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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Now That Princeton's Out of the Ivy Race. . .

I will be rooting for. . . Penn.

Click here to see the Ivy League's stats for men's basketball.

Harvard is 10-2.

Penn is 9-2.

Yale is 9-3.

Now, before Princeton fans are about to jump on me, our beloved Tigers are 7-4 and, of course, I will be rooting for the Tigers to defeat the Quakers next week in Jadwin Gym. That's a given.

But if the Tigers at 7-4 in the league are not in a position to win it, I will be rooting for Penn. Here's why:

1. To me, the Ivies have always been about the Penn-Princeton rivalry. When it doesn't exist, or when one is good and the other is not (or when both cede territory to Cornell), all is not right in the hoops world. So, if it can't be Princeton, it should be Penn. That should inspire Princeton to turn up its overall efforts and recruiting a notch so as to heat up the rivarly and take the title back from the Quakers. This, really, is the main reason.

2. Penn coach Jerome Allen was very nice to my son this summer at a basketball camp in Bucks County (held at a high school whose colors are orange and black). That said, I don't think we'd be as in like with Harvard mentor Tommy Amaker under similar circumstances. I do happen to like Yale's James Jones, who has done a very good job in New Haven for a long time. But not enough, though, to root for the Bulldogs. Okay, perhaps if a bunch of great swag were thrown in, we'd consider it.

3. Penn's Zack Rosen, the likely Ivy Player of the Year, is a special player, leader, clutch performer, fun to watch.

4. I grew up rooting for Penn, went to the Palestra, watched great teams playing magical games on television durign the Palestra's golden era, so I'm waxing nostalgic and getting older, I suppose. This does count for something, I think, although if you knew me as an undergrad, you wouldn't have heard me express such sentiments (that said, in 1979 I was glued to my black-and-white TV in my dorm room watching Penn upset North Carolina and St. John's in the Eastern Regionals to make a surprise visit to the Final Four).

So, that's my reasoning. The other question out there is if Penn or Yale were to win the Ivies and get the automatic berth, would Harvard get an at-large bid. I'm not an expert on such things, but if that were to be the case, I am sure that many a Princeton fan would be pulling for Harvard to win the Ivies outright. The reason: Northwestern. The Wildcats's coach, Bill Carmody, coached at Princeton, and the current Princeton coach, Mitch Henderson, was his top assistant there for years. So, the loyalty to the family tree runs pretty thick, which, translated, means that a Harvard at-large bid would push one fo the last teams reported to be in onto the bubble or beyond. In this case, that well could be Northwestern, and the Wildcats have never been in the tournament. Imagine the volcanic eruption in Evanston among those who care (as at elite academic institutions, far from everyone does) should the Wildcats go dancing. It would be something to watch.

Okay, so perhaps I'm torn. Carmody coached one of the greatest teams in Princeton history, when Henderson was his point guard. But to root for Harvard, perhaps the Ivies' evil empire, to win the league because that somehow will help Northwestern (and, remember, many were not happy when Carmody left) is a bit of a stretch. It's a tough call, but I'm holding true to my initial thoughts.

I'm pulling for Penn.

Overall, but not against Princeton.


Blogger George Clark said...

You had to know you'd be hearing from me on this one, although your reasons are mostly personal and therefore unassailable. I don't think Penn winning the title will inspire any greater recruiting effort than a title banner hanging in Lavietes. Jerome Allen is the epitome of what the Ivy League represents, in a way that Amaker will never be. (Interesting reaction from some very rabid Crimson partisans after the Quaker win on Saturday: Amaker froze at the end of the game.) My son was student manager for a few years at the end of Carril's career. He rated Jerome Allen, the player, as the best in the League. Zack Rosen deserves POY; after this weekend it should be by acclamation. I don't see the Ivy League getting an at-large bid, especially not Harvard. Was it not the NCAA, after all, that more or less reversed the League's whitewash of "Amakergate"? I share your hope that NW goes dancing for the first time. Jon Shurna's teams have won 75 games in four seasons; Mitch Henderson was a big contributor when he was there. It seems likely to me that Penn will come to Jadwin needing a win to tie Harvard. Frankly, if the Tigers can't win the title, denying the Quakers a chance for it will only add to the lore of the greatest rivalry of them all! (And it might get the Tigers a post-season game somewhere.)

