Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Divide by zero

For much of this afternoon, my brain was a large and bewildered lump of spreadsheet code. It couldn't compute the numbers it had processed.

Divide by zero

You all know that during my liveblogs, I cite a statistic at halftime called points per possession. It's not something that appears in the boxscore; I get it by plugging numbers into a spreadsheet.

Before I put in the final points total, the spreadsheet displays the following error message based on its inability to compute the outcome:

#DIV/0!

For much of this afternoon, my brain was a large and bewildered lump of #DIV/0!. It couldn't compute the numbers it had processed.

It was never fair to either Temple or Cornell that they were drawn against each other in the first round. None of the many people I know who follow those both teams wanted one to lose.

But someone had to advance, and someone had to go out. So I went with the coach who had never lost to the other head-to-head. I went with the coach who had the higher seed in an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in his career, after nearly two decades of watching his players wear dark jerseys in mid-March.

I spent much of this week screaming as loudly as I could that Fran Dunphy was 22-1 all time against his former assistant coaches. But the other reason why I didn't think Temple would lose because I didn't think the Owls would let Cornell win. I felt that Temple's defense this year was too good, and that Fran Dunphy would prepare his team for everything the Big Red would do.

The exact opposite happened. Temple shot 51.9 percent from the field, which in a given game would be spectacular, but Cornell shot 56.3 percent from the field - 27 made field goals out of 48 attempts. The Big Red completely shredded the Owls' defense, as Louis Dale erupted for 21 points and Jeff Foote scored 16 on 6-for-8 shooting.

In Dale's two previous NCAA Tournament games, he was 1-for-11 from the field against Missouri last year and 4-for-16 against Stanford in 2008.

As a result, for the first time since 1998, the Ivy League has won a game in the NCAA Tournament.

You all know that I've covered Ancient Eight basketball for a while now. I've long believed that the league's teams are capable of winning NCAA Tournament games without having to use athletic scholarships to recruit players.

(The Ivy League's eight schools do not offer merit-based aid of any kind - not for sports, playing the tuba, academics or anything else. All aid is need-based.)

Just because I thought it could happen, though, doesn't mean I thought it actually would happen any time soon. Now it has. And of course, it had to come at the expense of the man who led the Ivy League onto college basketball's biggest stage 10 times in his 17 years at the conference's flagship program.

(Sorry, Cornell and Princeton fans. You know it's true.)

I believe that Fran Dunphy is one of the nation's best college basketball coaches. I believed it last year, I believed it yesterday and I still believe it today. And I'm not alone, having been told many times of Dunphy's high standing within the coaching fraternity. Ask Roy Williams, Rick Barnes or Bo Ryan. Ask Mike Krzyzewski, who endorsed Dunphy to Penn in 1989 and Temple in 2006.

This will go down as one of Dunphy's worst losses, though. The margin was not as great as Penn's 85-65 defeat by Boston College in 2005, but this was the first time Dunphy's team was more athletic than its opponent.

Dunphy was beaten, and convincingly, by the coach he raised to follow in his footsteps. Reading Steve Donahue's postgame quotes, the degree to which the student beat the teacher becomes even more clear:

You know what, we're a very good experienced passing team, and I sensed that in the A-10 they haven't seen many teams like us that would maybe take advantage if you go under a ball screen or a triple handoff. So if you saw that Louis Dale has a couple threes they went under.

Ryan gets a couple what we call euros, a little kickback action, and they get away with that in their league. That's not saying they're not good, but their plan of attack -- I thought with our plan of attack that we could get 20 to 25 decent looks from three because I think they've gotten away with it in their league. Great defensive team.

I obviously can't say enough about Fran Dunphy. He beat me 12 straight times when he was the head coach at Penn. I've never beaten him until now, and he says the same thing after every game, and he's such a darned good coach. I am torn right now with that feeling in my stomach. I just respect the heck out of him.


It happened. I watched it with my own eyes. The pictures are on websites tonight and will be on the front pages of newspapers all over the country tomorrow.

But it does not compute.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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