Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

TigerBlog has told you about his Uncle Herbie before.

Herbie - Herbert Springer was his full name - ran a store in Brooklyn with TB's Aunt Edie. Before that, he was a New York City cab driver. He also fought in World War II, in Europe and the Pacific.

In the summers, he and Aunt Edie had a bungalow in the Rockaways, and he'd sit outside in his sailor's cap, playing Pinochle with his friends. TigerBlog couldn't understand the game, or, for that matter, even understand the 48-card deck.

Herbie would pause for few things when he played, but one of them would be to make his nephew a bagel, with butter on one side and lox on the other. Then it was back to the game.

His apartment in Brooklyn was on Ocean Ave., 1947 Ocean Ave., to be exact. TB spent more than one Thanksgiving there.

As TB types this, he can still see his uncle and his unshaven face, his unkempt hair, always covered by the sailor's hat. He can hear his voice, his deep, gravelly New York City voice.

It's been exactly 40 years since Herbert Springer passed away, at the age of only 53. It's weird for TigerBlog to think that he's older now than his uncle was when he died.

He died over Thanksgiving in 1977. Edie would live to 85 before she died a few years ago.

TigerBlog was still a kid when his uncle died. Even all these years later, he remains one of TB's favorite all-time people, and his memories of his time with his uncle are among his best.

 Forty years. Wow. 

His grave has his name - "Herbert Springer" - and then this: "Everyone's Friend." It is so true.

TigerBlog wrote this about his uncle once:
To be around Herbie Springer was to laugh, to carry on, to have a good time. He had friends, sure, but he was also the kind to make friends with everyone he encountered - strangers on the street, people who wandered into his store, friends of his nephew.

He had a huge personality, maybe a bit larger than life. It's just that his life didn't last as long as it should have.

TigerBlog wanted to mention his uncle on the 40th anniversary of his passing. He does so with a mix of sadness coupled with a smile at a reminder of who his uncle was and the good times he spent with him.

TigerBlog also wants to say what he's written every Thanksgiving since he's been doing this, and here it is:

As holidays go, you can't do much better than Thanksgiving. It's got it all, really: a huge meal (with turkey, no less), football, family, history (dates back to 1621), start of a four-day weekend for most people, leftovers. It's even a secular holiday, so every American can dive right in, regardless of religion.
 

The Lions and the Cowboys, obviously, always play at home on Thanksgiving, and the NFL has now added a third game (maybe a little too much). Beyond watching football, how many out there have played their own Thanksgiving football games, all of which, by the way, are named "the Turkey Bowl?"

The holiday may lag behind Christmas in terms of great Hollywood movies, and "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" is no match for "A Charlie Brown Christmas" or "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Still, there are some great moments in movies and TV shows around Thanksgiving.

Rocky and Adrian had their first date on Thanksgiving – "To you it's Thanksgiving; to me it's Thursday," Rocky said romantically – as did Meadow and Jackie Jr. on "The Sopranos" (it didn't quite work out as well as it did for Rocky and Adrian). "Everybody Loves Raymond" had two pretty good Thanksgiving episodes, the one where Marie makes a low-fat dinner and the one where Debra makes fish instead of turkey. As an aside, TigerBlog's Aunt Regina once made Cornish game hens instead of turkey, so he knows how they all felt. And of course, there was the Thanksgiving episode of "Cheers," which has the big food fight at the end.

The Woody Allen movie "Hannah and Her Sisters" starts and ends on two different Thanksgivings. "Miracle on 34th Street" is a Christmas movie, but it does start with the Thanksgiving parade in New York City.

And of course, there is the best of all Thanksgiving movies: "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." It'll make you laugh a lot and cry a little, and it ends on Thanksgiving.


Princeton Athletics has some good events between now and the end of the weekend.

You have a choice tonight if you'd like to go to a game in Princeton, as the men's basketball team is home against Lafayette and the men's hockey team is home against Bemidji State. Both start at 7.

The second game of the Princeton-Bemidji State series will be Friday night. The men's basketball team is on the road Sunday, but it's not that far - just up to FDU, for a 2 p.m. tip.

There is also a two-game women's hockey trip to Merrimack (Friday and Saturday) and a women's basketball game at Davidson Saturday at 1.

And of course there is the NCAA women's soccer quarterfinal game Saturday between Princeton and UCLA in California. That game starts at 5:30 local time, so 8:30 in the East.

Princeton, of course, is coming off the huge win over North Carolina, the top seed in the region, in last Sunday's Round of 16 game.

Mostly, though, it's Thanksgiving that occupies most people's time right about now.

It's turkey and football and fun and all that. At its core, though, it's the giving of thanks, right? So be thankful for what - and especially who - is really important to you.

And remember those, like TB's Uncle Herbie, who are no longer here to celebrate the day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Observation Post

TigerBlog would like to talk to you about relationships today.

Spatial ones, that is. Well, maybe that's not exactly what this is, but whatever, it's close.

Picture in your mind the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate on a baseball field. As everyone knows, that's 60 feet, six inches.

Now picture the distance from the floor of Jadwin Gym to the ceiling. How high do you think that is?

It's 60 feet.

How in the world is that possible? Doesn't it seem like the distance from the mound is a fraction of the distance from the floor to the ceiling in Jadwin?

TigerBlog has stood on a pitcher's mound and looked out at home plate. It didn't seem that far. He's been on the catwalk at the top of Jadwin and looked down and, well, he's lucky he lived through that.

As it turns out, it's also 60 feet from Powers Field to the top of the newly installed bubble that now covers the playing surface. Again, if you think of a pitcher's mound, it doesn't seem that big. If you think of the ceiling in Jadwin, it seems huge.

