Princeton women continue quest for perfection
It's going to be a busy week for unbeaten Princeton.
The 13th-ranked team in The Associated Press women's basketball poll will try to clinch its fifth Ivy League championship in six seasons this weekend when the Tigers visit Cornell and Columbia.
''We've been focusing on an Ivy title all season long and now we have a chance to seize it this weekend,'' Princeton coach Courtney Banghart said.
Princeton (27-0), which is the last undefeated team in Division I women's basketball can also surpass the Penn men's team of 1970-71 that won its first 28 games to set the league record for best start to a season. That team made it to the regional final and was ranked as high as third in the poll.
This Princeton team already has the best ranking ever for an Ivy League women's team. If they do sweep through the weekend, they will face Penn three days later with a chance to cap a 30-0 regular season.
''It's going to be a busy five days but we're ready for it,'' Banghart said.
It almost seems a foregone conclusion since Princeton has won its 11 league games so far by an average of 26.5 points a game.
Winning the Ivy League would be huge for the school, but Banghart has bigger goals - winning the first NCAA tournament game in Princeton history. That will have to wait a few weeks before it potentially could happen.
While the Ivy is the only league left that doesn't have a postseason conference tournament, most of the other conferences tournaments will get started this week.
The Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten all begin play later this week. No. 3 South Carolina, No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 8 Oregon State and No. 4 Maryland may be huge favorites to repeat their regular season championships in the postseason but all could face stiff competition from some of the other top teams in the conferences.
No team is a bigger favorite to win its conference tournament than No. 1 UConn. The Huskies haven't lost a game in the American Athletic Conference regular or postseason in the league's two years. They completed a second straight sweep through the regular season with a 88-65 win over South Florida on Monday night.
UConn has won its conference games by an average of nearly 49 points this season. The Huskies will open up play in the quarterfinals Saturday.
WHY NOT SETON HALL: The Pirates clinched their first Big East championship on Sunday and returned to the Top 25 a day later. Coach Tony Bozzella's squad was faced with a nine-point deficit with 67 seconds left against Butler. Hopes of the first Big East championship in school history and a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament were fading quickly.
The Pirates had scored just 13 points in the previous 14 minutes and looked destined to finish second. But that all changed in the blink of an eye as Seton Hall rallied scoring 18 points in the final 1:07 to beat Butler. The Pirates were ranked for a week earlier this season.
''I don't know if it can be put into words how important that win was to our school,'' Bozzella said. ''When we took over this program we wanted to make Seton Hall relevant. We didn't know if it would take a week, month, a year, two years, but now we've done it.''
JERSEY PRIDE: With Seton Hall entering the Top 25, the state of New Jersey has three teams ranked for the first time in the history of the poll. Princeton moved up to No. 13 and Rutgers fell to 23rd.
''I think the three schools are really different, but they all are similar having Jersey kids on their rosters,'' Banghart said. ''It's amazing how close all the schools are in proximity and yet draw from different populations.''
New Jersey isn't the first state to have three teams ranked in the same week. The Garden State joins Louisiana, California, Texas, Kentucky and North Carolina to name a few.
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