Monday, March 23, 2015

31 And Obama

TigerBlog lied to you Friday.

Like right to your face.

He didn't mean a word of this when he wrote this:
Does Princeton need this win to validate its perfect regular season? No. At least TigerBlog doesn't think that way. No matter what happens, this will go down as a history-making season by the Princeton women. Nothing that happens tomorrow morning changes that.

He knew at the time is was bogus. He just didn't want to say the truth, which is that had the Princeton women's basketball team not won its opening round game in the NCAA tournament Saturday then it would have in fact left a big hole in an otherwise perfect season.

Actually, it would have done more than that.

Thirty-and-one would have been a bad record. Even at 30-1, the narrative would have been - "oh, you wanted a higher seed? You should have proved it on the court. Overrated. Overrated."

TigerBlog didn't want to say this Friday, just in case Princeton lost. He didn't want to be the one to throw a bigger damper on what the mood would have been.

Yes, it still would have been a great season. No, it wouldn't have been what it became Saturday.

Princeton went out and did what no other Princeton women's basketball team had ever done and what only one other Ivy League team had ever done. It won an NCAA tournament game.

Princeton defeated Green Bay 80-70 in a game that was no fluke at all. Princeton had five players in double figures, had a 49-22 rebounding edge, knocked down 9 of 16 three-pointers and shot 21 for 26 as a team from the foul line.

More than that, Princeton executed flawlessly when it needed to in a close game in a big spot, something that was a big question mark for a team that had won 28 games by double figures and had almost never had a moment this season - other than one game at Yale and maybe a little stretch of the second half at Penn - when the outcome of its game wasn't a foregone conclusion after 10 or 15 minutes.

This time, Princeton trailed at halftime. This time, it was the NCAA tournament. This time, Princeton could be forgiven for sensing the narrative that TigerBlog lied about Friday.

Instead it was a magical day for the Tigers. It's not every day that the President of the United States comes to watch a game in person, so that alone made it special. Call it "31 and Obama."

Beyond that, this was the game the team had pointed to all year. The chance to be different. It's not the 30-0 that necessarily defines this team now. It's the 30-0 regular season AND the NCAA tournament win.

It was accomplished on a huge stage, with a national ESPN2 audience. The team generated a ton of media coverage as it got closer to 30-0, but that was nothing compared to what the last few days were like. And then, with the President there, the attention skyrocketed.

It made for a one of the greatest moments in the history of Princeton Athletics in the last few decades. Or ever, really. That's how great Saturday was.

HERE, see for yourself. 

So now what?

Well, it's the game that TB would rather have come one round from now, but oh well. It's the Tigers, the 31-0 Tigers, against the No. 1 seed in the region, the 31-2 Maryland Terps. The game is tonight at 6:30, by the way.

This is a huge challenge.

It would have been better to be a four or five, which would have meant the 12th or 13th seed and then the four or five, with the top seed in the Sweet 16.

But hey, there's nothing that Princeton could do about that.

Maryland is for real. The Terps ran the table in the Big Ten and in fact have won 25 straight. Their only two losses came back-to-back, against Washington State and Notre Dame, back on Nov. 29 and Dec. 3

This is a team built to go deep into this tournament, and it will be playing on its home court. Maryland scores more than 80 a game and allows barely 60.

Princeton needs to shoot well. It needs to rebound. It especially needs to not turn the ball over.

Princeton needs to not get run out of the Xfinity Center quickly. The longer the game stays close, the more confidence Princeton will have. The goal is to get to the under-eight media timeout of the second half in position to pull the game out.

Maybe it will be a great game. Maybe it won't.

Princeton put the validation on its season Saturday. The game tonight just adds to to it.

Princeton has won every game it has played to this point, and it's a team that couldn't be more likable. Every time any member of the team - player, coach - speaks into a microphone, the team's image is enhanced a little more.

Nothing that happens tonight changes that. Yeah yeah, he said that last week, but he was lying to you then. He's not lying now.

This is one of the greatest teams ever to represent Princeton University.

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