LOUISVILLE – The measure of a college basketball team’s accomplishments always comes at the end, when the final buzzer sounds — almost always a loss.
Princeton’s accomplishment this March was measured by the rousing ovation from its many fans during Friday’s 86-75 loss to Creighton in the NCAA Sweet 16.
The 15th-seeded Tigers (23-9) didn’t have enough weapons to keep up with the sixth-seeded Bluejays (24-12) and bowed out after their first streak since 1967 deepest in the March Madness program — and became the first Ivy League representative to crack the second weekend since Cornell in 2010.
Along the way, they broke brackets, proved their worth, strengthened legacies, and revitalized fortunes.
1-Towson vs. Kalkbrenner
Even though they didn’t face each other a ton, the display of great big men was as good as advertised.
Tosan Eubuomwan was the most dynamic player on the court, pulling the Jays up with his high passes and even pulling off a few old backdoor passes that would have made Pete Carril proud. The 6-foot-8 forward’s virtuoso ball handling should have impressed NBA scouts. Even though he’s eligible for a fifth year and can’t take it at Princeton (the Ivy League bans graduate students), he’s willing to make money playing ball.
Creighton’s 7-foot-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner was key to the Bluejays’ fast start in the second half. They threw him three rides in a row and he finished all three times. And once again, he didn’t foul, which is an underrated art for a rim protector.
Two greats, two very different styles, but great theaters.
2-Mitch Henderson and Princeton, perfect together
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more coaching-friendly college than Henderson and his alma mater. Ivy League fans and Jersey lovers alike understood Henderson’s coaching abilities. Now the rest of the country is getting it.
But Henderson is more than a coach. He is a mentor to his boys and an ambassador for his university, where he is deeply ingrained in the fabric. He is a staunch believer in the college’s credo of education through athletics. Will he make Princeton his life’s work like Pete Caryl? It’s hard to expect that from anyone, especially with the kind of money a high major can shake.
But it’s also hard to imagine him coaching anywhere else.
3-Give Creighton credit
The Jays have so many weapons, and they use them all with spacing, passing and unselfishness that any purist can respect. Greg McDermott’s coaching is also much lighter than the last two showdowns in Princeton, Arizona and Missouri. He knew the right thing to do to attack the Tigers’ defense and his players followed his cues. This team can win it all.
4-Jadwin Gym noon
The Yum Center holds 22,000, and after some of the sad Alabama fans walked out of the clubhouse after the Tide’s stunning loss to San Diego State, Princeton kept most of the crowd in the corner. Orange was the color of choice, especially in the lower half of the bowl, and San Diego State fans went all-in for the underdog as well.
Creighton’s fans showed up — as Big East watchers can attest, the Jays have a huge traveling fan base — but for much of the contest, and especially in the first half, the building sounded like Jadwin Gym South.
But Princeton fans should bow down. Tigers fans took over the Hyatt Regency downtown, held a raucous pregame pep rally for the players and coaching staff as they boarded the bus to the arena, and showed the world that the Ivy Leaguers love their hoops just as much, if not more, than the sport’s biggest brands. more than
5-There is no better
Every March, we remind you why there is no better sporting event than the NCAA Tournament.
Last year, Saint Peter carried this flag. This year, it was Princeton that outscored all four No. 1 seeds.
The basketball gods reward loyalty to the game. Princeton, playing with an inspiring combination of maximum and precision, deserved this award. The big dances of 2023 were better for it.
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and college basketball since 2003. He is a top 25 pick by the Associated Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.