It’s back. That deliciously dizzy feeling that madness is coming. As a rabid Princeton basketball fan of a certain age, I got used to this feeling years ago when the Tigers charged into the NCAA Tournament with regularity. Twice in the late ‘70s, four times in the ‘80s, six times in the ‘90s, and twice in the early 2000s, the orange and black danced “bigly,” as a certain Penn graduate might say.
With the impending Harvard/Yale playoff on Saturday at the Palestra, we are bound to hear even more in the coming days about how the Ivy League is the one conference that stands alone in lacking a conference tournament. Proponents of the current system argue that it guarantees that the best team represents the league following the double-round robin, while proponents of a playoff argue that it will better position the league to get an elusive second team into the big dance (#2bidivy!) and allow teams to fight their way into the tournament despite not being one of the best.
The problems facing the implementation of a playoff are numerous, most notably the staunch opposition of many on the administrative side as well as fans who believe in the league’s tradition as the most virtuous of all virtues.
Like many, I was a bit shocked that Jerome Allen has not placed on ESPN’s “10 Best-Dressed Coaches List.” Anyone who has seen the man up close knows his elegant sartorial choices are beyond reproach.
I was equally shocked when this very forum expended more than 51 minutes of last week’s On the Vine podcast discussing Ivy League basketball and spent exactly two seconds on the Quakers. In fact, after discussing six other teams, host Peter Andrews at one point says, “There’s only one other team that we haven’t talked about, Dartmouth.”
Shame on you gentlemen…
These two incidents, albeit small, point to one thing: the current irrelevance of Penn basketball. Both mainstream and social media blather on and on about everything from the overall strength of the league to the beauty of the Yale offense, to the disappointment of the Brown defense, to the burgeoning diameter of Mitch Henderson’s bald spot.
But nothing about Penn.
Princeton turned a nine-point first-half lead into a 14-point deficit at the end of last night’s clunker in Jersey City. Desi Washington, the Peacocks’ leading scorer, returned after missing eight games due to a wrist injury. Washington dominated this one, scoring 18 to lead both teams in the 60-46 St. Peter’s victory. Although tied at the half at 25, the Peacocks (4-6) seized control early in the second stanza in what must have been an eerie reminder to the Tigers (3-7) of their second half meltdown last week at FDU. The Tigers now face their second West Coast trip in less two weeks as they head to Berkeley to face California this weekend. Probably won’t be a happy flight … in either direction.
The fourth year of the Mitch Henderson era opened on a high note in August when the Tigers’ skipper was declared one of the Top 10 Coaches Under 40 by Bleacher Report. Posting a winning percentage over .640 earns a lot of respect in the coaching fraternity. But Henderson’s 2013-14 mark of 21-9 fails to soothe the sting of an 8-6 Ivy mark, which left the Tigers in a third place tie. In an improving League Henderson may be hard-pressed to improve.