Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Seminoles In Waco

Within seconds of the announcement of the NCAA women's basketball tournament field, TigerBlog received three text messages with basically the same "not liking Princeton's chances of getting to the Sweet 16" punchline.

Whoever wins the opening round game between Florida State and Princeton Sunday will be faced with the giant task of taking on the No. 1 team in the country and defending champion Baylor Bears, led by 6' 8" Brittney Griner, who is starting to get into the conversation of the greatest women's players of all time.

Princeton and Florida State play the first game in Waco (that's in Texas) Sunday, followed by Baylor and Prairie View A&M.

Baylor-Prairie View A&M has no chance of being close, and Baylor could win by 100 of it wanted. The first game? It's fascinating.

Princeton has spent the last two months as the dominant team in the Ivy League, playing with a huge margin for error in both the games themselves and in the league standings.

Florida State has spent the last two months going up against ACC teams, in a league where it had no realistic chance of winning the championship (the Seminoles finished six games back) but also was clearly going to be in the NCAA tournament.

In the last two months, Princeton is 12-1, with a close loss to Harvard, a close win over Dartmouth and 10 complete blowouts.

In the same time, Florida State is 7-5, including 2-4 in the last six games. Of course, all 2-4 stretches are not created equally, as Florida State has lost twice to Duke in that stretch, by 11 points and most recently by six in the ACC tournament. Duke is a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.

They've taken such completely different paths to get to this point, have Princeton and Florida State.

Princeton has clearly been the class of its one-bid league all year. Florida State clearly has been on the next level in its five-bid league, where the challenges night-in, night-out have been much more daunting.

Princeton, as it always seems to, was in the last bracket revealed last night on the selection show. Actually, the quote from FSU coach Sue Semrau was pretty good:
"We throw a good party and we might as well just wait to the last and have all of the suspense ..."

When you're an at-large team, there has to be at least a little suspense as to whether or not you're going to get in, but FSU was so clearly in that it probably was the same feeling that Princeton had watching the brackets unfold. Where are we going?

As TB watched, he could rule out possible sites, because it was obvious that the Tigers were going to be somewhere around a 9, 10 or 11 seed. Unfortunately, any chance of playing at one of the sites that is drivable from Princeton ended early.

Eventually, the result was Waco, with Griner and the Bears looming for the winner.

And so begins the scramble for each team to figure the other out in a short time.

Here's what TigerBlog knows about Florida State: The team can score. The Seminoles rank seventh nationally with more than 76 points per game.

The lead up to the NCAA selections are always fascinating in that teams have no idea who the opponent will be, where or when. The teams get no advanced noticed, and so they have to scramble to get ready once the pairings are announced.

This used to be much more difficult years ago, when stats were hard to come by and video even harder. Now? It's all online, and preparation can begin immediately.

For both teams it also means all of the behind the scenes stuff, including travel arrangements, official travel parties, off-site practice times and all the rest.

It's an incredibly exciting time, and it's the reward for being one of the 64 women's teams or 68 men's teams that make it this far.

For everything TB has seen on the college level and even somewhat on the professional level, he has never seen anything that matches up to the excitement of the NCAA basketball tournament.

To be able to play in it even once is an honor for any player.

To do so every year is not something that should be taken for granted. Ask Florida State, who didn't make it last year for the first time in a long time.

It's special, and every moment of it is to be enjoyed. While also keeping in mind that this a business trip, one that figures to have a fascinating first round and a really, really, really difficult second for the Princeton-FSU winner.

1 comment:

Brian McD said...

When TigerBlog writes about BB or Lax, there is no one better and faithful readers appreciate his efforts to include all Tiger teams!