Monday, March 10, 2014

Winner Take All

Bill Bradley scored 2,503 points in his Princeton basketball career.

Doug McDermott of Creighton went over the 3,000-point mark for his career in his team's win over Providence Saturday, making him the eighth player in Division I history to reach that milestone. If you want to know who else scored at least 3,000 points, here are the other seven: LSU’s Pete Maravich, Portland State’s Freeman Williams, La Salle’s Lionel Simmons, Mississippi Valley State’s Alphonso Ford, Texas Southern’s Harry Kelly, Saint Peter’s Keydren Clark and Bradley’s Hersey Hawkins.

When TigerBlog saw that McDermott reached 3,000 points, it got him wondering how many Bradley would have had if he had 1) played for four years, 2) had the three-point shot and 3) played in the number of games each year that current players do.

Let's start with the last one.

Bradley, like all players back then, was limited to three varsity seasons, not because he would leave early for the NBA but because freshmen were ineligible for varsity. Princeton played 25 games his sophomore year of 1962-63 and then 29 games each of his final two years, for a total of 83 games.

The game against Providence was McDermott's 140th as a Blue Jay. That would be 57 more games than Bradley played at Princeton.

In many ways, by the way, that number alone shows you the staggering expansion of college basketball over the decades.

Meanwhile, back at Bradley, he averaged 27.3 points per game as a sophomore, with a figure that grew to 32.3 as a junior and 30.5 as a senior. You want to say he would have averaged 25.0 as a freshman had he been able to play in 1961-62? Princeton played 23 games that season, so 23 games at 25.0 per game would have meant 575 points, which would have given Bradley 3,078.

Or you can do it this way:

Bradley averaged 30.1 per game for his career. By simply giving him 30.1 points for 57 more games, Bradley would scored an additional 1,716 points, bringing his total to 4,219.

Or do you want to give him 25 per game as a freshman, which would have dropped his career average to around 28.5. Give him that for 57 more games and he has 1,625 more points, or 4,128 for his career.

Then there's the three-point factor. Bradley scored most of his points at Princeton, TB understands, from 15 feet and in, but had the three-point shot been available, Bradley would have made his fair share of them. McDermott has made 258 for his career, but TB senses that Bradley wouldn't have gotten that many, because he didn't rely too heavily on any one shot and was the master of so many different ways to score.

Do you want to give him 150 three-pointers instead of two-pointers? That's an additional 150 points, taking him near 4,300 or 4,400. TB will go with a number somewhere around that.

Let's call it 4,342 - 4,300 points, plus Bradley's retired number of 42.

TigerBlog saw a graphic somewhere about McDermott's scoring broken down in five minute increments by half. In other words, he scored so many points from the 20:00 to 15:00 mark and then 15:00 to 20:00 and so on.

TB doesn't even remember what his best five-minute stretch was, because he was too busy wondering who in the world put that information together and how. Then again, TB always wonders who comes up with every obscure fact that he says, and how they do it.

TB did want to figure out if there has ever been another game in Ivy League basketball history like the one coming up tomorrow at 5:30 at Jadwin Gym, when Princeton and Penn meet in the women's basketball regular season finale in what is essentially a winner-take-all championship game.

Has that ever happened before?

TigerBlog went through the Ivy League year-by-year standings for both men and women, found years in which one team won by a single game and then tried to see if that team defeated the team that finished second in the last game of the regular season.

Unless he did it wrong and missed a year, TigerBlog has come up with only one other instance in women's basketball and not a single one in men's basketball. In men's basketball, the Ivy League has had a double round-robin format since 1956-57, and TB cannot find a single year where this has happened.

In women's basketball, the double round-robin began in 1982-83. The only other time this has happened, TB has found, was back in 1994-95, when Dartmouth defeated Harvard 72-48 to win the championship.

There have been all kinds of ties for championships on the men's and women's side, even thre-way ties. There have even been a lot of one-game margins of victory in the league standings, only without having the top two meet in the final game with the championship on the line.

And this brings us to tomorrow night, when a great women's basketball race comes to a close.

Princeton and Penn are 11-2, followed by Harvard at 11-3. The Crimson were in it until both Princeton and Penn swept their games this weekend against Cornell and Columbia, which means that Harvard - who went 1-3 against Princeton and Penn - will tie for second with the team that loses tomorrow.

And so we're a day removed from something that it appears has only happened once before in the Ivy League, and never for Princeton and Penn.

You might have have thought the men's teams would have had a game like this at some point during their decades of dominating Ivy League basketball, but no.

And so it will be up to the women tomorrow. It figures to be quite an event.

Winner-take-all usually is.

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