Zack Rosen to take part in Final Four festivities

He may not have gotten a ticket to the Big Dance during his four-year career, but Penn's star point guard Zack Rosen will head to the NCAA Final Four this weekend in New Orleans as a finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.

The award, of which Rosen is one of 10 finalists, will be presented at 3 p.m., Friday. He'll take part in some other festivities as a part of the award, which recognizes "great achievement during competition and in their community while staying in school."

There had been some rumors in recent weeks that Rosen might get a shot to participate in the 3-point competition during the Final Four, though he said he hasn't heard anything about that. The website for the competition lists five confirmed players.

Meanwhile, Rosen is relishing the opportunity to attend college basketball's biggest weekend.

"I’m going down to the Final Four with a notebook," he said. "I want to find Coach K and ask him about motivating people or sit down with Brad Stevens and talk about ball screen defense."

The Ivy League Player of the Year has taken a brief but well deserved respite from the court since his season ended witha  loss to Steven's Butler team in the CBI post-season tournament last week. He'll start training again soon for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, where he'll hope to impress NBA scouts as he begins to look toward a professional career after Penn.

Read more about the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award and Rosen's weekend here.

Harvard knocked out of NCAA by Vanderbilt in first round

Earlier this season, many thought the Harvard Crimson had a legitimate shot at advancing deep into the NCAA tournament — at least deeper than usual Ivy contender.

Not yet. In its first tourney appearance since 1946, Harvard fell, 79-70, to SEC tournament champion Vanderbilt in Albuquerque, N.M. The Crimson played Vandy close through much of the first half, but the Commodores pulled away before the break, thanks to a 13-0 run. Harvard was able to narrow the deficit to five with just a minute and a half left, but couldn't close the gap.

BOX SCOREVanderbilt 79, Harvard 70

Crimson sophomore Laurent Rivard led Harvard with 20 points. Forwards Keith Wright and Kyle Casey scored eight and 13 points, respectively. Wright added nine rebounds. Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins scored 27, shooting 7-for-12.

It will still be a banner season for Harvard. The Crimson cracked the Top-25 rankings for several weeks, and captured their first-ever outright Ivy League title.

Cinderellas and the 1979 Quakers

As the four most unexpected teams in March Madness history prepare for this weekend's Final Four in Houston, many questions are being raised about whether this is good for college basketball.

Pat Forde of ESPN.com answers three big questions about the future of college basketball, including 'Does this total upheaval represent a sea change in the game?' In responding to this question, Forde notes that from 1979, the first year the NCAA publicly seeded teams, until 2005, there was just one Cinderella team in the Final Four: the 1979 Quakers, a No. 9 seed. This Penn team beat Iona, North Carolina, Syracuse and St. John's before losing to Michigan State in the Final Four.

The other teams that could be considered Cinderellas in this 27-year span were either from the 'Establishment' (which does not include the Ivy League) or had a future NBA star leading them. But since 2005, four Cinderellas have made it to the Final Four: George Mason in 2006, Butler in 2010 and Butler and VCU this year.

"It stands to reason that experienced teams filled with good players can compete with inexperienced teams carried by one or two very good players. Regardless of conference affiliation or program profile," Forde writes. So while it seems improbable that an Ivy team could make it to the Final Four in the coming years, these Cinderella stories should provide inspiration to all the Ivy teams. And maybe, just maybe, Penn will find a way to regain that 1979 magic that made it one of the best Cinderella stories in March Madness history.

