Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Worth A Read

TigerBlog remembers Flinder Boyd as a pesky point guard at Dartmouth, back about 10 or 15 years ago or so.

As it turns out, he was Dartmouth Class of 2002.

TigerBlog remembers a bunch of other Dartmouth guys from around then some of whom played with Boyd and a few who were older. Guys like Greg Buth, Brian Gilpin, Shawn Gee, Sea Lonergan, Charles Harris and a few others, some of whom, as it turned out when TB looked through Dartmouth's archives, were a little older than Boyd.

Okay, so he can't remember all the years.

He does remember that most nights against Dartmouth weren't going to be easy, and he remembers how hard Dartmouth teams always seemed to play. He remembers nights in Leede Arena in Hanover, frozen nights in New Hampshire, with the late Kathy Slattery in charge of basically all things in the building and his friend Bruce Wood there to chronicle it all, both of them hoping that at least once there'd be an NCAA tournament in it for them.

Sadly, it wasn't to be for Slattery, who passed away some years ago after a long tenure as the Dartmouth sports information director. She was an imposing presence at Dartmouth, to be sure, and she was from the first moment TB met her, back in 1989 or so.

TigerBlog hadn't thought much about those days, or about Flinder Boyd, much of late.

Then he stumbled onto a story that Boyd had written, a story included in the Top American Sportswriting of 2014.

It's an incredible story, about an otherwise aimless young man whose complete focus is on taking advantage of his one shot at the big time at New York City's Rucker Park. Boyd does an amazing job of telling the story; it is clearly one of the best pieces TB has ever read.

It's a bit long, but it is well, well worth your time. Click HERE to read it.

Did you read it? Or are you finishing here first?

Either way, glad you're here.

TigerBlog will now fast forward to the current day Ivy League basketball races. It's a good time to do it, at about the midway point of the season, as each team has played eight of 14 league games, except for Princeton and Penn, who have played seven. This goes for women and men.

If you look at the standings, you'll see that on the men's side, Harvard and Yale are both 7-1, followed by Princeton at 4-3. No other team has fewer than four losses.

On the women's side, obviously Princeton is 7-0. Oh, by the way, the game Friday has been moved from 7 to 6; hopefully word has made it to you by now.

Behind Princeton, Penn is 5-2. Yale and Cornell are 5-3. Everyone else is under .500.

So how many teams are still in the title chase?

On the men's side, it's clear that Harvard and Yale are in the best position. Princeton, if it can win out, would be at 11-3, and Harvard and Yale would each have at least two losses, by virtue of losing to Princeton. Plus, one of them would have a third loss by virtue of playing each other.

Is it out of the realm of possibility that the one who wins the Harvard-Yale game would lose again? Maybe, maybe not.

But for the sake of discussion, let's say three teams are alive.

On the women's side? TigerBlog is very careful not to get ahead of anything here, but clearly Princeton is aiming for a 30-0 season. To do that, Princeton would have to beat each Ivy team again.

Given that Princeton has won six of its seven Ivy games by at least 18 points and five by at least 28 points, it's not crazy to think Princeton will get there. It's hardly set in stone, but Princeton will be the favorite in every one of those seven games.

On the other hand, if someone can nick Princeton along the way and Penn can win its next six, then the teams would get to the end of the regular season at the Palestra with only one game between them. That'd be a lot of pressure on the Tigers.

So you want to say Penn is still alive? You want to say the 5-3 teams are probably out of it, since Princeton would have to go 4-3 the rest of the way to allow them to get a share of the title? Okay, TB is fine with that.

That means that of the 16 Ivy League basketball teams, only five still have a chance at winning the league and getting to the NCAA tournament. At the midway point.

And there are many Ivy fans who would say that only three teams are legitimately in the race, two on the men's side and one on the women's side.

What's the point of all this?

The Ivy League is the only conference in the country that does not have a postseason conference tournament to determine its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

For years, TigerBlog has been anti-tournament. In fact, he's surprised that every other one-bid conference still has its tournament.

If you look at the Patriot League, only five games separate first place from last place right now on the men's side. Doesn't the team that guts it out through that tough a race deserve to be the champion and go to the tournament? Or should they have to start from scratch again in a league tournament, one that completely devalues the regular season?

If anything, it's the current women's situation that would give a justification for a tournament, in that if someone besides Princeton won, then the league would probably get two bids. It's why the lacrosse tournaments are so good, because they don't deny NCAA bids to deserving teams. They give other teams a chance at getting one as well.

So why have a conference basketball tournament if it's going to keep your best team out of the tournament? TigerBlog doesn't get it.

The flip side is that the majority of the league's teams are not playing for NCAA tournament spots midway though the season. If there was a traditional conference tournament, every team would still be alive - even though most wouldn't have earned that right.

TB has said this before. If the Ivy League does want to adopt a tournament, make it a four-team one. Or even better, make it a three-team one on each side.

On a Friday, have the second place team play the third place team for the men and women. A doubleheader.

Then, on Saturday, have the winners play the first place teams in another doubleheader. A championship doubleheader.

TigerBlog could deal with that.

An eight-team tournament?

As he's said a million times before, TigerBlog would hate to see that.

Let the regular season matter. The Ivy League is the only league that, in TB's opinion, does it right in this situation.

Why give that up?

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