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Don't know much about hoops? Time to cram for the Big Dance

So what if you've been spending all of the men's basketball team's regular season locked in a Firestone carrel doing integral calculus? After learning a few key terms, you'll be chatting NCAA hoops with the most bravado of fans.

Seeding: Teams are "seeded" in regional groupings of 16 for the 64-team tournament on the basis of their performance in the regular season. The best teams are paired with the worst in the opening games so that – barring no upsets – the highest ranked teams should meet in the final rounds. But don't count the underdogs out: remember Princeton vs. UCLA?


Princeton vs. UCLA: The Tiger's watershed first-round victory over the then-defending champions in 1996. The win came in Pete Carill's final season as head coach, and is Princeton's most oft-mentioned tournament game.

Polls: During the regular season, Princeton rose to the No. 8 slot in the Associated Press' survey of sports writers and to the No. 7 position in ESPN/USA Today's survey of Division I coaches. The NCAA uses neither of these polls for seeding, however, and instead relies on the RPI, the ratings percentage index, a measurement that considers the difficulty of a team's schedule among other factors.

No. 5: Princeton's seed in the Eastern Regional of this season's tournament. North Carolina is seeded No. 1 in the region. Tonight's foe, UNLV, is No. 12.

Region: The four 16-team brackets of the tournament – East, West, Midwest and South – are called regions. The teams assigned to each region are not necessarily from those areas. The winners of each region advance to the Final Four in San Antonio March 28-30.

Sweet Sixteen: The round in which many expect Princeton's realistic chances in the tournament to end, as the Tigers' likely opponent would be North Carolina. But, hey, Princeton only lost to the Tarheels by eight points earlier in the season.

The System: The name, now common in sportswriter speak, given to Princeton's style of offense. Much to the chagrin of slam-dunk fans, The System emphasizes a slow-pace offense in which players opt to pass the ball around the perimeter, waiting for an open shot (often from three-point range) or a chance for a backdoor pass.


Backdoor: A play frequently used as part of The System in which a player cuts into open space towards the basket and behind his defender and the basket while a teammate slides a pass through to him. This leaves the player by the hoop with a chance for an uncontested layup.

Screen: When one player stands still and blocks a teammate's defender from following him. Screens can lead to backdoor baskets, but most of Princeton's backdoors come from cuts, not screens.

Low-post: The area near the basket where inside players, such as Princeton's senior center Steve Goodrich, play with their backs to the the basket. Goodrich is one of the country's premier low-post players, and can either score or pass to open teammates from the low post.

Hartford Civic Center: Located in the Insurance Capital of the world, the arena is hosting Princeton's firstand possible second-round games. The NHL's Whalers called it home until they jumped ship to Carolina after last season.

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