Princeton thrust into national spotlight

So the Tigers came up just short against powerhouse Kentucky, to the surprise of anyone who doubts the talent level within Ivy League basketball. But for the second time in a week, Princeton put on a good showing in front of a national audience. The first time was Saturday in the thrilling playoff game for the Ivy title. The game was watched by 54,449 unique viewers on ESPN3 according to Ivy Athletics. That number is nearly double what Executive Director of Ivy Athletics Robin Harris told me earlier in the week - she heard 30,000 from "a reliable source." And though numbers aren't yet available, surely a lot more watched on CBS Thursday in the tournament. Here's more from my interview with Harris on the success of the ESPN3 webcast and Princeton in general:

On getting the game on ESPN3: "It was very easy. ESPN was very interested in covering the game. They had covered 2 other games recently for us (Harvard-Princeton, Penn-Princeton). We reached out to several networks about a month or so ago just to see who might have air availability."

"They were also interested to cover it on ESPN-U but had a limited window of availability. We were thrilled to have coverage ... The issue came down to availability in those timeslots."

On Douglas Davis' buzzer-beater leading SportsCenter, and national attention in general: "It’s great publicity for the Ivy League during a huge basketball weekend … It was just very exciting to see that featured over and over … It shows that in Division I athletics we can operate competitive athletic programs."

For anyone hoping the game could have been televised on a major network, Harris explained that no network would award the game a timeslot a month ago when a playoff wasn't guaranteed to happen (it was the first playoff game since 2002). All in all, it's been a great week for Ivy League basketball

Penn connections to March Madness

You can find in today's copy of the DP a great graphic by our design/multimedia team on Penn basketball's connections to players or teams competing in this year's Tournament. Most of these ended up being ties to star point guard Zack Rosen, but that shouldn't come as a surprise — he played a year at St. Benedict's in North Jersey where high school basketball reigns supreme and D-1 recruits are cranked out with ease.  You can check out the article (gotta plug my own work too, right?) but here's the skinny in interactive form:

Gutmann’s updated bracket

Last night our team of bracketologists pointed out that Amy Gutmann's presidential bracket had skipped a few picks in the Southwest region. Well, turns out we got our hands on an early revision of her bracket — Don't worry Amy! We've spent hours redoing ours too — and she wanted to get all of her picks on record before the Big Dance starts tomorrow.

For those of you keeping track: she's got UNLV over Illinois and Louisville taking down Vandy. Do you think differently? Put your bracket up against hers in the DP/Smokes March Madness Bracket Challenge!

FinalNCAA Bracket 2011-Amy Gutmann

Analyzing the presidential bracket

Before we get started, let me just say that this may be the best picture ever taken. It is, from left to right, the Quaker, Jerome Allen in a wig and Amy Gutmann holding a basketball. Feel free to caption in the comments.

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Okay, on to more important things:

College Hall's #1 is getting excited for the DP's March Madness competition — with a $100 gift certificate to Smoke's on the line (Click here to enter!). Penn President Amy Gutmann was nice enough to fill out a bracket for this year's NCAA tourney — even though she didn't have a chance to pick the Red and Blue — and send it over to the Buzz. But hopefully the doctor can take a little constructive criticism.  With Amy's picks on the table, we assembled our blue-ribbon panel of bracketologists to analyze the boss' bracket, and her odds of being the best at Penn.

She went low risk/high reward this year, picking all four #1 seeds to make the semi-finals, and she has Ohio State winning it all. She might be a native of Brooklyn, but Amy's pragmatic. There's no way she was picking her hometown's Long Island University over No. 2 North Carolina. But what does the DP's crack team of analysts think? See Gutmann's bracket below and their thoughts after the jump.

Amy G Bracket2

Update: we've got a new version of Dr. Gutmann's bracket here.

Continue reading

Snub-lection Sunday?

As soon as Harvard found out it didn't make the field for the NCAA tourney, talk turned to whether the Crimson had been snubbed. I won't venture a guess as to whether I think they were or weren't — I'll simply say they could have competed with many of the No. 16 seeds or new First Four play-in teams.

The folks over at ESPN, however, did rank their top five snubs. Harvard, much like on selection Sunday, did not make the list — Snubbed from the group of snubs. But the Crimson did receive an honorable mention — the award equivalent of a trip to the NIT.

