Friday, March 18, 2016

Tournament Thoughts

TigerBlog was filling out his NCAA tournament bracket yesterday for the Office of Athletic Communications pool when something rather startling dawned on him.

He's not a college basketball fan.

Oh, and the pool? It's for no money, with no entry fee and no prize to the winner, strictly for fun, completely NCAA-compliant, low-calorie, fat-free.

As for college basketball, TigerBlog is an Ivy League fan, men's and women's. And the other teams coached by Princeton people, like Georgetown, Holy Cross, American, Richmond.

Denver used to be on the list, until Joe Scott got fired. TigerBlog understands that's the business, but Denver was awful when Joe got there and under him became very competitive in its league. Oh wait, in its three leagues, as the Pioneers bounced around basically all over the country without much stability in a four-year period. It doesn't make it easy on the head coach.

Meanwhile, back at filling out his bracket, TigerBlog realized that he didn't really know much about who was good and how wasn't. For that matter, excluding Yale, he can probably name fewer than 20 players in the entire NCAA tournament.

That doesn't mean he didn't watch games yesterday, or that he won't pay attention now that the tournament has started. It's just that he didn't watch much during the regular season, or during the conference tournaments.

Why? Because, he supposes, there are just so many games on all the time, starting in November. It's great, but it's also over the top.

And lacrosse season starts earlier and earlier. It takes up more of TigerBlog's time in February, which is prime basketball time.

Added together, and other than Ivy League games and Georgetown, TigerBlog didn't watch more than 100 or so minutes of college basketball all year.

He watched a lot yesterday. He had just started watching the first game, Duke-UNC Wilmington, when he asked his colleague Andrew Borders what he thought of Yale's chances against Baylor. Beware, Andrew said.

His direct quote: "Makai Mason is a gamer."

And boy was he right. Mason went out and put up 31 points to lead Yale to its 79-75 win over Baylor. The win was the Ivy League's third first-round win in four years.

If you're wondering if Mason's 31 points are the Ivy record for an NCAA game, they aren't. Nope, that record belongs to Princeton's Bill Bradley, who scored 58 against Wichita State in the 1965 third-place game.

The Yale win was another 12 seed beats 5 seed game. They seem to happen at least once a year.

In this tournament, it's already happened twice, as Arkansas-Little Rock knocked off Purdue in two overtimes. TigerBlog, as an aside, thinks overtime in basketball should be three minutes, not five.

Yale's win brings up for TigerBlog something he always wonders. As a Princeton fan, do you root for Yale to win in the NCAAs because it's good for the league? Or do you always root against the league rivals, regardless?

The person at Yale TigerBlog is most happy for is Tim Bennett, the men's basketball contact for Yale's athletic communications office. Timmer is a former Princeton OAC intern from a long, long time ago, and he waited 25 years as the men's basketball contact at Yale to get to the NCAA tournament. 

Up next for Yale is Duke tomorrow in the second round.

Today, it's the turn of the Princeton women, who will take the court at noon against West Virginia in the opening round of the women's tournament. The game, being played at Ohio State, can be seen on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.

Princeton is the 11 seed. WVU is the No. 6 seed and the 23rd-ranked team in  the country.

The Princeton women actually added to the Ivy League's NCAA win column a year ago, when they defeated Wisconsin-Green Bay in the opening round. It was the first NCAA win in program history and the second by an Ivy League school.

This year's team has already made history, regardless of what happens in Ohio today. The Tigers earned an at-large bid to the tournament, making this the first multi-bid season in Ivy men's or women's history. It says a lot about the program that it was held in such high regard.

The women's team pulled out of Jadwin on its way to Trenton-Mercer Airport Wednesday afternoon and then chartered to Columbus. Yesterday's agenda included practice, the press conference and some down time in advance of the game.

There's a video on that chronicles the trip through the first two days. You can see it HERE.

Finally, TigerBlog also wants to mention the other Princeton team in the NCAAs this weekend, the wrestling team.

Princeton sent four wrestlers to Madison Square Garden for the NCAA championships, one off the program record of five, from last year. Here's another video for you, this one about the wrestlers who are competing.

The Tigers got off to a good start at MSG, especially EIWA champ Brett Harner, who moved into the quarterfinals. 

In all, Princeton will have nine teams who reached postseason championships this winter. Women's squash, women's indoor track and field, women's hockey and men's basketball are all done. Women's basketball and wrestling are at it this weekend; men's swimming and diving and both fencing teams are at it next weekend.

One more link: the nine winter postseason teams.

Remember - Princeton vs. West Virginia is at noon today on ESPN2 or online.

A team that's already made huge history will look to add a little more.

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