Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What? An Eight?

TigerBlog was part of the University's service luncheon yesterday at Jadwin Gym.

This is an annual event that recognizes those who have worked at Princeton for 10, 15, 20, 25 years, all the way up to 50, in the case of Thomas Provost, who has worked at the Princeton Plasma Physics lab since 1964.

If you're keeping score, that's 20 years for TigerBlog. Actually it's closer to 21, or even 26, if you want to count the time he spent at the newspaper.

The event began when University President Christopher Eisgruber welcomed everyone to the building, calling it "the home of the undefeated women's basketball team," which got a huge ovation.

When TigerBlog left the luncheon, he firmly believed that Jadwin Gym was also going to be the home of the 2015 NCAA women's basketball first and second rounds. He was pretty close to 100% sure of it.

Princeton, after all, is 30-0, with nine wins over top 100 RPI teams and an RPI of 12. Plus, TigerBlog figured, the women's basketball committee surely wouldn't hold it against the Tigers that their strength of schedule was low, since more than anyone the committee should realize how hard it is for a powerful mid-major to schedule out of the league.

Not everyone from a power conference is open to playing a team from a non-power conference that figures to be tough to beat. Surely the committee knows this, TB thought.

He thought back to the 1998 men's season, when the Tigers got a fifth seed with a very similar profile. In that year, Princeton was rewarded for its 26-1 regular season.

So yeah, TigerBlog thought the Tigers were going to be home.

And then the selection show started.

TigerBlog was tweeting, and he figured that Princeton was going to be a four or five seed. When the first three regions came and went with no mention of the Tigers, he thought it was down to Princeton and George Washington to be the four and five seeds, in either order.

So what happened? First Maryland came up as the No. 1. And then, stunningly, there was Princeton, an eight seed, to play against Green Bay, a nine seed.

An eighth seed? TigerBlog was shocked.

The winner gets No. 1 Maryland, assuming the 30-2 Terps can beat 16th-seeded New Mexico State in Round 1.

And there you have it.

TigerBlog tweeted "is this fair?" Within an hour he had 36 retweets, 20 favorites and 11 comments.

Afterwards, Princeton coach Courtney Banghart appeared on ESPNU and said all of the right things, about respecting the tournament, about the difficulties in schedule, about how good her opponent is and about how proud she was of her team. She did all this while wearing her 30-0 t-shirt and a big smile.

She did mention that this will be her fifth NCAA tournament with the Tigers and third in the eight/nine game.

This team, though, should have been different. Not a top four seed and host? Okay, TigerBlog could deal with it. Maybe even a six.

But an eight?

Here are the big problems with being an eight: 1) your first opponent is a supposed to be on your level and 2) if you win, you get the No. 1. If your goal is to get to the Sweet 16, that's not the easiest way to do it.

Princeton deserved better.

You want to say that the RPI isn't the only factor and is in fact only a guide? Okay. You want to say Princeton's strength of schedule isn't great? Okay.

But hey, did you watch the team play? It's not a team that went 25-5 or 27-3 or 29-1. Princeton is 30-0.

There's only one unbeaten team in Division I women's basketball. That should have counted for something.

It didn't. Not a thing.

And this wasn't a team that just eked out wins. This is a team that destroyed pretty much everyone it played.

Ironically, during the men's selection show, the committee chair used the term "eye test" a bunch of times in talking about seedings. Princeton's women's biggest strength was the "eye test," but it appears not to have been used here. 

So now what? Of course, there's nothing Princeton can do about it now other than to focus on the task at hand, and that's the game Saturday morning at Maryland against Green Bay. It's a chance to get the first NCAA tournament win in program history and just the second by an Ivy League team.

It certainly won't be easy. Green Bay is 28-4, by the way.

Princeton's goal has been to get that first NCAA tournament win for the program.

It just didn't think that it would have to try to do it in the eight/nine game.

In reality, it shouldn't have to be.

Princeton deserved better.

The Tigers earned it. They just didn't get it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It seems very likely no one from the major conferences wanted to play us, any more than they did in the regular season, any more than they wanted to play our men in the regular season or the post-season.

The best strategy, again this season, was to position us to face a #1 seed in the second round/