Here's what it looks like inside before it's 100 percent completed:
The bubble will be up each year now from the end of the football season through the spring. It'll be used by Princeton's varsity teams, as well as club teams, intramural teams and outside groups. That's all going to be happening really soon.

For now, TigerBlog's observation is that it's really cool.

Here are some other observations from the recent weekend in Princeton sports:

* Here's a question for you that TigerBlog was asked yesterday: What's the biggest win in Princeton women's soccer history, the one against North Carolina Sunday or the one over Washington in the 2004 quarterfinals that made the Tigers the only Ivy League team ever to reach the women's soccer Final Four? It's a great question. Princeton, by the way, will be at UCLA Saturday (8:30 Eastern) in this year's quarterfinal, with a chance to match the 2004 team.

* It's extraordinary what Chad Kanoff and Jesper Horsted did to the Princeton football record book. TigerBlog won't review them all here, but you can read about them HERE, as his colleague Craig Sachson put them together. If TB is correct, Kanoff tied or set 12 Princeton and/or Ivy League records by himself. Horsted shattered receiving records that had stood for nearly 35 years.

* Kanoff, by the way, certainly looks the part of an NFL quarterback at 6-4, 225 pounds, with good mobility and the ability to make pretty much any throw. Horsted looks the part of an NFL receiver, and possibly a Major League Baseball player, which is a good problem to have.

* Former men's basketball coach Bill Carmody, early in the 1999-2000 season, had a reporter say that his team had to be "the best 1-4 team of all time." Carmody responded without flinching: "I'd rather be the worst 4-1 team of all time." Good answer. The 2017 Princeton football team went 2-5 in the Ivy League and has to be the best 2-5 team ever. This season will be remembered for the extraordinary performances by the offense and the devastating injuries to the defense. A healthy defense plus that offense would have equaled an Ivy title. Nobody will be able to talk TigerBlog out of that.

* Georgia Tech's women's basketball team has a lot of size. In fact, of the 11 players who played in the 67-56 Georgia Tech win over Princeton Sunday, seven are at least six feet tall and five are at least 6-2. Princeton isn't small, but that was a lot of size. The Tigers played hard until the end and had some chances in the fourth quarter to make it a one-possession game, which isn't bad against the WNIT runner-up from a year ago. Princeton is now 2-1 with wins over George Washington and Seton Hall heading into the Thanksgiving break, and it's already clear that there's a lot to like about this team.

* The same is true of the men's team, which is home tomorrow night against Lafayette at 7. TigerBlog sat courtside Saturday night at St. Joe's, and if you've never been to a game at the Hagan Arena, it's definitely worth going. It's a great 4,200 seat venue, and the atmosphere there for the home opener was great. It included a ceremony honoring all of the former Hawks and they welcomed the newest Hawk. You know, the mascot, the one who never stops flapping.

* As for the game, Devin Cannady put on a great three-point shooting display in the first half, burying shot after shot from further and further away right in front of the jammed student section. Cannady, Amir Bell and Myles Stephens were a combined 18 for 31, with 50 points between them, in the 71-58 loss. Those three are the foundation of a special team. The task is putting the other pieces around them, and Mitch Henderson has plenty of options. Princeton is clearly a work in progress right now, but it's one that has a lot of potential as well. And is exciting to watch.

* The men's hockey team will be home tomorrow and Friday nights against Bemidji State, with faceoff at 7 both nights. The Tigers are going through some growing pains and are 3-3-1 after seven games. A year ago? They were 0-6-1 after seven games. And of their three losses, two (Cornell, Union) were against ranked teams at the time (Cornell is ranked . There's also a 0-0 tie with Colgate in there, and the Raiders are currently ranked 18th.

* The men's cross country team finished 28th in the NCAA championship race Saturday. The Tigers had an interesting season, not running together until just before Heps and then winning that and the NCAA regional easily. As for the women, they were represented by Heps champ Gabi Forrest, who finished 37th at the NCAA championships to earn All-America honors.

* The men's water polo team lost a heartbreaker, falling 12-11 to Harvard in two OTs in the NWPC championship game. The Tigers did have yet another great season under head coach Luis Nicalao, going 22-6.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Make That 13

Is this a good record: 126-12-3?

That's a winning percentage of a .917. Is that good too?

Those were the gaudy numbers that the University of North Carolina's women's soccer team brought into yesterday's NCAA tournament Round of 16 game against Princeton. The next-highest number of NCAA wins in women's soccer belongs to Notre Dame, with 69.

North Carolina's history in women's soccer is better than UConn's history in women's basketball. The Huskies are 114-18 in the NCAA women's basketball tournament, a winning percentage of only .864.

UConn has won 11 NCAA women's basketball championships. North Carolina has won 21 NCAA women's soccer championships, meaning the Tar Heels are one away from doubling up the Huskies.

And they won't get it this year.

In what is unquestionably one of the greatest wins Princeton Athletics has seen, the Princeton women's soccer team defeated mighty North Carolina 2-1 yesterday, winning it on Abby Givens' goal 8:18 into overtime.

Make it 126-13-3.

It's hard to overstate the magnitude of beating North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. It's not something that happens too often, and it happens before the Final Four even less.

UNC has played in every NCAA women's soccer tournament, all 36 of them now, and this will be just the ninth time that the Tar Heels have not reached the national semifinals.

As for this year, UNC is the No. 2 ranked team in the country and went 8-0-2 in the ACC, a league that sent eight teams to the NCAA tournament.

