Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Good To See Kit And Sean

TigerBlog's colleague Cody Chrusciel was taking video during the Ivy League basketball tournament this past weekend.

At one point at halftime of the women's final between Princeton and Penn, Cody worked his way up to a vantage point above the team room where the Tigers were gathered. As he pointed his camera down, he was hoping to get a shot of the Princeton women as the they came back on the court.

As he waited, there were three men who were standing in the landing area below him. Cody had no idea who two of them were, so TB explained it this way:

"There are five Ivy League Player of the Year awards standing there."

One of the men was Craig Robinson, the 1982 and 1983 Ivy Player of the Year. That's the one Cody knew. His daughter Leslie is a current Princeton senior and herself a first-team All-Ivy League selection.

Actually, that gets TigerBlog thinking. Are there any other father/mother/son/daughter first-team All-Ivy combos out there? It has to be someone obvious that he's just overlooking right now.

Anyway, as for the other two, they were Kit Mueller and Sean Jackson. Kit was the Ivy Player of the Year in 1990 and 1991, and then Sean won the award the next year, 1992.

That was a lot of Princeton basketball greatness in a short space.

TigerBlog left Cody and went down to say hello. Back when TigerBlog was a Princeton basketball novice, Kit Mueller and Sean Jackson were major pieces of a four-championships, four-year run for the Tigers, along with players like Bob Scrabis, Matt Lapin, Matt Eastwick, Matt Henshon, Jerry Doyle, George Leftwich and others.

Those were great teams. That's the group that almost beat Georgetown in 1989, losing 50-49 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, in the so-called "billion dollar game," as an ESPN 30-for-30 short film said, and that's the group that also had great games against Arkansas, Villanova and Syracuse.

That run - four NCAA losses by a total of 15 points - came after a three-year stretch in which the Ivy League champion (Brown in 1986, Penn in 1987, Cornell in 1988) lost three NCAA games by a combined 120 points. There was talk about taking away NCAA bids from small leagues, until that Georgetown game, which saved those bids and got CBS to pay $1 billion for the entire tournament.

Back then, TigerBlog was a newspaper reporter. He rode on the team bus to away games, always finishing his stories before the team got on the bus. That was a function of how long Pete Carril would keep them in the postgame lockerroom - as well as a function of how fast TB can write.

TB wrote a lot about Kit Mueller and Sean Jackson. If you never saw them play, Kit was the classic Pete Carril/Princeton center. He was a bit undersized, listed at 6-7, but he could score in the low post on anyone. He was also a great dribbler and passer, from the high post or low post. And tough.

Jackson was tough too. He played a little less than 2.5 seasons, making 212 three-pointers in that time. He was more than just an outside shooter though. He was tireless, a great defender, a great ballhandler and, as his coach always said, an incredibly hard worker.

Kit lives outside Philadelphia. Sean lives in Nashville. It was great to see them.

Of those four NCAA loses, the one that TigerBlog hated the most was the 50-48 one to Villanova in 1991. He wanted to see Kit's class get an NCAA win, and that was the last chance. Mueller and Jackson went 40 minutes each, and Kit ended up with 14 points and eight assists in the game.

TB watched Lance Miller's game-winning leaner in the lane with two seconds left from the football press box at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. He was the only one up there, far removed from his courtside seat, but he needed the analog telephone line to send his story through his Radio Shack word processor.

He was already annoyed, and got even more annoyed with each word he wrote. Then, after getting in a first edition story (that's stuff that newspaper people used to say), he went down to the lockerroom, where he talked to Carril and Mueller, which only made him still more annoyed.

In fact, the only other NCAA basketball loss that bothers TigerBlog more is the 1998 second-round loss to Michigan State. That game, in fact, bothers TB more than any other in any sport since he's been here.

Princeton was a top 10 team that year. Michigan State was a very tough second-round matchup, and the Spartans brought back four players from the team that beat Princeton as starters in their national championship run two years later.

Much like Miller's game-winner in Syracuse in 1991, TigerBlog can still see Mateen Cleaves' tiebreaking three-pointer from the top of the key in that 1998 game in Hartford. 

Grrrr. It still bothers TB.

Oh, and how long ago was that Princeton-Michigan State game.

It was 20 years ago today. And TB is still annoyed by it.

The Princeton-Villanova game was played on March 15, 1991. That's 27 years ago tomorrow.

Kit Mueller and Sean Jackson? They look like they could still be playing today.

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