Two honorable mentions: Harvard Crimson (top-40 RPI, neutral/road wins over BC and Colorado, only one bad loss, mere seconds from the Ivy League's auto-bid); Missouri State Bears (Missouri Valley regular-season champions that went to the MVC final). Harvard, like most of the teams on this list, could make an argument that its resume is legitimately better than UAB's. At least the Crimson beat somebody. And if UAB is in, why isn't Missouri State? Why are those two résumés different?

So I'll open it up for comments: Should the Crimson have gotten a ticket to the Dance?

The DP/Smokes March Madness bracket challenge

dpNCAA_color copy copy

Each year for about the last 20 years, the DP has partnered with Penn watering hole Smokey Joe's for a Sweet Sixteen bracket challenge. In past year's we've asked participants to cut the bracket out of the newspaper, fill it out, and fax it in.

At some point, we had to face facts — nobody actually uses fax machines any more. So in 2011 we've made the jump to the crazy world of the interweb, and our friends over at Smokes have come with us. This year they're sponsoring our full March Madness Bracket Challenge, online at thedp.com/marchmadness. The winner receives a $100 gift certificate to Smokey Joe's, and a perfect bracket also scores you $10,000 from Dell Sports, which hosts the software.

So sign up! it's quick, easy and you might just have the best bracket at Penn.

Mano-A-Mano: Volume IV

ManoAMano1It's the most wonderful time of the year, basketball fans. The Madness is upon us and, as has become the standard, a team of Ivy Leaguers will be taking on some of the nation's best. This year, in the not-quite-immortal words of Jack Eggleston, "It's Princeton." The 13-seed Tigers - in their first tourney appearance since 2004 - will do battle with 4-seed Kentucky Thursday in Tampa, Fla. Champions of the SEC tournament, the Wildcats boast a 25-8 record heading into the matchup and two potential NBA lottery picks. But how vulnerable is Kentucky to a major upset? Back from spring break, The Buzz's resident bracketologists (not really) debate in what is sure to be one of March's best bouts.

Question: Do the Tigers have what it takes to be a Giant (Wildcat) Killer?

Brian Kotloff: No breaks for DP Sports Editors, Kevin. We’re getting thrown right into the fire the night we get back from spring vacation.

We’ll get to your thoughts in a second, but I actually smell a potential upset in the East Region’s 4-13 game. Granted, the smell is very, very faint, but I think the Tigers have the makings of a Giant Killer. They have a few of the essential ingredients to a Cinderella team: 1. Veteran leadership – Four of Princeton’s top five scorers are upperclassmen. Experience always plays well in March, and inexperience haunts even the best teams at some point during their drive to a title. 2. A good backcourt – junior Douglas Davis, now of YouTube and SportsCenter fame, and senior Dan Mavraides are both tough guards who are capable of scoring and distributing. Cinderella teams are almost always led by veteran guards, a la Louis Dale from Cornell last season, who can control the pace of the game and their teammates’ emotions. 3. A low post presence – Second-team All-Ivy selection Ian Hummer is a 6-foot-7 load in the paint, averaging 13.9 points per game on 56 percent shooting. His ability (or inability) to battle with bigger, more athletic frontcourt opponents will be crucial in this game. 4. Balanced scoring – The Tigers have two major threats in the backcourt and the frontcourt, with four players averaging at least 11 ppg. Most importantly, Kareem Maddox, Hummer, Mavraides and Davis each have the ability to go off during any particular game.