So yeah, it's huge. What makes it more astonishing is that Princeton was one penalty kick away from not getting the chance to play UNC in the first place.

Before TB gets to that, let him rant for a second. PKs are an incredibly dumb way of deciding the outcome of a game. Why in the world would a game be allowed to end that way?

Yeah, yeah. It's because without PKs, a game could last forever, going multiple overtimes and all. So what? If you know you have to score to win, you have to take chances eventually.

If anything, do what field hockey does and take players off the field as you get to OT. Anything would be better than PKs, whether it's the World Cup or the NCAA tournament.

That wasn't the case Friday, though, when Princeton played North Carolina State in the second round. The Tigers led 1-0 on freshman Carolyne Davidson's goal before a late goal tied it, and then the teams played two scoreless overtimes. That left it up to penalty kicks to decide which team would advance.

Princeton missed its first. NC State made its first four, meaning that if the Wolfpack could make the next one, the game would be over. Instead? Natalie Grossi made the save, keeping the game going.

It would have ended there had Tomi Kennedy not converted the next one, which she did. Both teams would miss the next one, and then, after another Grossi save, Davidson finally ended it.

Yeah. It's a terrible system, but if you're going to use it, you might as well win.

And that left Princeton to take on North Carolina, who just happened to be 13-0-2 in its last 15 games. North Carolina had four straight shutouts heading into the game, and in fact opponents had scored just four goals - that's one, two, three, four goals - in that 15-game unbeaten streak.

Princeton then doubled that total. Princeton was outshot in this one 24-8, and Grossi was strong again, making seven saves.

The game-winner came on on bit of a counter, when Givens found herself with just enough room to maneuver the ball past UNC goalkeeper Samantha Leshnak. All that was left was a race to the goal line between the ball and a UNC defender. The ball would win.

With that, Princeton had pulled off a stunner. Again, TigerBlog is not overstating the historical significance of this win.

The Tigers now play in the quarterfinals, next weekend at UCLA, who beat Virginia 2-1 last night on a late goal, after the teams traded goals 30 second apart five minutes in. Should Princeton win that one, it would get to the Final Four.

North Carolina has been to 27 Final Fours. Princeton has been to one, back in 2004. It's the only time an Ivy League team has reached the women's soccer Final Four.

Can this team repeat that feat?

Getting this far is an incredible accomplishment. Especially when yesterday's opponent is added in to the equation.

This was, after all, the University of North Carolina women's soccer team. That's the mightiest of the mighty.

And there was Princeton. Ahead. Then tied. Then going toe-to-toe the rest of the heart-stopping way, eventually winning.

This Princeton team has been special all season. It's now 16-2-1 for the year and has spent pretty much the entire season ranked in the top 25. Now it's one of just eight teams left playing.

And it has a win over North Carolina.

Yeah, that's one of the great NCAA tournament wins any Princeton team has ever had.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Should Have Gone With The Omelette, Home Fries and Toast

TigerBlog went to a diner yesterday for lunch with his friend Corey.

If his math is right, he's coming up on 47 or so years that he and Corey have been friends. That's a long time.

Corey could be the happiest person TB has ever met. He and TB tell the same stories that they told decades ago, and they still laugh at them like it was yesterday.

Corey is a Rutgers grad. He was a sax player in the band for the Scarlet Knights.

TB looks at his kids and wonders which of their current friends they will be friends with when they're in their 50s. He's not sure why his friendship with Corey has endured all this time, just that it has, and it will forever. There's something quite comforting about that.

Anyway, as far as lunch yesterday goes, sometimes when TB is in a restaurant, he'll look around and see what everyone else is eating, to see if something looks good. In a diner, he likes to get breakfast food, even if it's in the afternoon or evening.

He was going to get an omelette, probably the one with lox and onion. Or the Spanish omelette. Or the Western one.

That's when the people at the next table got their food. And one of them got the salad that TB usually gets when he has lunch with Corey, and it looked really good.

TB ordered the salad, and it was really good. Just as he started to eat, though, there were two guys at the counter behind him - and they both got omelettes. With toast and home fries.

Regrets? Maybe a few. Very few things are better than an omelette, toast and home fries in a diner.

If TB really wanted to put in the effort, he would connect that with Princeton Athletics. It's a busy weekend, though, so he'll just get to the events coming up.

At home this weekend would be the men's hockey team, tonight and tomorrow night at 7, against Yale and Brown. And women's basketball, home Sunday against Georgia Tech at 1.

The men's basketball team is on the road, Saturday at 7 at St. Joe's.

There are also a few championship events involving Princeton teams.

The women's volleyball team will take on Yale tomorrow night, at 7, in New Haven, where the winner will earn the Ivy League's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton and Yale are the league co-champions, and they split their two matches during the regular season.

Princeton is looking for its second-straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers have now won three straight Ivy titles.

TigerBlog went to the women's volleyball page on goprincetontigers.com and learned that Princeton's NCAA appearance a year ago was the first in nine years. He also saw a headline that said that Maggie O'Connell had made history while being named the Ivy League Player of the Year.

What kind of history? She's the sixth Princeton player to win Ivy Player of the Year and the second to have won that award and Ivy Rookie of the Year in her career as well. O'Connell, a sophomore, is also the first underclassman from Princeton to win Player of the Year.

If TigerBlog Jr. had chosen the Ivy Player of the Year, he would have gone with O'Connell. And he should know. As Yale's PA announcer, he saw every team play. And he'll be there tomorrow night, behind the mic for the championship match.

HERE is the women's volleyball match preview story. 

