Friday, March 13, 2015

The Calm Before The Hurricane, Or Possibly Hurricanes

For a team with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament already in its back pocket, these are the oddest days of the season.

Everything builds to March, except there's this big hole in the schedule between the clincher and the end of the regular season - or, if your conference does it wrong, conference tournament. The result is  a few days of uncertainty, where coaches have nobody to prepare a scouting report on, players have no idea how they'll match up and, for that matter, teams that have no idea where they'll be playing on their biggest stage.

Such is the case for the Princeton women's basketball team.

Princeton earned the automatic bid last Saturday and wrapped up a 30-0 regular season Tuesday night. And then? There was a six-day wait to see what fate - and the NCAA committee - has in store for the Tigers.

Today marks the halfway point of that wait.

If you had been in Jadwin Gym around noon yesterday, you could have seen a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor named Lex Smits talking with Tiger head coach Courtney Banghart and seniors Blake Dietrick and Alex Rodgers about the science behind a three-point shot, all under the watchful eye and camera of Princeton's athletic video guru John Bullis.

The result was a fun, lighthearted piece that saw Smits interact with the players and coach in an easy-going, glad-to-get-to-meet-you way. It was a great slice of Princeton, the integration of the athletics and engineering, all brought together by a 30-0 basketball team.

In the end, after analyzing how Dietrick and Rodgers shot the ball, Smits took a turn, from the foul line. He airballed his first. Then he got a quick tutorial from Rodgers, which led him to, well, airball his second too.

His third? Swish. Perfect. Nothing but net. It made for a great ending to the video.

The big question around Jadwin, though, isn't how fast to release a basketball or how much arc to put on it.

Nope. The big question is this: When the NCAA women's basketball selections are announced Monday (at 7, on ESPN), will Princeton be playing at home?

TigerBlog says yes. He bases this on potentially flawed logic of course

The Tigers currently have an RPI of 12. There will be 16 home sites in the first and second rounds, and the team with the No. 7 RPI, Louisville, cannot host due to the fact that its facility is unavailable.

Plus, Princeton is the only undefeated team in the country. And the 30-0 Ivy League team has made for a great story that has generated great publicity for women's basketball.

Why wouldn't that be rewarded with a home site, especially with its RPI so high? 

Someone who disagrees with TigerBlog is Charlie Creme, who does the women's basketball bracketology for He has the Tigers as a fifth seed and has them on a plane west, headed to Stanford, to take on the 12th-seeded Miami Hurricanes.

TigerBlog cannot image that the No. 12 RPI team, the lone unbeaten in the country, will be shipped out 3,000 miles. Maybe the Tigers will be. TigerBlog just doesn't think that they will.

Of course, there's no way to know until Monday at 7. It's one of the great parts of the selection show. Nobody knows anything until it's released. Courtney Banghart is in the dark as much as the most casual fan.

The Ivy League men's automatic bid will be decided tomorrow afternoon at 4 at the Palestra, when Harvard and Yale play in a one-game playoff. It'll be the first time in Ivy League history that a playoff game does not involve either Princeton or Penn.

Because Harvard and Yale are considered co-champions regardless of what happens tomorrow, that means that the winter Ivy League seasons are all in the books.

And you know what that means, don't you? The Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship.

Harvard ended Princeton's 27-year run last year. This year? It's neck and neck between the two.

As a reminder, teams get eight points for finishing first, seven for second and so on. In a sport like men's lacrosse, say, where only seven schools field a team, the champion still gets eight. In the event of ties, the teams split the points, so two teams who tie for third each gets 5.5 points.

At the end of the winter, Princeton has 128.5 points. Harvard has 125.5. Nobody else has more than 85.

In other words, this figures to be close as the spring gets underway.

But all of that is weeks away.

The NCAA selections are days away.

Today? It's a day for things like videos with engineering professors and speculating on whether or not the Tigers will be at home.

TigerBlog says yes. 

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