Wednesday, March 16, 2016

NIT Time

TigerBlog is going to go out on a limb and say that he valued the following three TV events from Sunday in a different order than most of the American sporting public.

1) the NCAA men's basketball Selection Show
2) the NIT men's basketball Selection Show
3) the Denver-Notre Dame men's lacrosse game

The NCAA Selection Show used to be one of the highlights of the tournament. Now? CBS took it from an exciting, fast-paced 30-minute presentation to whatever it put out there Sunday night.

TigerBlog didn't watch one second of it. He was watching Denver-Notre Dame, which, as an aside, would make for a nice rematch on Memorial Day after the Pioneers defeated the Irish 9-8 in OT.

After that, he tried to sneak one episode of "Gilmore Girls" in before the NIT show. Luckily, he didn't have to wait long on the bracket, as Princeton was one of the first schools called.

Princeton, as a reward for its 22-6 season, earned a sixth-seed in the NIT and will play at Virginia Tech tobight at 8. You can see the game on ESPNU.

TigerBlog was hoping for a home game in the NIT. Everything he'd read in advance suggested that Princeton had a great shot at a four seed, which would have meant a game at Jadwin.

Instead, it was off to Blacksburg.

TigerBlog didn't think Princeton would get an NCAA tournament at-large bid. When he saw some of the teams who did, though, he was a bit annoyed that Princeton hadn't at least been in the conversation.

Why not Princeton? Why not Monmouth? Why not St. Bonaventure? Why Syracuse? Why Tulsa?

Really, why Syracuse? Gary had it right.

That's Gary Walters, by the way. When he was the chair of the selection committee, he kept Syracuse out.

Anyway, TigerBlog knows the answers as to the whys and why nots. He just doesn't like them.

What is a team like Princeton or Monmouth supposed to do? They can't get major conference teams to come to their buildings.

Anyway, back at the NCAA Selection Show, it used to be great because there was no other way to find out who was in and who was out. The teams didn't know. Nobody knew.

Now, you can see it online as quickly as it's announced. Actually quicker, since someone hacked the draw and put it on Twitter. The NCAA is investigating.

In this case, CBS got what it deserved, with the leaked draw and the endless mocking its show has gotten basically everywhere since.

The network turned a half-hour show into a two-hour nightmare. At least that's what TB read.

He saw the NIT show. The host started out mocking CBS, saying that he was pretty sure the draw hadn't been hacked and that he promised the show would be 30 minutes.

And so there is the game tonight, Princeton at Virginia Tech.

TigerBlog has seen Princeton play in three NITs.

The Tigers played a great game at Louisville in 2002, losing 66-65 after Ed Persia had put the Tigers ahead with 10 seconds left, only to see the Cardinals answer. Ahmed El-Nokali, one of the steadiest players that TigerBlog has seen at Princeton, almost won it at the buzzer with a shot from about 35 feet that was from right in front of where TB was sitting in Freedom Hall and looked dead-center perfect the whole way.

El-Nokali, by the way, would have made a great basketball broadcaster, sort of like Noah Savage.

The 2000 Tigers played in the NIT at Penn State, and that wasn't a great game. Princeton lost 55-41 in what would be Bill Carmody's final game as Tiger head coach on a night that saw the Tigers shoot 1 for 17 from three-point range. And no, TigerBlog doesn't need to look that up.

The other NIT was in 1999.

This was a great run for the Tigers, who beat Georgetown at home in a game in which only five players appeared. The five? Ahmed, Mason Rocca, Brian Earl, Gabe Lewullis, Chris Young. TigerBlog wonders if that's the most recent time that a college basketball used only five players in a game.

The box score looks cool.

After that game, Princeton then played at North Carolina State, defeating the Wolfpack in the last game in the old Reynolds Coliseum. The run ended in the quarterfinals, when Princeton lost a big lead to Xavier.

TigerBlog wasn't around for the NIT appearance before that one. That was in 1975, when the entire tournament was still played in Madison Square Garden.

That year, Princeton defeated Holy Cross, South Carolina, Oregon and Providence to win the tournament. It was one of the signature accomplishments of Pete Carril's Princeton career.

The other NIT appearance? Princeton beat Indiana and lost to Niagara in 1972.

Added all up and Princeton is 6-4 all-time in NIT games, with one championship and one quarterfinal appearance.

The NIT is not the NCAA tournament, where the experience itself is overwhelming, even if you lose in the first round. What the NIT is is an opportunity to extend your season against quality opponents, and if you can get on a run, it becomes a very exciting tournament.

TigerBlog thought all of the NIT games he went to were fun, even the one at Penn State. 

Princeton and Va. Tech have never met before. The Hokies are 19-14 overall, including 10-8 in the ACC. Both teams like to score points, and with little time to prepare, it could be an exciting one.

The NCAA is the goal.

The NIT isn't a bad consolation prize.

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