The men's cross country team runs in the NCAA championships in Louisville tomorrow as well. The Tigers have had quite a season, running together for the first two weeks before Heps at the Princeton Invitational and then overpowering the league to win the Ivy title.

Then, it was on to the NCAA regional last weekend, where Princeton against ran away from the competition to finish first, winning by an astonishing 52 points. All five of Princeton's scorers were in the top 10 at Heps and in the top 25 at the regional. That left all five of them as All-Ivy and All-Region.

So what's the team's ceiling in the finals?

Princeton's best finish ever was 11th, back in 2012. Can this team beat that finish? Well, the Tigers are ranked 28th nationally, but that poll doesn't really reflect where the team is now. Princeton wasn't even ranked for most of the year, for that matter.

Keep in mind, Princeton's full team together has not lost a race this year.

HERE is the full preview.

The women's soccer team plays in the second round of the NCAA tournament today in Cary, N.C., at 2:30 against North Carolina State, a team the Tigers defeated 2-0 back in early September. Princeton was very impressive in its NCAA opener, a 4-0 win over Monmouth.

N.C. State outshot Princeton 15-9 in the first game, but it was the Tigers who converted two chances. What does any of that mean for this game? Not one thing.

Princeton is the fourth seed in the region and ranked 13th nationally. North Carolina State is ranked 21st. It figures to be a good game.

For the winner, there is probably a third-round date Sunday with North Carolina, who plays Colorado in the other game.

Princeton is 15-2-0 on the year. N.C. State is 15-5-1.

More information is right HERE.

The men's water polo team plays in the Northeast Water Polo Conference Tournament this weekend at Harvard. The Tigers are the top seed in the event.

That preview is HERE.

At stake for the winner is an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

In non-championship events, the football team is at Dartmouth as Chad Kanoff chases some major Princeton passing records and the Tigers attempt to keep the Big Green from having a shot at the Ivy crown. Dartmouth would get a share with a win and a Yale loss to Harvard. Columbia could get a share too with a win over Brown and a Yale loss.

For all of Kanoff's numbers - and Jesper Horsted's and Stephen Carlson's and everything else about the game - click HERE.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

More Baby Steps

TigerBlog has told you this story twice before, the first time in 2010 and the second in 2015.

If you already heard it, then bear with him. It's a good one.

TigerBlog's introduction to broadcasting at Princeton came back in 1989, when he first started doing men's basketball games on what was then WHWH radio - AM 1350. David Brody was the play-by-play man, and TigeBlog was first on as a halftime guest, and then as the color commentator for away games.

Eventually, he did the home games with Brody as well. Actually, it was a three-man crew for home games, with Brody, TB and Rich Simkus, the former Tiger center.

One night in a game at Jadwin, the end of the first half didn't go the way Pete Carril wanted, and he was a tad upset as he left the court. Or, as TB said on the radio, he was something else:

TB: Pete Carril looks pretty pissed off right now.

That was followed by silence from TB's partners.

TB: What? You can't say "pissed off" on the radio?
Brody: Apparently you can, because you've said it twice.

Again a pause.

Simkus: You're beautiful.

TB's takeaway, of course, was that he was beautiful.

That was a long time ago, as TB thinks about it. Wow. Nearly 30 years?

A three-man radio team hardly ever works, but with the 45-second shot clock back then, that left plenty of time to talk. And as TB recalls, he and Simkus played off each other well, especially when they'd talk about how TigerBlog rooted against Simkus was he was a Penn student. Simkus was actually a very good analyst. That was a good broadcast team.

By the way, Simkus was featured prominently in the most recent episode of "Hard Cuts," as well as in the picture for the story on the webpage. See it HERE.

Princeton has had a lot of great announcers through the years that TB has been here, up through the present. The current football team (Cody Chrusciel, Craig Sachson, Dave Giancola) is excellent. The men's basketball team of Derek Jones and Noah Savage is as good as it gets for this level. TB would put them up there with anyone.

By the way, the women's broadcasting team this year for the Ivy League Network is John Mozes and Dei Lynam. That's a great pairing as well. Maybe you remember Dei from all of her years covering the NBA, especially the Sixers.

When Jones and Savage do the home games for the Ivy League Network, then the radio announcers are second-generation Tiger play-by-player Patrick McCarthy, the son of Tom McCarthy, and TigerBlog. Last night Patrick had to go solo on the radio, since TigerBlog had to do the PA for the mens' game against BYU.

TigerBlog likes doing the radio. He's never gotten nervous, perhaps because you can't really see your audience. Then again, he doesn't get nervous on the PA either. Maybe it's just nice to hear his voice.

Actually, there's an old episode of "WKRP In Cincinnati" where Bailey tells Johnny that if he gets nervous, he should just pretend he's talking to one person. That's sort of how it is in radio. Pretend you're talking to one person. Describe the game to that one person.

The challenge last night was to correctly pronounce Princeton freshman Jerome Desrosiers, who is French-Canadian, from Quebec. The phonetic spelling would be this: zheh-ROME de-ROH-zee-EH.

That was a good one. Then again, TB was the PA announcer at Jadwin the night that Brown's Alai Nuualiitia had his career high.

As for the game itself last night, Princeton expected a game in the 80s. The last time BYU was at Jadwin the score was 39-37. The teams sort of met in the middle, as BYU defeated Princeton 65-56.

After the game, Princeton coach Mitch Henderson talked about how his team looked good on offense in the opener against Butler (85-75 loss) and good on defense against BYU and that "somewhere in there is a good team."

