Monday, March 21, 2016

Off The Bounce

For those who couldn't get enough of the cool-sounding but completely nonsensical phrase "score the basketball," TigerBlog offers up what appears to be the 2.0 version of that.

And it is? "Off the bounce."

You couldn't watch 10 minutes of the NCAA basketball tournament without hearing an announcer use the term "off the bounce." Someone said it first. It sounded good. TB supposes it sounds cooler than "off the dribble," so everyone else went with it.

What's next year's? That's anyone's best guess. Maybe TB should come up with one and see if he can get it to spread. He'll work on it. Are there royalties for this?

Perhaps not surprisingly, TigerBlog watched more lacrosse than basketball this weekend. There was one game live, one game online and two games on TV. And the two TV games went overtime, so that was even a little more than just four games.

Still, he did see enough of the NCAA basketball tournament to hear "off the bounce" about 50 times.

He did see enough to see Northern Iowa give away a 12-point lead in 38 seconds and then lose in two overtimes. How in the world was that possible? 

The NCAA men's tournament goes from having 68 ecstatic teams one Sunday night and knocks that group down to 16 one Sunday later. If you're not doing the math, that means that 52 teams have already been eliminated.

One of them is Yale, who beat Baylor and then lost to Duke. Any time the Ivy League champion wins a game in the NCAA tournament it is a tremendous accomplishment. 

From 1981 through 1994, the only wins in the NCAA men's tournament by Ivy teams were in 1983 and 1984, when Princeton beat North Carolina A&T, Oklahoma State and San Diego - with two of those wins in the play-in round before the tournament went to 64 teams.

From 1986-88, the Ivy League teams in the NCAA's lost their first-round games by a combined 120 points. That's 40.0 points on average.

The next year was the year that Princeton, seeded 16th, lost to No. 1 Georgetown 50-49 in the game that has been credited with having saved March Madness. HERE is a Providence Journal story from last week that catches you up.

That game was the start of a four-year stretch that saw Princeton lost by one, four, two and eight - a total of 15 points in four games (Georgetown, Arkansas, Villanova, Syracuse). Penn finally broke through in 1994, beating a Nebraska team that is probably the weakest first-round opponent any Ivy team has had in the last few decades (and that Penn team was one of the best Ivy teams of that time).

Yale's win over Baylor gave the Ivies seven NCAA wins since then. Princeton has two (UCLA and UNLV, if you forgot), Cornell has two, Harvard has two and now Yale has one.

The victory by the Bulldogs will be the second most-remembered story from Ivy League basketball in 2016.

The most remembered will be that the Princeton women got into the tournament. It was the first time in history that the Ivy League had two bids to an NCAA tournament, men or women, and that achievement is something that not that long ago seemed impossible, especially on the women's side.

Princeton played West Virginia Friday at Ohio State.

TigerBlog watched that game on TV. He thought the volleyball lines were pretty distracting, and he wondered if the players were ever fooled into thinking they were closer to the sideline than they really were.

In the end, WVU was too much for the Tigers, who fell 74-65. Penn, the league champ, lost 65-53 to Washington Saturday.

The loss to West Virginia ended the careers of the five members of Princeton's Class of 2016. Those five are: Amanda Berntsen, Michelle Miller, Annie Tarakchian, Alex Wheatley and Taylor Williams.

Those five finish their Princeton careers with 4,605 points. That's an extraordinary number of points.

And points aren't everything they've been about. They have so many accomplishments that to list them all would be silly.

Not as silly as "score the basketball" or "off the bounce," now that TB thinks about, so he'll go ahead and list them:

* two Ivy titles
* three NCAA tournaments
* four postseasons
* two postseason wins, including the first NCAA win in program history
* a 97-23 record, including 50-6 in the Ivy League
* a national ranking of 13, the highest in Ivy women's history
* a 30-0 regular season and 31-1 overall record, both the best in Ivy men's or women's history
* more than 20 Ivy League Player of the Week honors

Their graduation will certainly make next season interesting. Princeton will return exactly one player who has ever started a game, and that is Vanessa Smith.

Certainly there is a big challenge ahead for Courtney Banghart and her staff. At the same time, she's been here before, especially after graduating Lauren Edwards, Devona Allgood and especially Niveen Rasheed - and others - in a two-year span.

It didn't take the Tigers long to be back, did it? Yes, Penn is the prohibitive favorite for next year, with basically every player on the roster back.

But TigerBlog won't count Princeton out quite yet. He'll never count Courtney Banghart out.

Still, that's months away.

For now, it's time to look back at the recently concluded Ivy League basketball season, and marvel once again at a remarkable senior class, one that put together such an amazing four years at Princeton - and ended it doing something that had never been done before.

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