Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Texas Tip Off

TigerBlog's first experience with University of Texas basketball was back in November of 1997. 

The Princeton men opened their season against the Longhorns at the Meadowlands Arena and won 62-56. There were four Tigers in double figures that night - Brian Earl, Gabe Lewullis, James Mastaglio and Steve Goodrich. 

The lone Princeton starter who didn't reach double figures put up this stat line: 40 minutes, seven points, six rebounds, five assists, zero turnovers. It doesn't get much better than that, right? 

That Princeton player was, obviously, current men's head coach Mitch Henderson. That's an amazing stat line, especially the zero turnovers, considering the ball was in his hands so much. 

The next time TB saw the Tigers play Texas was in December of 1998. Princeton and Texas were two of the teams who competed that year in the Rainbow Classic at the University of Hawaii. Princeton had beaten Texas in the semifinal, after beating Florida State in the first game and then UNC Charlotte in the final.

As weeks go in terms of TigerBlog's Princeton career, that one is up there with pretty much any of them. 

First, it was his only time in Hawaii. Second, Princeton kept winning, so the team kept playing at night. This freed up TB and Tom McCarthy, then the radio play-by-play man, to go to the beach during the day. 

In fact, TB would update his notes and such for the next game first thing in the morning. Then it was off to Waikiki, including lunch around 2 or 3 at Duke's, where every day he ordered the fish of the day special, which came with two scoops of the best macaroni salad you'll find anywhere.

Anyway, after the championship game, TB and McCarthy took an overnight flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles, while the team flew out the next morning. The flight that TB and McCarthy got on was jammed, and the only seats were in the very, very back.

The only people seated near them were the University of Texas team and a woman with a baby who wasn't exactly enjoying the flight. Every time he's seen Texas on TV since, he's thought of all the players who couldn't sleep until the baby did.

His other Princeton-Texas game was in 2004, at the NCAA tournament in Denver. Princeton led by three at the half, but the second half was all Longhorns, who won 66-49. And that's been it for Princeton-Texas.

Until today. This time, it'll be the women who take on Texas, with a noon tip at Jadwin Gym. Wednesday at noon is a great time for a game.

This is the first meeting ever on the women's side between the two schools (the men have played eight times, with each with four wins). And this will be an enormous challenge for the Tigers.

Texas comes in at 8-1 and ranked 12th nationally. The Longhorns' NET ranking is sixth (that's the next generation RPI), while Princeton is a strong 40th on that list.

Texas was supposed to play Arizona, unbeaten and coming off an appearance in last year's NCAA championship game, on ESPNU this past Sunday in Las Vegas. TB was set to watch the game, until YouTube TV took all Disney networks off in a dispute (about money, of course). Eventually the dispute was resolved, but the game never happened anyway, as Covid protocols prevented Arizona from playing.

Instead, Texas played a last-second replacement, the University of San Diego, who has a NET of 81. Texas won 74-58.

The Longhorns eight wins include one against the team that beat Arizona for the national title last season, Stanford (NET is 7). On Stanford's home court. That doesn't happen a lot.

This is clearly a loaded team. Its only loss was in overtime at Tennessee (NET 16). It also has a win over Texas A&M (NET 26). 

On his most recent podcast with Tiger head coach Carla Berube, TigerBlog asked about how this game was scheduled. Berube said it was simply an email exchange among schools who needed games. 

Texas deserves a "thank you" for coming all this way to play. That's not something that a lot of Power Five teams would agree to do. 

As for the game itself, Texas is deep, with no one single player who needs to be stopped. The Longhorns have a great backcourt and size up front. It won't be easy.

But it will be fun. 

Tip-off at Jadwin is at noon. Princeton vs. Texas, for the first time on the women's side.

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