TigerBlog yesterday talked about "baby steps," about how a team develops over the course of a basketball season. He's seen Princeton men's and women's teams that seemed to be struggling early turn into Ivy championship teams as they developed.

You can't win championships in November. You simply moving your team along the path of those baby steps, looking for the right combinations and answers and rotations and minutes. That's where the Tigers are right now.

According to Henderson, prior to last night he had gotten two technicals in his life and then doubled it with the two he got against the Cougars. He was contrite after the game and apologetic for what happened. 

Sometimes that happens. TB has seen the best of coaches lose it in the moment. Nobody should judge Henderson by that one moment. TB has known Henderson for a long, long time, and he knows that he is a class act, one who has high standards for his program. He also has tremendous passion, especially for Princeton basketball, and the program couldn't be in better hands.

Next up for Princeton is a trip to St. Joe's Saturday night. That's the next chance to move along towards the goal, which is to be a much-improved team come February. TB has no doubt that will be the case.

BYU coach Dave Rose summed it up really well when he got up to leave after his turn in the postgame interview room.

"Mitch has a good team," he said. "A fun team. They're going to have a fun year."

Then he paused and added this:
 

"Just not tonight." 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Baby Steps

So when people say they slept like a baby, what exactly do they mean?

They mean they slept great, right?

Babies, though, don't sleep all that great. Babies don't sleep all that much for that matter, and when they wake up, they're miserable.

They look peaceful enough while they sleep, so is that where the expression comes from?

Then there's the expression "baby steps." That means, TigerBlog presumes, small steps, making progress, that sort of thing.

Have you ever seen a baby who has just learned to walk? They sprint everywhere. Baby steps? Their little legs churn up and down as fast as they can. You can lose your mind - and your breath - trying to keep up with them.

Wouldn't that mean "baby steps" should refer to "get to the end point as quickly as possible?"

Where do these idioms come from?

Going on the assumption for a minute that baby steps means making small progressions toward the end goal, then Princeton men's and women's basketball teams are in the baby steps portion of the season.

Both teams have played one game. The women defeated defending Atlantic 10 champ George Washington 72-52. The men lost at Butler 85-75.

So what is known for sure? A few things:
* Myles Stephens is an insanely great player who can do everything on the court, on either end
* Stephens, Amir Bell and Devin Cannady complement each other really well
* Cannady, Bell and Stephens are fearless, whether it's going to the basket or shooting from the outside or pretty much anything
* Bella Alarie will be the best player on the court in pretty much every game Princeton plays
* Carlie Littlefield, a freshman from Iowa, is the real deal
* Tia Weledji or Leslie Robinson (or both) could go for 20-plus on any given night

Oh, and this:
* both teams are a lot of fun to watch.

There are questions, too, of course. There should be in November. Baby steps, remember?

Here are a few:
* how many minutes should the major players be getting?
* what will be the men's team's ultimate rotation, and how many players will be in that rotation, for that matter?
* what will Abby Meyers look like when she gets to play?
* how will both team's incredibly strong freshmen classes develop?
* what is the most optimal percentage of points to come from the men's big three?

The answers to these questions will start to play out over the next weeks.

The women have two games this week, tomorrow night at Seton Hall (tip at 7) and then Sunday at 1 at home against Georgia Tech. Both opponents are strong ones, which is what you want from your early season schedule.

Meyers, the 6-0 guard who scored more than 1,700 points in high school, should be ready to go after missing the opener against George Washington. Littlefield, who played 38 minutes in the opener and scored 14 points, was the Ivy Rookie of Week.

As for Alarie, she had 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks against the Colonials. Her presence forces opponents to account for her at all times, and were Alarie concerned only about her own scoring, then that might be a problem. Instead, she plays without forcing anything, and  which opens things up for everyone else.

The result was an 18-point game from Weledji and 11 points and 10 rebounds from Robinson. That's better than 25 from Alarie with no one else in double figures, and it's a winning formula for the Tigers.

The men have their home opener tonight against Brigham Young, a team who beat the Tigers 82-73 one year ago yesterday, in the 2016-17 opener. The Cougars would go to the NIT last year, when they finished 22-12.

This year, BYU won its opener against Mississippi Valley State 91-61 last Saturday. The Cougars are making their first trip to this area of the year, and they'll be back in two weeks to play at the Barclays Center.

As for the last time BYU was at Princeton, it was Dec. 12, 1981. The final score was 39-38. TigerBlog will be surprised if both teams don't beat that tonight in the first half.

Princeton has never beaten BYU, but then again they've only played each five times. Before last year, the teams hadn't played since the 1991-92 season.

On the other hand, it makes for a great home opener, and an intriguing one. It's always good to play different teams, especially ones from big-name programs from the other side of the country.

Keep in mind, the team on the court tonight is trying to figure itself out and be ready for the conference season and ultimately tournament. This won't be a finished product for either team.

Stephens, for instance, played 11 minutes against BYU a year ago, scoring seven. He would go on to be a first-team All-Ivy selection, the league's Defensive Player of the Year and the MVP of the Ivy tournament.

Hey, it's a long way from start to finish.

Baby steps, right?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Is This The Greatest Season Any Princeton Quarterback Has Ever Had?

Harrisburg, of course, is the capital of Pennsylvania.

York is not. It is, however, close to Harrisburg. They're about a half hour apart actually.

Back when TigerBlog Jr. used to play in summer club tournaments in Baltimore, TigerBlog would stay as far away from I-95 on Sunday afternoons for the return trip. Instead, he'd head up I-83 into Pennsylvania, near York, and then pick up the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Harrisburg.