Kevin Esteves: Very nice, Mr. Kotloff. I think you hinted at the obvious problem that Princeton will have against Kentucky in your point about Hummer: a mismatch in athleticism. That’s what burned the Quakers earlier this season when they tried to upset UK. Penn was able to jump out to an early lead, and Princeton may be able to do the same on Thursday, but it’s a whole different story when you’re tasked with controlling that athleticism for an entire game. We saw it in Turkey with Team USA during the basketball championships this past summer. Even though the American team may not have had the chemistry that other international teams may have, their superior athleticism just overwhelmed opponents – USA won gold, by the way. Now, I’m not saying that UK is comparable to the Redeem Team 2.0, but the point remains. The Tigers play great defense, but they will have to try to slow down a Wildcat offense ranked 25th in the nation and spearheaded by a lightning quick guard in Brandon Knight and a versatile forward in Terrence Jones. It’s hard to compare numbers between Princeton and Kentucky, so I’ll just resort to the Penn-UK game. My favorite stat? 1 – the number of rebounds Penn had in the 2nd half. You know it’s a good stat when it looks like a typo at first glance. To be fair, the Wildcats weren’t missing (they shot 18-for-22), but it’s awfully tough to get any rebounds — offensive or defensive —  when you’re trying to outwork guys that are much more athletic than you. And the Big Blue had 11 blocks, another sign of superior athleticism and size. Princeton is better than Penn, and should keep it closer, but I don’t smell an upset here. Too potent an offense and too much athleticism.

BK: There’s no question the Tigers will be the much less athletic team in this game. But this is March MADNESS, where Vermont can beat Syracuse and Butler can come inches shy of winning the championship. What makes this tournament so great is that almost anything can happen, at least in the early rounds. Princeton coach Sydney Johnson knows that better than anyone: he played a huge role on the 1996 Tigers team that beat UCLA, 43-41, in one of the biggest upsets in history.

I see the Black & Orange using a similar formula here. Slow the game down, take care of the ball, and grind out possessions. If they can do that, throw all numbers out the window and get the athleticism factor out of your head — on a day when the Basketball Gods are in their favor (and based on the Ivy playoff game, they currently are), Princeton can beat Kentucky. With top teams losing top players to the NBA every year, the talent is more spread out and parity is on the rise in college basketball. Just last year, Butler, Cornell and Northern Iowa proved that great coaching and fundamentally sound play can allow underdogs to down more talented heavyweights. Kentucky is a young team in a transition year, so who knows how the players will respond to the bright lights of the NCAAs and the pressure of playing for Big Blue Nation away from the comforts of Rupp Arena? The Tigers are playing with nothing to use.

KE: Absolutely, I agree. Princeton definitely has a shot, and I like your idea of slowing the game down. Princeton had the top scoring defense in the Ivy League and if they can keep UK in the half-court, they can pull off an upset. But am I gonna call one here? No. The Wildcats are young and inexperienced, but I think Knight and Jones are going to be too much to handle. Sure, the Tigers can send out Ivy League Defensive POY Maddox to defend Jones, but Maddox did not exactly come up huge in Princeton’s only game against a top-tier opponent, which was Duke back in November. In a 97-60 loss, Maddox scored six points and had seven turnovers, while Duke forward Kyle Singler scored an easy 16 points in 26 minutes. Jones is a unique athlete because he can handle the rock extremely well for a guy his size and I like teams that are strong at the point and the 4-spot; so I think that duo will just be too good to stop. Anything can happen, but if I have to go with one, I’m gonna go with the Wildcats, who have bigger fish to fry and can’t afford to get complacent.

BK: I definitely wouldn’t advise anyone this week to pick the upset, but my point is that the upsets that often happen are the ones few people pick. Princeton over Kentucky would instantly rank highly among those classics. I give it a 15% chance of happening. I see this game playing out similarly to Penn’s game at Rupp (though not as extreme). The Tigers hang with the Wildcats for a half before succumbing to UK’s talent, size and athletic ability. Kentucky 73, Princeton 57.

KE: I’m going to give it a 10% chance, which is a reasonable chance. Princeton would have to get balanced scoring (which to their credit, they do have), Maddox would have to contain Jones, and the Tigers would have to stay in front of Knight. A tall task, for sure, so I see this one: Ketucky 74 - Princeton 60.

BK: After all that arguing, pretty much the same score. But if Princeton wins, you know I’ll be taking all the credit.