College Hoops

NCAA tournament – Princeton, Furman spend 24 hours as Cinderella

NCAA tournament - Princeton, Furman spend 24 hours as Cinderella

March Madness is defined by two phases: Early-tournament upsets and Final Four heroics. The former, perhaps more than the latter, is what makes the tournament’s energy so hard to replicate in other sporting competitions.

It presents a unique dynamic in that a single win can qualify as the most important win in school history. And for the players involved — most of whom don’t have even a remote possibility of a professional basketball career — the experience can be life-altering. If nothing else, it becomes a story to tell for a lifetime.

How those stories are told will evolve over time, the surreal nature undoubtedly blurring the immediate aftermath and following 24 hours.

On Thursday, No. 15-seeded Princeton and No. 13-seeded Furman delivered wins that history will remember — knocking off powerhouses Arizona and Virginia, respectively — and have enjoyed the quasi-celebrity status that comes with the territory in the hours since.

PRINCETON COACH MITCH Henderson knows better than anyone how winning a single basketball game in March can pay dividends for a lifetime. He was part of Princeton’s famous upset of UCLA in the 1996 tournament and, even before this week, the intervals between reminders in his daily life have remained short ever since.

“This will happen to these guys over time, too,” Henderson said. “It will be even better if you make the Sweet 16.”

At a steakhouse after the game, the restaurant staff greeted the team with applause upon their arrival. It’s unusual treatment for the Ivy Leaguers and Henderson noticed a subdued group.

“Do you guy have any appreciation for what you just did?” Henderson asked them. “They kind of shook their head no.”

In some ways, it’s a strange spot to be. The win is among the most high-profile in Princeton’s entire athletic history, but how much celebrating should occur when an even bigger stage awaits two days later?

“One of the best feelings of my life. I don’t say that lightly,” sophomore guard Blake Peters said. “I mean, from the beginning of the season,…

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