Harrisburg and York were separated by less than that Saturday afternoon, when TigerBlog was reading the script for senior day at Princeton football. They were the hometowns of consecutive players, Mike Perloski from Harrisburg and Erik Ramirez from York.

TB wondered if they knew each other before they came here. Probably not, he'd guess. 

Not that it matters if their hometowns were close. Here were two football teammates at Princeton for the last four years who grew up a few miles apart. And then there were the rest of the seniors, from 12 different states, stretching from East to West and North to South.

Princeton Athletics always talks about the 40-year experience, not the four-year one. The friendships that are formed on these teams stand the complete test of time, with the starting point of hometowns from anywhere.

As TB always says, it's something that makes Princeton Athletics very, very special. The love for the programs and the impact they have had on those who have come through them never ends.

If you had any doubt about that, the halftime ceremony Saturday hammered it home nicely. Princeton is finishing its 148th year, and it has had 186 football captains all time. Of those 186, there are 84 who are still alive.

And how many of them were on the field at halftime Saturday? How about 52 of them.

It's what Princeton does so well. It breeds loyalty. Its value is stressed from Day 1 when freshmen arrive, and it never goes away.

The 2017 Princeton football season ends Saturday in Hanover, when Princeton plays Dartmouth in a game that could have an impact on the championship race.

The standings through nine weeks have Yale at 5-1 having clinched at least a tie for the title. Dartmouth and Columbia (who plays Brown) are both 4-2, and one or both would get a share of the championship with a win and a Yale loss to Harvard.

Princeton, the 2016 champ, is finishing off a year that will be remembered by a few things. Injuries, for one, which cost the team much of its starting defense, not to mention reigning first-team All-America and Offensive Bushnell Cup winner John Lovett.

Princeton will also remember 2017 for its four excruciating Ivy losses, all of which saw Princeton have the lead in the fourth quarter. It's hard to say how different things might have been with Lovett, since without him, Princeton had to abandon a lot of what it did that made Lovett so good.

Instead of having Lovett and Chad Kanoff in the backfield at the same, Princeton has gone almost exclusively with Kanoff. As a result, Kanoff has thrown 70 more passes through nine games than he did in 10 a year ago, and he's putting the finishing touches on quite possibly the best single-season any Princeton quarterback has ever had.

If you want to look at this purely statistically, Princeton has scored 37.6 points per game, tops in the Ivy League and eighth in the Football Championship Subdivision. A year ago, Princeton scored 34.6 per game.

At the same time, Princeton has gone from second to seventh in the league in time of possession, averaging four fewer minutes per game. This is usually the most misleading stat there is, in that Princeton has a quick-strike offense that can put points up in short bursts, so possession time isn't a great barometer.

On the other hand, this is where Lovett's impact is at its greatest. His ability on short yardage keeps some drives going, which would have kept the ball away from the opponent. His ability to score in close then turns into even more points.

Had Lovett not been hurt, TB's sense is that Kanoff would have pretty much matched what he did and Lovett would have been an even better complement to him because of that. The result would have been an even better offense.

Unfortunately, there's no way to know if that's the case. TB doesn't think it would be like basketball, where any shots that Player A took would take shots away from Player B. In this case, Kanoff and Lovett would have blended together in a way that would have made Princeton's offense unstoppable.

For all that, it's still worth it to consider all of the records that have been or might be shattered this year by Kanoff and his receivers:

* touchdown passes in a season - Kanoff already has the record with 26
* touchdown receptions in a season - Jesper Horsted alread has the record with 12, though Stephen Carlson has 10 of his own (it's the first time in Ivy history that teammates have reached double figures in the same year)
* completion percentage in a season - Kanoff can go 0 for 20 against Dartmouth and still break the record; his 72.2 percent leads the FCS
* passing yards in a season - Kanoff has 3,030, which leaves him 145 away from tying Doug Butler's record from 1983

And, of course, there is passing yards in a career. Kanoff has 7,066 yards with one game to go. The record is 7,291, held by Butler. That means Kanoff needs 225 yards to tie that record.

And that takes TB back to the original question. Is this the greatest season any Princeton quarterback has ever had?

That's hard to quantify, since not all offenses are the same. In fact, you can make a case that Lovett's season a year ago - 20 rushing touchdowns, 10 passing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown - had a great impact.

So you can make your own conclusions.

TigerBlog? He'll just say that he would have loved to see what Kanoff and Lovett together would have done this year.

Monday, November 13, 2017

And That's Four For The Fall

With everything that happened during the very busy weekend at Princeton, TigerBlog wasn't 100 percent sure where to start today.

So, he figured he'd start with two TV commercials that constantly play.

The one where Aaron Rodgers' dog growls at Clay Matthews after he smashes the truck in which Rodgers and the dog had so many great moments? That one is great.

The one where they're breaking Grandma out of the old-folks home to take her to Belize? That doesn't make sense. Are old folks homes prisons?

Okay, with that out of the way, where else to start?

How about with another Ivy League championship, which brings the number this fall to four.

Princeton had already won Ivy titles this season in women's soccer, field hockey and men's cross country. All three of those teams competed in the postseason this weekend, and all three did so really well.

TB will get to that shortly.

The women's volleyball team won its third straight Ivy title, tying Yale for the championship and forcing a playoff Saturday night in New Haven for the league's NCAA tournament automatic bid. Princeton and Yale had entered the weekend tied for first and then both split matches this weekend, leaving the teams tied again.

Princeton defeated Yale in four games in New Haven. Yale defeated Princeton in three games in Princeton. That's what put the teams at Yale Saturday, and that puts TigerBlog Jr. as the PA announcer for the deciding match. As he put it when he found out there'd be a playoff: "more money for me."

