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Men's basketball feels it deserves three or four seed in tournament

"Overrated! Overrated!"

The chants rained down on the men's basketball team during Tuesday's defeat of Penn at the Palestra.

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And in last Saturday's win at Cornell. And in last Friday's victory at Columbia.

Princeton's ascension into the top-10 college basketball rankings this season has sparked a backlash among some opponents and members of the national press who feel the No. 8 Tigers (26-1 overall, 14-0 Ivy League) don't deserve their robust ranking.

"This team is 50-5 over the last two years," head coach Bill Carmody said, "so you can say we're overrated all you want, but these guys deserve whatever they get."

"This team's last two regular season losses have been to North Carolina in December '97 and December '96," Carmody added. "So we've done enough and I don't want to have to keep defending them."

Irish

Luckily for Carmody, at this point in the season it is not the opinions of reporters or opposing teams that matter to the Tigers. The only people that Princeton is concerned about are the members of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

The Tigers will find out their seeding, first-round opponent and the time and location of their first-round game when the field of 64 teams in the 1998 NCAA tournament is announced Sunday night at 6:30 p.m.

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While Carmody had declined to speculate on his team's seeding the past few weekends, he indicated Tuesday night that he believed Princeton is deserving of a three, four or five seed, and he would be disappointed if it received anything lower.

Carmody's players echoed his sentiments.

"If we had lost tonight it would have been easy for the committee to say, '12 seed,' " senior guard Mitch Henderson said Tuesday night. "I don't care how we won the game tonight. I still think we should be a three or four seed."

"Before tonight or after tonight, I don't think much would change," junior forward Gabe Lewullis said. "Winning at the Palestra is always tough. Our team is looking at a three or four seed. That's what we would like to have. Any lower than a five, maybe we would feel a little bit slighted."

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Though the Tigers are currently ranked No. 8 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls, don't expect them to garner a No. 2 seed. The selection committee does not take into account the opinions of coaches or the press, but instead relies mostly on a rating system of its own called the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).

Numbers

Though the RPI is never released to the public, an independent duplication of the index is readily available. Each team's RPI is derived from three component factors: Division I winning percentage (25 percent), strength of schedule (50 percent) and opponents' strength of schedule (25 percent).

So while Princeton has the best record in Division I men's basketball, the Tigers' schedule currently ranks 193rd out of 306 schools, leaving them with a No. 30 ranking in the RPI.

Playing in a relatively weak conference, Princeton's record has often been looked at with scrutiny by the tournament committee. Partly in hopes of combatting this, Carmody put together the Tigers' toughest schedule in years this season.

Things didn't work out as planned, however, as the nonconference teams Princeton defeated early in the season have performed worse than expected.

All of this leaves the committee to select among a wide range of possible seedings. But look for the Tigers to end up no less than a six seed, and probably at a four or five.

No matter which of these spots Princeton occupies, the Tigers will soon be assuming a role they haven't played in the postseason in a long time – that of the favorite.

"It's a big difference when you are a three or a four seed as opposed to being a 12 or a 13, so I'm excited," Henderson said. "I was watching the (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) tournament finals the other night – Iona versus Siena. San Fransisco beat Gonzaga last night. Those are teams we could possibly play."

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