Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Just Perfect

TigerBlog doesn't need many words today. He doesn't need any, actually.

He can tell the whole story with just numbers.


There you have it. 

The Princeton women's basketball team completed an incredible feat yesterday when it knocked off Penn 55-42. The result was a perfect 30-0 regular season with a run of dominance that includes 28 wins by double figures and 20 games in which Princeton led by at least 20 points at some point.

The Tigers did so much to destroy any reasonable expectations that it seemed unusual that the game yesterday stayed close into the second half. Keep in mind, this was a double-figure win over a team with an RPI of 49 that had won nine straight games.

Princeton's 30-0 romp through the 2014-15 regular season included four wins against teams with an RPI in the top 50 and a total of nine wins against teams with an RPI in the top 100.

Oh, and of those nine wins? Eight of them were by double figures. 

The question looking forward is whether or not the 30-0 record will bring the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament to Jadwin Gym. Will Princeton get to play at home?

The fact that this is even under discussion shows you how ridiculous Princeton's season has been. An Ivy team with home court in the NCAA?

The women's basketball selections will be announced Monday at 7. Between now and then, it's all speculation.

There will also be a continuation of the media crush that has descended on this team, including some time with ESPN's College GameDay.

And then it'll be time for the NCAA tournament. Only once has an Ivy League women's team won an NCAA tournament game, back in 1998, when Harvard defeated injury-ravaged Stanford.

All of that is still to come.

For today, it's a chance to step back and marvel at a team that went 30-0.

No Ivy League women's basketball had ever won even its first 10 games of the season. The Tigers eclipsed the 28-0 start of the 1971 Penn men for the best start in league history.

It's not just that Princeton is unbeaten. It's that Princeton has annihilated these teams, overwhelmed them often from the opening tip.

It's been extraordinary to watch. It's so beyond the spectrum of what a basketball season is supposed to be. Teams aren't supposed to win 28 games by double figures - and have no team stay within six of them, for that matter.

It's even harder in the Ivy League, TigerBlog supposes, where games are played on Fridays and then Saturdays. Surely one of those Saturday nights would be an off-night, where nothing is falling. Surely there has to be a night or two when it just doesn't go your way - or when an opponent who usually shoots 35% as a team shoots 65%.

But no. Not this team. Not this year.

There was no let up at any point. There was no off-night. Even when pushed - like at Yale or yesterday, when Penn had six possessions in the second half with a chance to take the lead - Princeton responded and executed when needed.

Maybe it's because Princeton is a team of great balance. It can score and defend. It can shoot from the outside and the inside. It can rebound at both ends of the court.

It has an experienced starting five and depth on the bench, and it doesn't need any one or two players to simply carry the team night after night.

TigerBlog is a history guy, and he's been wondering where this 30-0 run ranks all-time in Princeton athletic history.

It's way, way up there.

It's really hard to compare achievements across sports. Is going 30-0 in women's basketball during the regular season better than winning the NCAA field hockey championship or getting to a women's soccer Final Four?

It all depends on your perspective, TB supposes. TigerBlog mentions those two because they are achievements by Princeton teams that, like being 30-0, are unmatched in Ivy League women's history.

TigerBlog supposes that the answer to this question depends on what happens next week in the NCAA tournament.

For now, though, 30-0 stands on its own merit.

Keep in mind this as well: Princeton and Penn were tied for first in the Ivy League's preseason poll. And when Princeton's Class of 2013 - the Niveen Rasheed class - graduated and Penn won last year, it wasn't outrageous to think that the teams were fairly even for 2015.

Instead, Princeton did something historic.

The first person to mention 30-0 to TigerBlog was Andrew Borders, his colleague in the Office of Athletic Communications. Andrew casually said that Princeton would be 30-0 when the team was something like 4-0 or 5-0, before it ever played at Michigan.

When TB heard this, he scoffed. It seemed ridiculous.

30-0? No way. No chance. Impossible.

30-0? As of yesterday, that's Princeton's record.


Nothing else really needs to be said.

Well, maybe this:

Princeton women's basketball 2014-15. This is what greatness looks like.

If you saw them play, you know exactly what TigerBlog means.

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