LOUISVILLE, KY. – Greetings from the South Regional of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. We’re several hours away from tip-off of the Sweet 16 matchup between the No. 15 Princeton Tigers and the No. 6 Creighton Blue Jays, the first time an Ivy program has played a game this deep in the tournament since 2010.
Here are a few tidbits from my first 12 hours in Louisville, the birthplace and home of Muhammad Ali, Churchill Downs, and the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory:
- The South Regional games in Louisville are taking place at the KFC Yum! Center, a modern cathedral to college basketball and the home of the Louisville Cardinals. The Center has a capacity of 22,900, making it the second-largest venue for college basketball in the nation. (The JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse, home of the Syracuse Orange, is the largest.)
- With No. 7 Michigan State, No. 9 Arkansas, No. 4 Tennessee, and No. 2 UCLA all losing on Thursday night, the Ivy League, with one representative in the tournament, has now outlasted all of the teams from the Big 10 and Pac-12 conferences, and all but one of the participants from each of the ACC and the SEC. The Big Ten alone landed eight teams in the Big Dance, including No. 1 Purdue, but all eight have now been sent home. Ditto for 15 of the 17 combined teams from the ACC, SEC and the Pac-12.
- Princeton and Creighton have met only once before in the history of the two programs – during the 1961-62 season. The Blue Jays won the game, 63-54, in Omaha. No, Bill Bradley did not play in the contest since he was a freshman that season and freshmen were not allowed under NCAA rules to play varsity football or basketball until 1972.
- The oddsmakers don’t seem to think much of Princeton’s chances against Creighton. The Tigers are 10-point underdogs, the biggest spread of any Sweet 16 matchup.
- No. 15 Princeton and No. 6 Creighton are two of three lowest remaining seeds in the tournament bracket, meaning that from a seeding point of view, this matchup could be viewed more properly as a clash of the Cinderellas than a David versus Goliath matchup.
- When Princeton’s players take the floor on Friday night, it won’t be the first time the KFC Yum! Center has hosted virtuoso performers from New Jersey. I know this is true because when you walk through the media entrance to the venue, you can’t miss the large, framed photo of Bruce Springsteen playing a concert here.
- I don’t know how big the budget is for the men’s basketball program at Louisville, the official host of this regional, but the longtime basketball power finished last in the ACC this season with an overall record of 4-28. In comparison, the last-place team in the Ivy League this season, the Columbia Lions, won seven games, nearly twice as many as Louisville. The Lions play their home games at Levien Gym, capacity 2,500.
- I arrived here late on Thursday afternoon, too late to see Princeton during their shootaround; however, I did manage to run into Ryan Stefan, a videographer from Glen Ellyn, Illinois who is making a documentary about Glen Ellyn native Caden Pierce and his legendary high school basketball team, the Glenbard West Hilltoppers, who enjoyed a historic run of their own during Pierce’s senior year. According to Stefan, the only team that managed to top the Hilltoppers last season was Sierra Canyon, a school from Los Angeles led by Bronny James, son of Lebron. James scored 18 points in the game, which was decided by a Sierra Canyon buzzer-beating three.
- Be honest – if you’re not a Princeton person, are you cheering for or against the Tigers to continue their magical ride through the tournament bracket? Earlier this week, Dalen Cuff, a former Columbia player and basketball analyst for ESPN, admitted on Sirius XM that he hates Princeton but thinks the Tigers’ run to the Sweet 16 is a positive development for the Ivy League. I swear if the tables were turned and Penn were making this run, I’d be cheering for the Red and Blue. Harvard on the other hand . . .
- It’s raining cats and dogs in Louisville with precipitation projected to last throughout the day. Will it be raining threes inside the KFC Yum! Center when Princeton and Creighton tip off in the South Regional nightcap contest? Both teams rely heavily on the three-pointer as a staple of their offense, with Princeton averaging 25 attempts per game, and Creighton averaging 24.6. Something tells me Princeton will need to best the Blue Jays from behind the arc tonight if the Tigers hope to advance to the Elite 8.
2 thoughts on “News and notes from the NCAA South Regional in Louisville”
While I have substantial animus toward Princeton and especially its basketball program, having lost 5 out of 6 contests (sometimes by very wide margins) while playing for Yale from ‘68 – ‘71, I find myself rooting for the Tigers during this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Princeton’s success and the way it plays the game have enhanced the Ivy League’s reputation and forced many observers to acknowledge the quality displayed by this team. I admit I want Princeton to go as far as possible to cement the idea that the Ivy League can compete against anyone in this Tournament. Perhaps in the future an “at-large” bid will be offered to a 2nd Ivy League team, which Yale was certainly was deserving of this year.
Great stuff, Steve! Glad you’re able to follow your team on its fantastic journey.
I’m a loyal Red & Blue fan, who is definitely rooting for the Orange & Black to take it all. I think I’d be rooting for any of the other six Ancient Eight teams if they made it into the tournament.
Hopefully, all of the teams will get their chances in the future.
Enjoy the game!
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