Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tournament Thoughts

Have you ever come across one of those randomly placed sculptures on a street corner or in the middle of a college campus?

If so, then you know what TigerBlog is talking about when he says that the Ivy League basketball tournaments are like one of those sculptures. His point? You can ask the first 10 people who walk past it what they think, and you'll get 10 different answers.

That's the Ivy tournament.

You ask a bunch of people what they think, and you a bunch of answers:

"It's a beautiful sculpture."
"It's a beautiful sculpture, but it shouldn't be here."
"I don't like that they put it here, but I think it's a nice sculpture and I'm not sure where else I'd put it."
"It shows the inherent unfairness of the universe.
"It's just ugly."
"Why'd they have to put up a sculpture at all? That space was just fine for decades before that."

This past weekend was the second Ivy League tournament. Before anything else, TigerBlog would like to say that if you think putting on an event like that is easy, you're wrong. It's an incredible amount of work on the part of the Ivy League staff and TB's colleagues at Penn, and they are to be commended for the job they did.

As for the tournament itself, the first two years have seen pretty much every bad scenario possible as far as hosting the event at the Palestra is concerned. It started a year ago, when 14-0 Princeton had to play a 6-8 Penn team that was hot at the end of the year on Penn's home floor in the semifinal.

Then it continued this year, when Penn was the No. 2 seed in both the men's and women's tournament but got to be the host for both championship games. As someone who saw all of the men's game yesterday in person, TigerBlog can tell you that there is no question that the home court and the home crowd was a major factor in the 68-65 Quaker win over top-seeded Harvard.

TB, by the way, has to give Tommy Amaker credit for not changing his pre-tournament position of being in favor of having it at the Palestra once the game ended. 

On the other side, Princeton, the top seeded women's team, defeated Penn 63-34. Did home court matter there? Maybe being the top seed there was more important than being the host, since Princeton's game against Yale in the semifinal ended around 7:45, while Penn had to tough out a semifinal win over Harvard that didn't end until 10:30 or so. As a result of that, plus the changing of the clocks to daylight savings time, the Quakers had to tip with Princeton in the final 16.5 hours later.

Or maybe all things being equal, the home court would have meant everything, except all things weren't equal in the women's game, since Princeton had already beaten Penn twice, by 15 and 20 points, whereas Penn and Harvard men were obviously a very close matchup, and had split their regular season games.

For TigerBlog, there are two main issues that will drive all other discussions, and neither of those is the fairness of playing it on Penn's home court.

First, should the women's and men's tournaments continue to be held in the same place? Second, should the start times be dictated by TV.

Once you answer those questions, the rest will start to fall into place. What would TigerBlog do? He'd do what Courtney Banghart said in her press conference before the tournament and what he wrote he'd do years ago here: three plays two, winner plays one, on both sides. Two games one day. Two more the next. Gives the No. 1 seed a huge advantage.

Anyway, for two years, your Ivy tournament champ has been the No. 1 seed three times and the No. 2 seed once. And it was a No. 2 seed that tied for the league championship.

And that's enough about the Ivy tournament for now. It's time to look ahead at another tournament.

The NCAA tournament. The one that is the goal each year for Banghart and her team, and the one she will be taking Princeton to for the seventh time in nine years.

The women's Selection Show was held last night. TigerBlog didn't see the men's show Sunday night, but he's heard it was awful.

The women's wasn't awful. It was just a half-hour too long. Instead of using 30 minutes to reveal the matchups, ESPN took an hour and added in a bunch of short features that not one person watching wanted to see. Yes, the network has a captive audience and yes it will lose that audience once it announces all the teams and games.

So what do they do? Drag it out. And what is the result? Nobody likes the show.

Princeton had to wait longer than most teams to find out where it was headed. In fact the Tigers were in the last region announced.

Princeton is a No. 12 seed, perhaps a little lower than it might have deserved given its 27 RPI. Creighton, the No. 11 seed in the same region, has an RPI of 49.

But hey, Princeton has to play the team it's matched with, and that's Maryland, the No. 5 seed. The game will be Friday at noon in Raleigh, N.C.

Princeton, back in 2015, was 31-0 when it played in the second round of the NCAA tournament, and Maryland was the team that ended that run of perfection.

So maybe it would have been better karma to play someone other than Maryland. Of course, back then, Maryland was a No. 1 seed, and the game was played on Maryland's home court.

Plus, if you were a Princeton fan who was watching the selections, you couldn't have been too disappointed. First, Jay Bilas came on to talk about the tournament field, and he started to talk about how good Princeton's Bella Alarie is. UConn great Rebecca Lobo confirmed that thought, saying she'd watched Princeton's Ivy tournament final.

Then Bilas let on why he was so in tune with Alarie - she's his goddaughter. Her father, Mark, was Bilas' roommate at Duke.

Alarie, the Ivy League Player of the Year and tournament MVP, also came up against when Bilas was talking with UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who said that he'd seen Bella last summer with the U.S. U19 team and that she was the real deal.

And with that, the Ivy tournament talk is over and the selection show is over.

Now it's time to focus on the game. This is the goal from Day 1 for every Courtney Banghart team at Princeton. Play in the NCAA tournament.

For the seventh time in nine years, that goal will be achieved.

1 comment:

Tad La Fountain '72 said...

As Bilas would say (and usually does): "Time to go to work".