This is what college hoops is all about.
On Tuesday night, Princeton (24-6, 12-2 Ivy) traveled to Penn facing the ultimate must-win situation.
A win and Princeton earned a share of the Ivy League regular season title -- a huge accomplishment in a league with no conference tournament. A loss gave the title to Harvard, which would have earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Princeton came out of the gates fired up -- perhaps too fired up -- taking an early 15-4 lead. Penn stormed back, going on a 23-4 run of its own to take an eight-point lead into the second half.
But Princeton kept its composure, caught up and played dead-even basketball with Penn until halfway through the second half. With a 44-42 lead and possibly just 8 minutes, 30 seconds left in their season, the Tigers kicked it into high gear, outscored the hosting Quakers 26-16 the rest of the way and escaped with a 70-58 win.
Led by sixth man Kareem Maddox's 21 points and five assists in the second half, Princeton showed not only Penn and Harvard that it meant business, but also every other tournament-bound team that had a day off yesterday.
Now, Princeton and Harvard (23-5, 12-2 Ivy) meet on Saturday at 4 p.m. for a one-game playoff. Winner goes to the NCAA Tournament, loser goes home empty-handed, without a guarantee of an NIT berth (like the regular season winner receives in every other Division I conference).
With everything on the line, neither team should be overlooked by its opponent after Selection Sunday. The two teams split the regular season with one win apiece, but either team is capable of knocking off a sleeping high-major team.
Princeton's tournament resume includes wins over Rutgers, Bucknell and Tulsa. Harvard owns wins over Colorado, Boston College and George Washington.