Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Great Game With A Frustrating End

TigerBlog told you yesterday that the NIT can be very exciting.

Princeton found that out last night.

Something else the NIT can be is frustrating. Any one-and-done tournament can be. Princeton found that out last night too.

Princeton fell in its NIT opener at Virginia Tech 86-81 in overtime. It was a tremendous game, and Princeton had a great performance against an ACC team in a building where it isn't easy to come away with a win.

You know who couldn't do it this year?

Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. Miami, the No. 3 seed in the South. Both of them lost in Virginia Tech's Cassell Coliseum this season.

North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the East, did win there. By five.

And Virginia Tech basically sold out Cassell in three days for this game.

With a crowd of nearly 10,000 against them against and facing an ACC team that finished above .500 in the league, Princeton found itself down by double figures twice in the second half. And despite that, the Tigers came back.

All the way back, in fact, taking the lead three times in the final four minutes. Virginia Tech took advantage of a rough turnover late in regulation to force overtime, and from there the Hokies were able to win.

Princeton competed really hard, in a great atmosphere. It would have been great to come away with a win, but Princeton definitely showed up.

The result is the end of an outstanding season for the Tigers, who went 22-7 in 2015-16. Princeton was a team that scored a lot of points and played an exciting brand of up-tempo basketball.

And they did it with a team that didn't have a player play in the game last night who won't be back next year. There are serious pieces in place next year, when Princeton figures to have its best team in years.

It's an entire team of guys who are fun to watch, and they'll have another year of experience both as individuals and from playing together as they head into 2016-17. It's also a team with great depth, which means that you never know which player is going to be the one to stand out on any given night.

Yeah, it would have been great to play in the second round of the NIT. But other than that, there really isn't anything bad you can say about how Princeton did last night.

While we're talking Princeton basketball in the postseason, today is March 17. If you're a Princeton fan, you know what happened on this day in 1989.

Did you see the story Alonzo Mourning wrote about the Princeton-Georgetown NCAA men's basketball opening round game of 1989? If not, you can see it right HERE.

That game was 27 years ago today, by the way. It was St. Patrick's Day 1989, at the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunkin' Donuts Center). Princeton, the No. 16 seed. Georgetown, the No. 1 seed.

You know the story. Georgetown won, 50-49. The game ended with a pair of Mourning blocked shots, against Bob Scrabis and Kit Mueller, in the final six seconds.

Was either or both fouled?

In his very well-done story, Mourning says they weren't. "I'll take that up with God when I get there," Pete Carril said afterwards.

TigerBlog has talked to be both Scrabis and Mueller about both of their shots through the years since. Both are sure that their shots would have gone in had Mourning not gotten them.

Still, to this day no No. 16 has beaten a No. 1.

Bill Carmody will get a shot at doing it as his improbable Holy Cross Crusaders won last night in the First Four, defeating Southern 59-55. Their reward is a game against top-seeded Oregon.

In case you missed it, Holy Cross had not won a road game all year before winning four straight in the Patriot League tournament. And then they won the First Four game.

Carmody is one of TigerBlog's heroes. TB hasn't met too many people in his life quite like Carmody, who combines a laid-back demeanor with some of the most ultra-competitive fierceness TB has seen. 

Carmody was Carril's top assistant for that 1989 game against Georgetown, and he had just been named the soon-to-be head coach when Princeton beat UCLA in 1996. He went 14-0 in the Ivy League in his first season, and he did that again in 1998, when he beat UNLV in the opening round of the 1998 NCAAs.

He was also the Princeton head man in the 1999 NIT, when the Tigers defeated Georgetown and N.C. State before losing to Xavier. And the next year, when Princeton lost at Penn State.

As Princeton played Virginia Tech last night, the ESPNU announcers mentioned the 1999 Princeton-Georgetown game as the game where Princeton played only five players the entire way.

That was in the first half, when Princeton had started to fall behind after starting out up 9-0. But the game had a long way to go from then.

It turned out to be a great NIT game, although one with a frustrating end for Princeton. And this time of year in college basketball, there's a harsh finality to that last loss.

You can bet that the Tigers are ready to go for 2016-17 already. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was one of the maybe 50 Tiger fans there last night, and the 10,000 attendance figure undercounted the Hokie faithful by about 150,000 or so. Sitting in a sea of maroon and orange and deafened by the noise, I marveled at the Tigers' poise and grit. Yet another reason to take pride in Princeton Athletics.