Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Best Games Of The Decade

TigerBlog smiled when he saw that Northwestern was now ranked in the Top 25 in men's basketball. The Wildcats came in at No. 25 in the Associated Press poll this week, which marks the first time in nearly 41 years that the team has been nationally ranked.

The head coach of Northwestern is, of course, Bill Carmody, who coached Princeton for four amazing seasons after Pete Carril retired in 1996. Carmody was Carril's assistant for 14 years prior to that.

This year's Northwestern team was expected to struggle after losing its best player, Kevin Coble, to a season-ending injury before the first game. Despite that, Northwestern is now 10-1 and ranked 25th, though it does face the brutal Big Ten schedule that begins shortly.

Still, it's good to see Carmody is doing well. It also got TigerBlog to thinking about the 1999 Princeton-Penn game at the Palestra, the one where Princeton fell behind 29-3, then 33-9 at halftime and finally 40-13 at the first media timeout of the second half before rallying to win 50-49.

There were eight coaches in that game, four on each bench. Of those eight coaches, seven are now head coaches, with the other still on the staff of one of the others.

And three of those coaches are head coaches of teams ranked in this week's AP Top 25 while a fourth is in the "others receiving votes" category.

Penn was led by Fran Dunphy, obviously, during that game; Dunphy is now the head coach at Temple and is ranked 18th this week by the AP. Dave Duke, who was on Dunphy's staff at Penn for the 1999 game, is an assistant coach at Temple now.

Gil Jackson, another Penn assistant in 1999, is now the head coach at Howard.

The 1998-99 season was Steve Donahue's last as a Penn assistant before he became head coach at Cornell. Donahue has taken the Big Red to the last two NCAA tournaments and his team is currently receiving votes in the AP poll.

As for the Princeton staff, Carmody is now the head coach at Northwestern, and John Thompson is now the head coach at 13th-ranked Georgetown. Joe Scott is the head coach at Denver, who though not ranked is 9-4 overall, 2-0 in its league and ranked second nationally in both field goal percentage (52.6%, behind only Syracuse) and three-point field goal percentage (43.6%, behind only Columbia).

The fourth Princeton coach that year was Howard Levy, now the head coach at Mercer County College.

As for the comeback game at the Palestra, TigerBlog would rank that as the best game for a Princeton team in the 1990s. Actually, taking all historical significance away, TigerBlog would rank that as the greatest single game ever played in Princeton athletic history.

Clearly, TB is in overdrive mode when it comes to decade review stuff, so all of this got him to thinking about what the best games of this decade have been. The current countdown of the top Princeton athletes of the decade (tomorrow brings the No. 1 selections) was originally going to be accompanied by a list of the Top 10 games as well, but the decision was made just to focus on the atheltes.

As for the top games of this decade, there are many choices. TigerBlog originally was going to just mention his four favorite, but instead he decided to come up with a Top 10 off the top of his head.

The last time he did this was when he named the top athletes of the 1990s and realized he'd left out a bunch of deserving ones, so forgive him if he's overlooking something obvious. Anyway, here's TB's Top 10:

10. Men's water polo defeats St. Francis in overtime to reach the 2004 NCAA Final Four
9. Ryan Boyle's late heroics rally Princeton to a stunning overtime win over Maryland to reach the 2004 NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four
8. Zane Kalemba makes 27 saves to shut out Colgate in the 2008 ECAC semifinals; the game was scoreless into the third period, and many of Kalemba's saves were amazing
7. Theresa Sherry scores in overtime to give the women's lacrosse team its second-straight NCAA title with an 8-7 win over Virginia in 2003
6. Emily Behncke scores in the final minute of regulation and Esmeralda Negron scores in overtime to give Princeton a 2-1 women's soccer win over Harvard in 2004, ending a decade-long losing streak at home against the Crimson
5a and 5b. Jeff Terrell throws for 445 yards and rallies Princeton to a 34-31 win over Yale that leads to the 2006 Ivy League football championship one week after Rob Toresco flips the ball to Terrell after he is stopped short on a 4th-and-goal and has Terrell score the winning TD in the second overtime against Penn. Pat McGrath then made a tackle on a botched extra-point attempt to give Princeton the 31-30 win. These would be separate games, but it was sort of like one continuous eight-day period.
4. Nate Walton has nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals to lead Princeton past Penn on the final night of the 2001 men's basketball season to give the Tigers the Ivy League title in John Thompson's first season as head coach. Princeton went into the season without Carmody and Scott, who had left to become head coaches, and five players projected to start or play significant minutes, including Chris Young and Spencer Gloger
3. Emily Behncek and Esmeralda Negron have a goal and assist and Kristina Fontanez scores a goal as Princeton defeats Washington 3-1 to advance to the 2004 NCAA women's soccer Final Four as a capacity crowd jammed into Lourie-Love Field to watch. No other Ivy women's soccer team has ever reached the Final Four.
2. B.J. Prager's fourth goal comes with 41 seconds remaining in overtime and gives Princeton a 10-9 win over Syracuse for the 2001 NCAA championship. Syracuse had blasted Princeton three times in the previous 13 months, including in the 2000 NCAA final and in the 2001 regular season, and Princeton had squandered leads of 8-4 heading into the fourth quarter and 9-8 before Mike Powell scored with 16 seconds left to force overtime.
1. Trinity 5, Princeton 4 in the 2009 men's squash national final. Yes, Princeton lost that match, but it's impossible to understand how great an athletic event that was unless you were in Jadwin Gym that day. As TigerBlog has said, if squash had the same profile of basketball or football, there is no question that the 2009 Princeton-Trinity final would be regarded as the greatest college athletic event ever played.

Anyway, there's TB list. With apologies to the obvious ones he's forgotten.


Common Sense said...

Sounds a little to generous with that last statement. Squash is impressive and all, but lets be serious, its a game dominated by foreignors because the best athletes in the world(americans) don't play it.

Princeton OAC said...

Imagine a world where squash was football and football was squash. Then think of what that national final would have been.