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AS the anonymous commentator nudging our beloved (black & white TV?) Sportsprof to take a stand for Penn in a previous blog post #4, I of course agree with both his family and broader reasons to root for Penn as things go forward.

I find the Northwestern support concept a bit tenuous, and rooting for Harvard in any context is tough, but OK....if they make it at large. Of course, I'll be visualizing a Penn victory from afar in the game at Jadwin. No amount of swag or family ties will persuade SP on that,

Nick Spitzer, New Orleans

5:50 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, George and Nick, for your comments. This should be a fun basketball weekend.

8:53 PM  
Blogger George Clark said...

Went to bed reeling from the tough loss suffered by the Wildcats at the hands of Sullinger and the Buckeyes. Terrible start for NU on an emotional "Senior Night". They appeared overmatched for much of the game, but managed a tie with 7 seconds left on a 30 foot prayer, only to give up a field goal from Sullinger down low. I doubt that this game changes NU's status regarding the tournament, but it does mean they need two wins in the Big 10 finale.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I very much doubt that Harvard would receive an at-large bid. Although their resume would easily get them into the conversation, they have three strikes against them. First, as George mentions, there may be some lingering bad blood at the NCAA offices in Indianapolis from the Harvard recruiting scandal. The NCAA went through a lot of time, effort and expense to slap the hands of both Harvard and the Ivy League back in 2008-10.

Second, Harvard was just taken to overtime by Columbia. Although the Crimson ultimately won, that looks bad.

Finally, everybody remembers the egg that Harvard laid in the postseason last year, virtually not bothering to get off the plane in Stillwater for their first-round game against Oklahoma State. (Maybe the Crimson couldn't get motivated after the playoff loss or maybe they suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from looking up to see the stands filled with orange and black.)

11:19 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for the last comment, but I think that as an Ivy fan you might be overanalyzing it. Harvard's performance has not been that exemplary to warrant an at-large bid, and I wonder when the last time a bottom-third conference has had more than one team in the tournament. My guess is never or close to it.

Case closed. Win the Ivies, go to the NCAA tournament. Fail to win the league, go somewhere else.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harvard's RPI right now is ranked 37. That is well ahead of Joe Lunardi's current "last four in," which are Northwestern (RPI = 44), Seton Hall (56), Xavier (52) and Arizona (70).

The Ivy League's RPI is ranked 13th out of 32 conferences, hardly "bottom third."

I don't think that Harvard would get an at-large bid, but they'd see teams with lower RPIs get in ahead of them.

For what it's worth, I think that the second best team in the Ivy League right now is Princeton and that the Tigers will win Tuesday night, rendering the at-large discussion "case closed" for a different reason.

5:55 PM  
Blogger George Clark said...

The stage is set for a classic battle of the P's Tuesday with a great deal riding on the least for the Quakers. Harvard has stumbled to the finish line, struggling both nights in New York in games decided very late. Yale, while mathematically alive on Friday, threw up on themselves...twice. Although the Tigers will go to the CBI or the CIT regardless of what happens against the Quakers, the rivalry is the rivalry. But if Penn gets a chance against the Crimson, I shall be very much in their corner.

6:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For what it's worth, I think that the second best team in the Ivy League right now is Princeton and that the Tigers will win Tuesday night,..."

It's not worth anything right now....

Penn is the only Ivy team that beat the Evil Empire in their high school gym of a lair.

Gotta wait... til Tuesday late... to see where worth resides....

Should be fun.

7:12 PM  
Blogger George Clark said...

If...if...if...If the Tigers win they will have beaten every Ivy team and will not have lost at home during the 14 game tournament, a double play accomplished by no other team. How's that for straw grasping?

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous 7:12 PM, you might want to dial down the defensiveness a notch or two. You've already got every Princeton fan on this and just about every other Ivy site rooting for you. Settle down, Penn pal.

8:16 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your posts. A few thoughts:

1. Who is the average Ivy fan rooting for on Tuesday night, Penn or Princeton? I would think Penn, so that they can keep Harvard out of it.

2. I don't think that Princeton is better than Penn, at least not until they win on Tuesday night. Princeton has many good players, as does Penn, but Penn has Zack Rosen, who will be the player of the year. He might be the one guy who can will an Ivy team to a win.

