Friday, March 18, 2011
For those of you who saw yesterday's thrilling Princeton/Kentucky men's basketball game, this report captures the moment well:
The surprise wasn’t that Princeton could play with the big boys this time of year — the Tigers are famous for doing that...
No, that they were right there with Kentucky wasn’t the surprise. It was how they were there.
Most of America probably turned on CBS on Thursday afternoon expecting to see the Princeton of years past — the team that walked the ball up the court, drained every last second from the shot clock and tried to kill an opponent with those perfect back-door layups.
That team is as much a part of the past as Chuck Taylor high-tops. Johnson spent much of this game begging his team to push the tempo, to take this game directly at Kentucky.
Kentucky, the team that has become the farm system for one-and-done college players, was outrebounded, 28-26. Kentucky, the team that was supposed to have such a wide advantage athletically, actually had four fewer fast-break points than the Ivy League champs. Kentucky, a team that averaged 75.9 points, scored just 59 against a physical Princeton defense.
Bingo. We're back, and it's different this time.
Now let's schedule a few big teams in November and December -- if they have the stones -- and do it again next year.
I'm on an email list with a bunch of P-swimming alums who were following the game and sending emails around during it - all while successfully multitasking in their offices to insure that the economy did not sag further during the game. When the game was over, they expressed the same sentiments felt widely - valiant effort, great coach, etc. But one younger alum, seeing victory where others saw a narrow defeat noted that with Kentucky's and Calipari's past recruiting "issues," there was at least a 50-50 chance that three or four years from now, this L may change to a W. Assuming that this is not being fair to Kentucky, it does highlight the additional fact that we are competing with the what in baseball would be AAA professional teams and, as T-Hawk notes, this was not your father's Princeton offense.
As exciting, even intoxicating, as the Big Dance is, it really is ridiculous that more than half of the teams are basically minor league pro teams with embarassing graduation rates and "student-athletes" whose experience differs fairly radically from their fellow students. It is nice that the Ivies, a few others, including some of the big schools (Duke, Notre Dame), have high graduation rates, athletes that attend the same classes that other students attend and players who seem to find success outside of sports later in life.
Future discussion topic - recruited athletes in big money sports - should they be paid?