Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Princeton WBB Riding the Local and Fast Track at Same Time to Ivy Glory and History

( Guru’s note. The roundup of the other three teams are below the Princeton coverage.)

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

PRINCETON, N.J. --
The 14th-ranked Princeton women’s basketball team is riding two trains at the same time.

The local is making the routine stops and the Tigers are taking care of business the way they did in the four previous seasons prior to the most recent one in 2013-14 when they grabbed a quartet of Ivy titles – two by perfection within the Ancient Eight and two with a few minor hits along the way.

The other carrier however is similar to one of those bullet jobs overseas and it is transporting coach Courtney Banghart and her squad on a fast track to history with every click of the wheels hitting the rails producing another milestone.

As Princeton continues on its path as the only Division I women’s squad still unbeaten, each week produces new thresholds.

“I’ve been enjoying every second of it,” Banghart said here Friday night. “I know how hard it is to win every game. I know how special this team became after the preseason that they had.

“They care about the right things. Our leadership is in solid place. I’ve been enjoying every day of it. As we get deeper into to it we get more chances to win more games. It’s going to be fun.”

When UConn first began doing this and keep doing it, the Huskies operate from a penthouse level.

But though it sounds weird calling an Ivy institution with all its trappings of academia part of the blue collar crowd of Division I, there was a time that a very low ceiling existed for the better league teams in their history.

“It still feels a little surreal to me but each and every day I’ve been enjoying the girls next to me and I’ve been having a good time,” said junior Annie Tarakchian.

Most teams go after revenge against an opponent following an upset by that squad.

These Tigers are a little different.

At home in Jadwin Gym, Princeton made Yale pay for having the audacity of losing to the Tigers by just six points 56-50 two weeks ago in a game the Bulldogs (12-13, 6-5) chose Valentine’s Day to play their hearts out but gained nothing for the effort except a nice try accolade from the masses.

This time around it was over quickly as Princeton (26-0, 10-0) personally eliminated Yale from the Ivy race 67-49 and thanks to help from Harvard, it became double knockout night when the Crimson sent Cornell to join the Bulldogs in the lounge of the also rans.

Tigers senior Blake Dietrick scored 18 points while Tarakchian scored 16. Yale’s Whitney Wyckoff matched Dietrick’s total of 18 and the Bulldogs also got 13 from Clara Mokri.

That leaves only one team still alive mathematically, which is Penn, the villains of last season who ended the Princeton domination right here in the final game to take the Quakers third Ivy title.

However, unlike the deadlock approaching that matchup, because of a loss to Cornell several weeks ago besides the blowout at the hands of the Tigers here early last month to start the league marathon, Penn trails by two games with four remaining.

By the time Princeton arrives at the Palestra to play Penn in the season close out at 5 p.m. on March 10, the local train would have done its job and all the focus will be on the sleek bullet job.

Most likely, by beating Brown Saturday night (tonight, 6 p.m.), the last regular season game in Jadwin in which seniors Dietrick, Alex Rodgers, Jess Shivers, and Mariah Smith will be honored,. And then winning at Cornell and Columbia next weekend, national focus will be heightened to see if Princeton wraps up play at 30-0.

On the bullet train to history, Friday’s result made Banghart the winningest coach in the program’s history at 164 in her eighth season, breaking the brief tie with Joan Kowalik, who took 11 seasons to get to 163.

At 26-0 Princeton, the only Ivy women’s basketball squad ever to get nationally ranked, is within two of matching the 28-0 start by the Penn men’s squad in 1970-71.

And at a 30-0 finish, the Tigers could head into the NCAA tournament in the Top 10 in at least the final Associated Press (media) poll of the season.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see ESPN pick Princeton as one of the remote scenes on selection night since there will be national interest to see what the Tigers’ pairing will be, how high the seed, will they get a No. 4 seed that comes with the perk of hosting the first two rounds or will they get a seed opposite Louisville at 6 or 7 since the Cardinal can’t host due to an arena conflict and the site for that four-team pod would revert to Princeton.

Meanwhile, the only person leery of an Ivy monkey wrench on the road to perfection is recently retired Princeton athletic director Gary Walters, who cautions that his famous men’s squad on which Bill Bradley played got to the Final Four but got dinged 50 years ago in league play.

We hear you but right now the team that has handled Princeton the best is Princeton in practice sessions not open to the general public.

-- Mel








- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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