3. It should be electric at Jadwin on Tuesday night. I will be there, perhaps in an Orange sweatshirt (which I normally deploy to coach youth basketball). I'll be rooting for the Tigers, of course.

4. I didn't realize how high the Ivies' RPI is or that Harvard's RPI is higher than those who might make it. Just goes to show you that the numbers don't always register and that old biases die hard. Even with those good numbers, it's hard to see the Ivies getting a second bid.

5. Keep the debate flowing. If you're a Princeton fan and if Penn were to win on Tuesday night, for whom would you root in a playoff, Penn or Harvard?

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As "Anonymous 7:12," I don't think I was defensive as much as realistic.

It all seems so speculative as to who is "better" in this odd season. Penn nearly beat UCLA and Temple, yet lost not only to Yale but, c'mon, also to Wagner and James Madison! Ugh!

Though I do like the idea of being a "Penn pal," Princeton occasionally has the aura of entitlement and many people (not just Penn fans) love to tweak that.

And in Philly, they also say that about Penn vis a vis every one else.

So in this emotional moment, what what we have is laughably effete "trash talk."

That said, I remember being in West Philly bars where Penn fans rooted heartily for Princeton against Georgetown and many others in the NCAA's over the years. The drunken throngs lustily sang "Let's go Tigers...." I suppose it was (mostly) male bondage.

As the grand old rivalry of the southernmost Ivies, I think we all take some glee at beating Harvard.

Let the game(s) begin!

8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 7:12/8:49 PM,

Previous poster "Anonymous 8:16 PM" here. Don't worry, I'm not saying that Princeton is more deserving of the Ivy title than Penn is. Four conference losses is always more than two conference losses.

But Princeton has a better RPI rating than Penn does, Princeton has a higher Ken Pomerory ranking than Penn does, and Princeton has better quality wins than Penn does(at Florida State, at Rutgers, versus Buffalo). So while all Penn fans are welcome to disagree, it's not like my statement was idle speculation which should inspire defensiveness.

Last year, Penn lost more close games than they won; the Quakers were better than their record suggested. This year, Princeton is better than their record suggests, although obviously they've got some issues with consistency.

I don't know if Princeton alumni demonstrate a greater sense of entitlement than other Ivy graduates do. It sounds like you believe that Penn alumni also often feel entitled; the Quakers just don't the fact that Princeton ranks higher on the pecking order. That sounds like Penn alumni don't have a problem with people feeling entitled; they have a problem with where they sit on the pyramid.

I do think it's interesting that a lot of Princeton alumni are actually hoping that the Tigers lose on Tuesday night. That doesn't sound like entitlement; it sounds like a healthy respect and even grudging admiration for Penn.

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Male "bondage"? Since the only way to deny Harvard the tournament bid, and to deprive Amaker of whatever recruiting boost he would derive from the national exposure, is for the Quakers to win it may be tempting for some Tiger partisans to hope for a Penn victory. Sophie had a more appealing choice. I imagine the basis of such odd behavior is total disdain for Harvard and its perceived machinations; not "respect" for Penn. If the unimaginable occurs, and the matter is once again reduced to "good" or "evil" I will support the Quakers with a clear conscience, and a heavy heart

11:34 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Great stuff, thanks.

If Penn were to win, I hope that the Princeton fans chant "Beat Harvard" in some convincing fashion. As a native Philadelphian I recall, years ago, when the Sixers were on the verge of defeating the Celtics in the playoffs, and the Boston faithful chanted "Beat L.A., Beat L.A." loud and strong (and the Sixers -- with Moses Malone and Dr. J -- did just that). That would be neat to experience -- were it to happen.

All that said, I don't think that the average Princeton fan wants Penn to win to knock out Harvard. Penn is the hoops archrival, and, as such, the goal is to knock the Quakers out, period. As much as Harvard has been irritable, the Princeton diehards might confess, if pressed, that a 2-26 season would be palateable if the two wins were against Penn.

As a Princeton fan on Tuesday night, it's hard to lose. Win and your team knocks out its archrival. Lose and someone gets a shot at knocking out the league's current "Evil Empire." Seldom does that opportunity arise.

8:36 AM  

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