Ivy League men's basketball has witnessed a passing of the torch: Pennsylvania finally toppled Princeton from its four-year reign as king.
It was no contest this year. Pennsylvania (22.4 overall, 14.0 Ivy) is by far and away the best team in the Ancient Eight. "The Tigers (15.11 overall, 7-7 Ivy) have grown long in the tooth.
Like the denouement of "Old Yeller," everybody could see the end coming. But it was sad anyway.
In the spirit of the moment, here's an obituary. May the Tigers' glory run rest in peace.
Princeton's Glory Years (1988 - 1992)
For the last four years, Princeton has dominated the Ancient Eight like Godzilla over Tokyo. Tiger Coach Pete Carril's troops amassed a 48-8 league record over that span--including a perfect 14-0 season two years ago.
The last four Ivy League Players of the Year have worn the orange and black: Bob Scrabis in 1989, Kit Mueller in 1990 and 1991 and Sean Jackson in 1992.
Some of the NCAA tournament's finest first-round moments are courtesy of the Tigers. The 50-49 loss to Georgetown in 1989? A five-handkerchief game. Who can forget Dick Vitale (may he die in agony) wearing a Princeton sweatshirt in the ESPN studio after the game?
Arkansas barely survived, 68-64, in 1990-then went on to reach the Final Four.
The Tigers were seeded eighth in the East Regional in 1991, but Rollie Massamino (who was Harvard Coach Frank Sullivan's high school coach, by the way) and Villanova just edged past the Tigers 50-48.
Princeton lost to Syracuse in 1992, 51-43, but by then the secret was out, anyway: the Tigers were of the man-eating kind.
Carril's offense--when running on all cylinders--is a thing of beauty. When Princeton played Harvard at home this season, only three of its shots were not layups or three-pointers. (The Princeton play-by-play sheet even has a special column for layups.)
RIP for now--but wait until 1992 Rookie of the Year Rick Hielscher's senior season. Someday, Carill and his troops will return.
The real challenge for a team over the course is not its empirical won-lost record, but to perform above expectations.