Tuesday, March 10, 2015

29 Straight Vs. 9 Straight

During this current winning streak, only one game has been decided by fewer than 10 points. Most have been over by halftime.

Now that the regular season is ending, the team is looking to win its last one before the postseason, where it hopes to make a little noise and be a tough out. 

TigerBlog speaks, of course, about the Penn women's basketball team.

Penn has won nine straight, by an average margin of 16 points per game. No Ivy team in that stretch has really challenged the Quakers, who haven't had a team stay within 10 points of them in nearly a month.

So if you're thinking the Princeton women's basketball team is going to roll the balls out in the Palestra tonight and stomp Penn en route to a 30-0 regular season, well, be careful.

Penn has a lot on its side. It has the pride of the defending champion. It turned a blowout loss to Princeton in its Ivy opener a year ago into a blowout win over Princeton in the regular-season finale. It has an RPI of 49.

And, more than anything else, Penn will be foaming at its collective mouth for the chance to derail the Princeton express.

You don't think Penn is tired of reading about and seeing Princeton all over everywhere for its perfect record?

Princeton is 29-0 as it heads to Philadelphia for a game that tips at 5 p.m. and can be seen on CBS College Sports or heard on WPRB FM 103.3. What seemed ludicrous when it was first thought about a few months ago - the idea of 30-0 - is now just 40 minutes away.

Princeton, too, has a lot on its side. The Tigers know full well that the only thing between them and six Ivy titles and NCAA trips in the last six years was last year's season-finale at Jadwin, an 80-64 win by the Quakers in a winner-take-all showdown, so there is a ton of motivation for this one.

Beyond that, Princeton is playing for history. TigerBlog doesn't have to say anything about what it would mean to go 30-0. And you don't get to 29-0 without having overwhelming talent that plays well together.

Finally, in addition to that, there's the idea of wanting to do well in the NCAA tournament. And that's something that will be aided by a better seed and possibly playing at home, two things that depend on a win tonight.

No matter what happens tonight, Princeton is headed to the NCAA tournament. Penn is headed to the WNIT - though a win over a Top 20 RPI team with Penn's current RPI?

How different it could have been.

Back on Feb. 6 at the Palestra, Penn fell behind Cornell by 18 in the second half, cut it to four and then ultimately lost 60-49.

Were it not for that game, Penn would be 12-1 in the league, and oh what a difference that would have made.

Can you imagine what that would be like? Princeton, at 29-0, still not guaranteed of the league's automatic bid, faced with the prospect of a playoff game if it didn't get to 30-0 just to be assured of a spot in the NCAAs?

It's been exactly two months since Princeton defeated Penn 83-54 at Jadwin in the Ivy opener. The Tigers led by 10 at the half and then blew the game wide open at the start of the second.

Remember, though, that Princeton had an eerily similar 84-53 win over Penn at the Palestra in the 2014 Ivy opener, and remember what happened in the rematch.

Princeton certainly remembers what happened. There's nobody in the Tiger locker room who has gotten past that, the lone blemish on a six-year run of dominance.

It all adds up to what should be an incredibly charged atmosphere in the Palestra this evening.

It's a doubleheader of course, with the Penn-Princeton men at 7:30. It'll be the final game for Jerome Allen as the Quaker head coach. Princeton is locked into third place, behind Yale and Harvard, who tied for the league title and will meet Saturday also at the Palestra for the league's automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Meanwhile, back at the women's game, one long winning streak will end tonight.

Either way, it's going to be a game that is long remembered in Ivy League women's basketball history, really as much as any TigerBlog can remember.

Either Princeton is going to make history by going 30-0, or Penn is going to make history by denying 30-0.

No, it's not what it would have been had Penn not lost to Cornell.

Still, how can you not be excited about this one?

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