The winner of the match Saturday gets to the NCAA tournament. The other three fall Ivy champs were already there.

By the way, the Ivy League has seven official sports in the fall. Princeton won four of the seven championships. That's not too bad a start to the school year.

The first to the postseason was the men's cross country team, which followed up its win at Ivy Heps two weeks ago by storming to the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional championship by placing all of its top five in the top 25 to beat second-place Navy by 52 points.

This is the second time Princeton has won the regional. The other time was in 2010.

Up next for Princeton is the NCAA championship race, Friday in Louisville. Women's Heps champ Gabi Forrest was third in the women's race, probably earning her own spot in Kentucky.

The field hockey team was in Virginia hoping for a return trip to the NCAA Final Four, and the Tigers would play two thrilling games. The first was Saturday, when Ryan McCarthy scored in OT to give the Tigers a 3-2 win in the first round. Princeton would then be on the wrong end of that score yesterday, when North Carolina held on three corners after time had expired to eliminate the Tigers.

If you're keeping score in the first two years of head coach Carla Tagliente, that adds up to two NCAA appearances, three NCAA tournament wins, one Final Four and another quarterfinal.

The field hockey team opened and closed its season against North Carolina. For the women's soccer team, an opening round NCAA tournament loss would have meant something similar, only substituting Monmouth for North Carolina.

The Tigers opened their season with a 3-0 win over Monmouth on Aug. 25. The temperature that day was in the low 80s.

For the rematch, in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Friday night, the temperature had dipped about 65 degrees or so, but that didn't stop the Tigers, who were dominant in a 4-0 win. If TB is correct, Princeton has now played 20 NCAA tournament games in its history, with a record of 9-11. That record breaks down as 8-2 all-time at Princeton and 1-9 away from Princeton.

The Tigers get a chance to turn that around this weekend, when they play North Carolina State in North Carolina. Princeton defeated NC State 2-0 back on Sept. 2.

That's not a bad postseason for the fall teams. That's NCAA wins for women's soccer and field hockey, a regional championship in men's cross country and an individual woman runner who qualified for the finals.

There was a lot more to the weekend in Princeton Athletics.

Among other things, there was hockey and basketball. And football, including one pass that broke two school records that between them had existed for 68 years.

There's also plenty of time to talk about them later in the week. 

Some days there isn't much to talk about. Some days there's just too much to cover.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Record Chasing, And The Rest Of The Weekend

As TigerBlog has said many times before, the most unbreakable record at Princeton has to be the 2,503 points that Bill Bradley scored in men's basketball.

Bradley graduated in 1965. Since then, no player has scored more than the 1,625 that Ian Hummer did. That's 878 shy of Bradley, who, by the way, put up his total in three years without a three-point shot.

Spencer Weisz and Stephen Cook, who graduated last year, are both in the top 15 all-time at Princeton in scoring. Together they combined for 2,389 points, or 114 short of Bradley by himself.

TigerBlog likes to throw those numbers out there every now and then to remind you of just how insane Bradley's career here was.

TigerBlog, by the way, saw a story the other day about the recent wedding of WNBA player Elena Delle Donne. If you remember, Delle Donne played at Delaware and had an incredible game at Jadwin one night. TigerBlog wrote THIS about her.

If you don't go back and read it, TB was basically making the case that Delle Donne was the Bill Bradley of women's basketball. It's not that ridiculous a claim, either. She scored even more points than Bradley did - 3,039 of them - compared to the second-place total of 1,675. Nobody will ever approach that.

Also, Bradley has the 11 highest scoring single-game totals in Princeton history. Delle Donne has 15 of the top 16 at Delaware.

And of course all of this brings TigerBlog to Chad Kanoff and Jesper Horsted.

The two Princeton football players are chasing records that aren't nearly as untouchable as Bradley's, but at the same time, they've certainly stood the test of time.

Kanoff  is going after the record for passing yards in a career and a season, both of which date back more than 30 years and are held by Doug Butler. Horsted is going after the 34-year-old school record for receptions in a season, currently held by Kevin Guthrie, and the record for touchdown receptions in a season, which was set by Derek Graham in 1983 and equaled four years ago by Roman Wilson.

Here's the scorecard for the records:
Passing yards in a career - 7,291 by Butler (played from 1983-85); Kanoff has 6,612
Passing yards in a season - 3,175 by Butler (in 1983); Kanoff has 2,576
Completion percentage in a season - 68.2% by Jason Garrett in 1988; Kanoff is now at 74.4%
Receptions in a season - 88 by Kevin Guthrie in 1983; Horsted has 74
Touchdown receptions in a season - 11 by Graham and Wilson; Horsted has 10, Stephen Carlson has 9

Princeton has two games remaining, tomorrow at 1 against Yale on Powers Field and then next Saturday at Dartmouth. The Tigers are still mathematically alive for an Ivy title, which means a lot, and a win tomorrow would bring with it a Big Three championship bonfire, which actually means more to some people.

The football game tomorrow, against a Yale team that would clinch at least a share of the league championship with a win of its own, is just one of many big events this weekend. Some are here. Others are away, with viewing options of all kinds.

