Monday, November 26, 2007

P, P, Pantsed

Chaminade University is a D-2 Catholic college located amidst the palm trees of Honolulu, Hawaii. Athletically, the school is best known for hosting an annual preseason basketball tournament at which it is (almost) perennially waxed by vacationing D-1 squads. Howard University is a historically black college located amidst the pavements of Washington, DC. The school has not made the NCAA tournament since 1992, and has never won a tournament game. Besides a lack of hoops pedigree, what do the two schools have in common? .

Well for one, recent men's basketball victories over Princeton and Penn, the two programs that used to be the cream of the crop in Ivy League basketball. Between them, the two P's have 46 NCAA tournament appearances, 2 Final Four appearances, and 2 Hall of Fame coaches (Pete Carrill and Chuck Daly).
At Right: Penn's Mascot Displays Wildly Misplaced Optimism at the '79 Final Four

For years, we here at the GRBG have awarded the honorary title of "Nation's Finest Truly Amateur Basketball Team" to that year's champion of the Ivy League. The honorific is based on the Ivy's status as the only D-1 conference not to offer athletic scholarships for basketball, meaning that the players don't even receive in-kind compensation (in the form of a free education) in return for their efforts. Historically, though, that handicap didn't stop Penn and Princeton from being competitive with scholarship schools.

At Left: Senator Backcut
This year? Not so much. Chaminade's victory over Princeton dropped the Tigers below .500, while simultaneously edging Chaminade's all-time record in its own tournament up to a cool 5-65. Penn has managed only 2 wins thus far, and even those came against the hazing-addled plebes of Navy and The Citadel.

Both programs began falling apart with the departures of longtime coaches (Fran Dunphy at Penn and either Carrill or Bill Carmody at Princeton, depending on how you measure). The new coaches were either unable to attract or unable to retain the sort of mid-level talent that traditionally kept the programs afloat. What's odd about the almost simultaneous collapses of the two programs is that their recruiting bases traditionally did not overlap much: Princeton went after Hoosiers-esque suburban players who fit the vaunted Princeton motion offense; Penn targeted city kids and played a freer-flowing brand of ball.

Regardless, as academic standards and tuition costs have gone up at the Ivies, their former recruits are heading off to Gonzaga, or Bucknell, or any of a number of other similar D-1 liberal arts colleges willing to foot the bill for a full ride. While it's tough to argue with the economics behind the shift, it is a little sad to see Ivy hoops head for the same fate as Ivy football. After all, while U.S News and World Report rankings are nice, a few AP Poll votes would be welcome as well.


El Angelo said...

Dude, Harvard just beat Michigan. How the mighty have fallen and how the crappy have risen.

Teddy said...

Yeah, that goes a long way to fragging my thesis. Luckily, Penn and Princeton still suck, even if the Ivies might still spit out one or two respectable teams this year.