Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Best Of The Best

Each year, a commercial that simply tortures TigerBlog comes along during the NCAA basketball tournament.

This year's winner is the Burger King commercial with Chris Webber.

The commercial would be a lot better if Webber had been sitting down, rather than standing up. Though the annoying other guy in the commercial needs to be obscured by Webber to set up the premise, that part could have been worked out, TB supposes.

Instead, here is what the Burger King people came up with. A guy goes into a sports bar carrying a bag with two Burger King sandwiches in it. As he tries to see over the crowd to catch a game on TV, he sees someone in front of him with a Chris Webber Michigan jersey on. Thinking that it's just another guy in a Chris Webber jersey, he gives him the air quotation marks. When Webber turns around, annoying other guy realizes it's the real Chris Webber and starts to scream. Somehow, out of all this, Webber asks him for one of his Burger King sandwiches.

Okay, two things. First, it's one thing if the person in front of you is short and wearing a basketball jersey. Here, though, the guy in front of you is 6-10. Does it dawn on you that it might actually be Chris Webber?

Then, once he sees who it is, he starts to scream in fear. What is he afraid of? What does he think Chris Webber is going to do, beat him up?

Anyway, TB saw that commercial a thousand times this weekend, and he hated it every time.

The end of Princeton's basketball season came Monday night, very late, in Fresno, where the Tigers lost to Fresno State 72-56 in the quarterfinals of the CBI to finish up at 21-9. Broken down a little bit further, Princeton was 8-6 in the Ivy League and 13-3 outside of it.

Extra credit is given to those who know that the semifinals in the CBI will have Illinois State at Siena and Old Dominion at Fresno State.

Harvard's run in the NCAA basketball tournament ended Saturday, when the Crimson put up a good fight against Michigan State before falling. The Penn women lost in the NCAAs, and Princeton and Harvard lost in the WNIT.

There are still two Ivy League teams who are playing, and in fact they will be playing each other tonight, when Yale travels to Columbia for the quarterfinal round of the CIT.

Harvard was making its third straight NCAA tournament appearance, which marks the sixth time in the last 25 years that an Ivy League team has made at least three straight trips to the NCAAs.

In order, there was: Princeton from 1989-92 (actually, that's the only one that's been more than three straight), Penn from 1993-95, Princeton from 1996-98, Penn from 2005-07, Cornell from 2008-10 and now Harvard from 2012-present.

It makes TB wonder which of those runs was the best.

He started out by eliminating Princeton's 1989-92 and Penn's 2005-07 teams, because, with apologies, he thinks the other ones from those schools were better. Once he did so, that left four three-year stretches.

So which one is the best?

Well, his first question is how much validation does a team get for NCAA wins? He's not sure what the answer is.

Penn won one game between 1993-95. Princeton's 1996-98 teams and Harvard's 2012-14 teams won two games each.  Cornell's 2008-10 teams also won two games, though the Big Red did it in the same tournament. As a result, Cornell did something that the other three didn't by reaching the Sweet 16.

So how big a deal is all that? Does it push Cornell over the top?

Princeton in 1998 and Harvard this year both lost to Michigan State. In Princeton's case, that Michigan State team featured four players who would go on to be starters for the Spartans when they won the NCAA title two years later, and three went on to play in the NBA - Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell.

For that matter, Princeton lost in 1996 to Mississippi State in the second round, and that MSU ended up in Final Four.

This year's NCAA tournament hasn't played out, but Michigan State seems to be a very underrated four seed again, just like in 1998, when Princeton was the five. Maybe the Spartans will lose to No. 1 Virginia in the next round, or maybe they'll roll to the Final Four.

What does any of this mean? Not all that much, TB thinks. Instead, he'll go with the eye test.

Ironically, TB would put the Cornell team fourth of this group, even if it's the one that reached the Sweet 16. No offense, but someone has to be fourth, as great as these teams all were.

He would put the current Harvard team third. He'd put Princeton's 1996-98 team second. And he'd put Penn from 1993-95 first.

Forget NCAA tournament wins for a second. Looking at Ivy League records, here's how those four teams stack up:

1. Penn 42-0 (three perfect seasons)
2. Princeton 40-2 (two perfect seasons)
3. Cornell 38-4 (one perfect season)
4. Harvard 36-6 (no perfect seasons)

The Penn teams from 1993-95 had three players who would reach the NBA - Jerome Allen, Matt Maloney and Ira Bowman. That's extraordinary for an Ivy school.

And watching them play, TB never thought they had a chance to lose. Ever. And they didn't. They were untouchable, a team with absolutely no weakness anywhere and with explosiveness everywhere.

TB has always thought it a shame that the 1993-95 Penn team never got a chance to play the 1998 Princeton team, which reached the national Top 10. As loyal as he is to his employer over his alma mater, he has to admit that he thinks those Penn teams were a shade better.

Those Penn teams won one NCAA game (against probably the weakest opponent any of the Ivy teams had to play, Nebraska in 1993), while the other three all won two. If how far a team went in the NCAA tournament is the defining mark, then Cornell has to go to No. 1, with its Sweet 16 run.

TB isn't looking at the NCAA tournament as main determination of who was the best. You can if you want, and TB respects that.

Either way, those four teams were great, dominant Ivy League teams.

In whatever order you put them.


Brett said...

Pretty sure Penn beat Nebraska in the NCAAs, no?

TigerBlog said...

That's a bad mistake from TB, who was at the Nassau Coliseum when Penn beat Nebraska in 1994. It's been corrected.