Princeton vs. UCLA, Redo?   2 comments

I remember once, many moons ago, picking Princeton (of all teams) to beat UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  I was judged to be hopelessly biased against UCLA, because nobody in his right mind was going to pick Princeton over UCLA.

I admit, I generally root against UCLA’s basketball team, for the same reason that I root against Nebraska and Florida State in college football; I like me some underdogs when it comes to college sports.  However, I still claim that I picked that upset via legitimate basketball analysis.  UCLA was horridly undisciplined in 1996, and they only got away with it because they were a bunch of physically very talented players.  Not only did I think that UCLA was hugely overrated as a 4th seed, I didn’t think there was any way that they were going to get past Mississipi State, so I figured picking the upset was covered because the worst thing that might happen would be that I’d be giving up a point.  Plus, when you’re picking brackets, you’re playing against your tournament field, and everybody and anybody in our particular pool was picking UCLA.  Picking them to get dumped early was a strategic risk.

What happened?  This, one of the “biggest upsets” in tournament history:

I’ve watched a lot of basketball since my alma mater’s LMU Lions made it to the Elite Eight.  That team, with its crazily insane game plan (they averaged 122.4 points *per game*, about the total points for both teams in a normal college game)  got me addicted to basketball.  By the time 1996 rolled around, I’d learned enough basketball strategy to know exactly how insane that strategy actually is, and how staggeringly high the odds are of making it pay off in the long run.

A simple fact of basketball: if you can control the tempo of the game, and the other team has more physical talent, play SLOW.  It doesn’t matter how high the other team can jump, or how fast they can run, or whether or not their star player can crossover dribble and hit teammates with no-look passes… if you can keep the game slow and drag it out, you have a chance to win at the buzzer.  Just like in football, you’re not just playing against the other team.  Time is the enemy.  Remove the clock, eventually time will kill you and talent will beat brains, just like gambling in a casino – the house always favors talent.  With a clock, though, brains always has a chance.

So why this post?  Because we have another possible Princeton this year, as MIT has won the NEWMAC championship and thus earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament (thanks to Corey for the link).  Of course, we don’t know who else is going to be a participant in the Madness this year, so smart might not matter.  Matchups are always a killer in basketball – if MIT pulls a reasonably smart team with a lot of talent, they’re probably going to get buried.

But if you’re in an office pool, and you notice that MIT is matched up with a physically talented team that is really undisciplined, relies too much on their ability to get hot in streaks, and has a spotty record for the season, it might be worth your time to make an upset pick.

There’s no need to fear! Underdog is here!

When criminals in this world appear
And break the laws that they should fear
And frighten all who see or hear
The cry goes up both far and near
For Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!

Speed of lightning, roar of thunder
Fighting all who rob or plunder
Underdog. Underdog!

When in this world the headlines read
Of those whose hearts are filled with greed
Who rob and steal from those who need
To right this wrong with blinding speed
Goes Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!

Speed of lightning, roar of thunder
Fighting all who rob or plunder
Underdog. Underdog!

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Posted March 2, 2009 by padraic2112 in sports

2 responses to “Princeton vs. UCLA, Redo?

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  1. MIT is not a Division I school so they won’t be in the “Big Dance.” They’ll be in the Division III tournament.

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