Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Before and After: 2/17


Penn at Princeton: Frankly, I'd sort-of-resigned myself to never seeing it happen. Year after year I got my hopes up, year after year Brown or Columbia or someone who hang in there for a month, maybe a month-plus--Yale even forced a three-way play-off one year--but in the end the Ivy League's final result was the same: Penn or Princeton, top of the standings, in the bracket, as reliable as Billy Packer. As I summarized last spring:
The polar ice caps would melt, the brain-sucking aliens would descend, the zombies would conquer Congress, giant fanged butterflies would roam the skies, and come Selection Sunday there would still be Jim Nantz's head-in-a-jar telling you Princeton was a 13 seed in the South facing the Nevada Institute for the Genetically Enhanced.
And suddenly, in the space of a year, not only has Packer been sent back underneath whatever bridge CBS found him under but the deathgrip the Killer P's held on the Ivy has finally loosened: for the first time since 1988, one of the other six represented the Ivies in the NCAAs--all hail Cornell--and for the first time in God only knows how long, neither one was seen as a particularly potent threat at unseating the defending Bid Red champs.

Of course, that was before Cornell lost by 20 at Princeton and proceeded to let Dartmouth--Dartmouth! One of D-I's true year-in, year-out bottom scrapers--take them into double overtime at Cornell last Saturday. The Big Red aren't exactly vulnerable just yet--they're still three games up in the win column and tote the league's best Pomeroy mark by a country mile--but there's a glimmer of hope, at least.

That glimmer is what's at stake tonight in Princeton. There's always going to be a little extra on the line when the Quakers and Tigers meet up--that happens when you split a conference between you for 20 straight years--but with Princeton sitting at 4-2 and Penn at 3-3, the winner tonight also gets at least another week of holding onto the dream that the Big Red will slip up just enough to let them topple their new hegemony ... or, hey, in this case, re-establish the old one.


Utah St. 62, Idaho 53: Not surprisingly, the Vandals defended their home turf for quite a while--they led the Aggies early in the second half and were still within a possession with less than three minutes to play. But in the end, USU held onto the ball just well enough (11 turnovers, six less than in the teams' previous meeting) and shot just well enough (7-of-16 from 3) to keep their perfect WAC record intact. Too bad for the Aggies the second hurdle of a difficult road weekend proved a little tougher to clear than the first: USU both shot worse and turned the ball over more in their visit to Boise than they had two nights previous and lost to the Broncos by 10. The good news? Even nabbing a split means that the Aggies are in good at-large shape so long as they can close strong and the bubble stays as Charmin soft (seriously, Providence? San Diego St.?) they'll have a bid locked up by the time the tourney rolls around.

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