Here are some of the other highlights:

* NCAA tournament time
The field hockey team will be at Virginia tomorrow afternoon (2) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Tigers did not play UVa during the regular season, but they did defeat the Cavs in the opening round of the tournament a year ago, on the way to the Final Four. The winner of the Princeton-Virginia game will get the winner of North Carolina-St. Joe's. For Princeton, this is the 22nd trip to the NCAA field hockey tournament. The women's soccer team is home tonight at 7 against Monmouth in the first round of that NCAA tournament. The Tigers have had a great season and have earned the No. 4 seed in the region. The reward is Monmouth, a team that is 15-1-1 in its last 17 games, after Princeton beat Monmouth 3-0 back in August. The winner of this one gets the winner of Arkansas-North Carolina State, next weekend at North Carolina. 

* Women's volleyball
The Tigers are tied with Yale for first at 9-3 heading into the final weekend, which sees Princeton at Harvard and Dartmouth and Yale at Columbia and Cornell. Should they be tied at the end of the week, they'd be co-champs, and there'd be a playoff for the Ivy bid to the NCAA tournament. Should Princeton and Yale both get swept, then Harvard or Penn could still get in on a three-way tie for the title, though just one win by either Princeton or Yale eliminates both the Crimson and Quakers.

* Women's basketball
It'll be Princeton against George Washington at 6:30 tonight on Carril Court in the season opener. Then it'll be the next episode of "The Court Report" next week to discuss it. Side note - Yale opens its women's basketball season at home against LIU-Brooklyn tonight as well. It'll be TigerBlog as the PA announcer at Princeton and TigerBlog Jr. as the PA announcer at Yale. May the best PA announcer win.

* Men's basketball
Princeton opens the 2017-18 season at Butler Sunday at 6. You can see the game on CBS Sports Network. It'll be the first chance to see what Princeton looks like after a season in which the Tigers were perfect in the Ivy League, won the first Ivy tournament and lost by two to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament. The goal, clearly, is to get back to the tournament, but that's a long way away. For now, it's a very attractive opener against Butler, one of the top programs in college basketball in the last decade. For Princeton, it'll be interesting to get a first look at how things look without Weisz and Cook and how Devin Cannady, Amir Bell and Myles Stephens mix with the returning role players and the freshmen. Princeton has been an extraordinarily exciting team the last few years. This year figures to be no different.

* Men's/Women's hockey
Princeton takes on RPI and Union, with the women home and the men away. Admission to the women's games are free.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Court Report

For the second time this week, TigerBlog has had someone text him about a bucket list accomplishment.

This time, it was his cousin Nicole who texted him. It started out with her saying "guess what I did" and then sending this picture:


She won and everything. Okay, maybe she didn't win. But she did finish, which is very impressive.

Then she said this: "It was amazing just running through the boroughs, all the different ethnicities and DJ/bands in every neighborhood cheering you on with signs."

And then: "It was on my bucket list."

Congrats to Nicole. TigerBlog didn't even realize she was a runner. Nicole says that she's pretty happy, especially since she was always picked last in gym class as a kid.

As for TB, he has a very short bucket list. Like, maybe five things or so. Running a marathon is not one of them.

He has no way of knowing this for sure, because he's never asked her about this, but his sense is that Courtney Banghart has in fact at some point of her life run a marathon. TB can ask her about this next week when the two of them sit down for Episode 2 of the weekly podcast that debuted yesterday.

You can listen to it HERE.

It's called "The Court Report." That's the whole Courtney/basketball court thing. Pretty clever, no?

The first episode talks about a bunch of subjects, including Courtney's work with USA Basketball this past summer, the coming season, her kids' Halloween's costumes, the alumni base, why her freshmen will be wearing uniform numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Oh, and there was also the part of the conversation about how the basketball season is a marathon here. It starts on the first day of classes, and it keeps going well into March if things go right. TB asked Courtney about the mental part of that, as well as the physical part, of trying to stay strong throughout the grind.

Think about it. The football season lasts 10 weeks. The basketball season lasts 17 or so; the hockey season is even longer than that. 

The Tigers will host George Washington at 6:30 tomorrow on Carril Court in the season opener. Princeton is looking for its ninth straight postseason appearance under Banghart (six NCAAs, two NITs), who has built the program into one of the models in all of women's hoops.

Think about it.  

The game tonight starts things out, a little less than two weeks before Thanksgiving. The plan is to be playing at your best, and most important, around St. Patrick's Day. That's a lot.

As for the on-court product, this will be Year 2 for Bella Alarie, who like Courtney had experience with USA Basketball this past summer. Alarie had an unbelievable freshman year on both ends of the court, and she will now be one of the leaders - along with senior captains Leslie Robinson and Tia Weledji, who played for the national team in Cameroon over the summer - of a team whose four freshmen figure to also make an immediate impact.

If you want to see more about the international basketball experience of the player and coach, click HERE for a video that TB's colleague Cody Chrusciel put together.  

When TB watched the video, he forgot that Banghart had gone to Italy to watch Alarie play for Team USA (at the World U19 Championships). You can tell by Alarie's comments as she discusses it how much it meant to her to have her coach there.

The start of women's basketball season is also the start of a really busy weekend for Princeton Athletics. And a really busy Friday, for that matter. 

In addition to women's basketball, there will also be the NCAA women's soccer game against Monmouth and the women's hockey regular season game against RPI, all of which start at 7. Nothing like a little crossover, right?

Hey, there are actually nine events tomorrow alone. That's an unusually busy Friday.

The women's volleyball team will be playing this weekend for at least a share of the Ivy title. The men's and women's cross country teams will be running tomorrow at Lehigh in the NCAA regionals. The men's hockey team is on the road. 

For that matter, so is the men's basketball team, which opens its season at Butler Sunday night, closing out the busy weekend.

TB will have more on all of those things tomorrow. He doesn't have to throw everything at you today.

It's a marathon, after all, not a sprint.