Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Selections

Ah, there's something special about some good old nostalgia.

As a Princeton fan, this is a great week for it. 

As you saw here yesterday, it's been 25 years since an extraordinary few days in Princeton Athletics history. It began when the men's basketball team defeated Penn 63-56 in the Ivy League playoff game to reach the 1996 NCAA tournament.

TB is not the only one who is feeling the nostalgia of a quarter-century gone by. He's heard from all sorts of people the last two days, including media members and former Princeton colleagues, all of whom were happy to stroll down memory lane.

In fact, it was his former Office of Athletic Communications colleague Vinnie DiCarlo who sent TB the picture of the ticket stub from that playoff game that TB included in yesterday's entry.

That night at Lehigh was amazing, as TB wrote yesterday. It was a long one, especially after Coach Carril announced his retirement afterwards. 

There wasn't time to dwell on the events of that Saturday night, though. There was the small matter of preparing for the NCAA tournament, which meant getting ready to play for the coaches and players and getting ready for a media avalanche for the athletic communications contact. 

But first, there was also the question of where Princeton was going and who the opponent would be.  

If you're part of a college team that knows it's heading to the NCAA tournament, there is nothing at all like the selection show.

It ends weeks of speculating about seeds and draws, and locations and opponents. Unless you're on the committee itself, you have no idea what the specifics will be until it is revealed and you find out about what's coming next along with everyone else.

TigerBlog has seen more than his share of selection shows for teams across a variety of sports at Princeton. Hey, that's one of the best parts of working all these years for an ultra-successful program.

All selection shows are special. There's something a little bit different about the basketball tournament though.

It's probably because of what a national spectacle it is. There are those who will tell you that the NCAA basketball tournaments are the best annual events each year in the sporting world.

TB has written many times before that the NCAA men's basketball tournament, to him at least, is unique in that it gets less exciting with each passing round. The first round is the best, with endless wall-to-wall games for two straight days and the resulting upsets that come along with them.

As the tournament rolls along, it usually becomes the same uniforms, the same coaches that are there year after year. The first round, and the second as well, are the best part.

In that vein, then what precedes those first rounds are in some ways even better, or at least as exciting.

Today is 25 years to the day of the selection show that year, the one that said that Princeton would be headed to Indianapolis to take on UCLA.

TigerBlog remembers so much about that week, but he remembers very little about the selection show itself. He knows he watched it in Jadwin Gym, though he's not sure exactly where, since there wasn't a TV there that he remembers.

TB does remember going to get something to eat shortly before the show started. Take out, it was. He's also not sure from where or what he got, but he remembers walking back down to Jadwin Gym past the old armory building carrying food. 

He thought Princeton might be staying in the East and not flying anywhere, which would have meant going to Providence, where the Princeton-Georgetown game had been played seven years earlier. He figured that would be a bit more convenient and give him more of a chance to finish everything up before a four-hour drive to Providence, rather than having to get on a plane and make all of those arrangements. That wasn't to be, though.

He doesn't remember when Princeton's name popped up opposite UCLA. He does remember what happened after the selection show. 

It was the start of a non-stop sprint to get a postseason guide done, and to accommodate the media requests that began to pour in even before the selection show ended. 

It started with a fax of UCLA's stats and a request for the same from him. It continued with filling out media credential request forms for the NCAA.

There was a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. 

That pace didn't let up until after the tournament was over for the Tigers. 

Coming tomorrow - how then-student-worker Nate Ewell earned TB's lifetime appreciation.

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