing pink.

It was the chance to see this special group play, and sometimes marketing can be that simple. When there is must-see viewing, people will come to view it.

For everything else there is about this team - and for the always-present team dynamic that can't be missed by watching them play, or do almost anything - the price of admission (even on nights when there is admission charged) of watching Rasheed play is more than worth it.

She is not to be missed.

Rasheed is to Ivy League women's basketball what LeBron James is to the NBA. She is its best offensive player. She is its best defensive player. She is its best team player. She is its most imposing physical force.

And much like James, she is a threat to do something spectacular at any moment.

Against Harvard, it came in the first half, after the Crimson had led for the first eight minutes. Now it was 17-12 Harvard, an opponent who was clearly playing for its league life.

A Harvard win Saturday would have changed everything. It would have made it a legitimate three-team race, would have given the Crimson tremendous confidence for the rematch coming up in Cambridge in two weeks.

Instead, Rasheed took the ball at midcourt and attacked the basket in transition. She went up, brought the ball back down and scooped it under the Harvard defender. It was nothing short of spectacular.

At that moment, TigerBlog had one thought - game over.

Two minutes later, Princeton had gone from down five to up seven. Just like that.

And TB was right. The game was over. 

The Ivy women's basketball race is halfway through, and Princeton is in great position for a fourth straight title. Sure, anything can happen.

Still, Princeton has two more home games this weekend, against Columbia and Cornell, two opponents whom the Tigers beat by a combined 77 on the road earlier this year.

Again, it's a chance to see this amazing team do what it does, which is play at a pace that is overwhelming.

And to see its star, who somehow seems to have elevated her play for her final go-round as a Tiger.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Took the family to watch the Tigers in action and see what #24 Rasheed was all about. Wow! Dominating + a team player all in one. Keep it up Ladies!!!