Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Somewhere Around 470

Bill Bradley scored 2,503 points as a Princeton men's basketball player, in three years, without a three-point shot.

How does TigerBlog know that? Because that's what the record book says.

It's been that way since TigerBlog first started to cover Princeton sports. Bill Bradley - 2,503.

TigerBlog has never bothered to confirm that. How would he, for that matter? He's seen a game-by-game listing of Bradley's point totals for his career, one that, by the way, showed TB the single most fascinating stat about Bradley's unreal career here.

It's not the points. It's not the fact that has the 11 best single-game performances in program history. It's not that it's more than 50 years later (30 of them with the three-point shot) and nobody is within 858 points of him and only three players - Ian Hummer, Douglas Davis and Kit Mueller - are within 1,000 of him.

Nope. It's that in his three varsity seasons at Princeton, Bill Bradley never failed to score fewer than 16 points in a game.

Or at least that's what the game-by-game says.

Now, let's keep in mind that that game-by-game list was hand-written. What if, as it was being chronicled, there was a "26" written in instead of a "25" or "27.?" Who would ever know? TigerBlog would have to go back and find every box score from every game Bradley played here and cross check against that hand-written game-by-game list.

Then again, maybe the hand-kept box scores back then were wrong. Or the computerized ones now? Maybe someone was given a basket that Bradley scored, or the opposite.

What's the point of this?

Well, it's that there's a certain leap of faith involved in some things. Like historical records.

Bradley has 2,503 career points because a list in the record book says he does. That's all.

Now, what do you do if you have two lists that contradict each other and no idea where either list originated. That's the case for TigerBlog when it came to answering a simple question: How many Ivy League championships has Princeton won.

TigerBlog can answer that fairly accurately in one way. It is true that Princeton has won more, a lot more, than any other school.

On the other hand, he's not sure yet what the absolute exact number is. He can say it's around 470. Is that good enough?

Well, no, it isn't. So where's the problem coming from?

TigerBlog has two spreadsheets that list all-time Ivy League championships, one for Princeton, and one for all eight league schools. The problem is that they differ slightly.

The other problem is that TigerBlog has no idea where the original spreadsheet originated. He just knows that it's been on his desktop for years, decades.

Did he put it together a long time ago when he started? That's as possible as anything else, including that he found the file and has just kept adding to it each year.

Anyway, when he compared the two (he has no idea where the other one came from), he found that they differ by one here, one there. His spreadsheet says Princeton has 463 Ivy titles. The other one says 472.

So now what to do?

TigerBlog's colleague Warren Croxton started on the website and then tried to go through each year individually, to crosscheck titles listed on the two different sheets. The Ivy League website is helpful, in that it lists year-by-year champions, but there are inconsistencies there too (not throwing the Ivy office folks under the bus; this all started because of Princeton's inconsistencies).

The only way to do this accurately is to go back to the beginning, which would be 1956-57, and create a new spreadsheet, one that lists each year and then has each team that won the championship that year in a column. Then TB will add up all the columns.

He's thinking it'll be closer to the 472 number than the 463 number, but he'll be honest about what he finds.

He can give you some numbers of which he's positive. Princeton has won 222 Ivy titles in the last 20 years, an average of exactly 11.0 per year. Only one other school (starts with an H) has ever reached double figures in an academic year. Princeton has averaged 11 for the last 20 years.

Also, Princeton's 222 in the last 20 years is 65 more than second-place Harvard. Cornell is third, with 100 exactly.

TigerBlog is positive of those numbers. Well, pretty positive.

Just kidding.

As for 2,503, he'll go with that without questioning it.

And 1492 and 1776 too.

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