Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cruz Control

TigerBlog figures you don't have to be a Giants fan to like Victor Cruz.

For those who don't know, Cruz was an undrafted free agent wide receiver out of UMass who made the Giants last year largely because of a three-touchdown performance in a preseason game against the Jets, only to miss the season because of injury.

He barely made the team this year, and he probably wouldn't have had Steve Smith not signed with the Eagles after the lockout. Instead, Cruz - who grew up not far from Met Life Stadium in Paterson - was forced basically onto the team and into what figured to be a supporting role as a third or fourth receiver.

In fact, going back to the beginning of the season, the idea that the Giants didn't resign Smith was seen as a complete failure, one that doomed the team to a last-place finish while the Eagles cruised to the Super Bowl.

So what happened? Smith caught 11 passes for 124 yards and one touchdown in a season that began and ended with injuries.

And Cruz? He was the team's second-best offensive player and third-best overall player, and he put up numbers that are insane.

Cruz caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, five of which went at least 65 yards and one that went 99 yards. He was the first player with at least five touchdown receptions of at least 65 yards in a season since 1951, and his receiving yardage set a Giants' single-season record.

Beyond that, though, Cruz plays with what appears to be a sheer joy, one that is often missing from professional athletes (see: Holmes, Santonio). His little touchdown dance isn't too look-at-me over-the-top and in fact comes across as an expression of pure happiness rather than self-absorption.

TB's favorite TV moment of the weekend (extended, at least) was the Giants' win over the Cowboys Sunday night.

TB watched almost no college football, as the bowl set-up continues to do everything it can to destroy interest in the postseason, rather than foster something in the sport that could become unparalleled in American sports.

The postseason doesn't build to anything, and the good matchups are so hidden among the dreadful ones that what does it matter? And, because nobody wants to see LSU play Alabama again, who's going to watch the title game?

Imagine, though, what a college football tournament would be.

With no interest in college football, really the only other event he watched was the Winter Classic hockey game between the Rangers and the Flyers.

As an aside, do everything you can to watch the fascinating "24/7" series that HBO has had on the Flyers and the Rangers and the lead-up to the outdoor game. The access is ridiculous, and it paints a picture of the NHL as a league basically filled with Victor Cruz types.

Were TigerBlog cynical, he might suggest that the snow flurries that were featured during the broadcast weren't real but were put there digitally, especially since it was pretty clear out of TB's window as he watched the game. And the white covering on the field was meant to look like snow, which obviously wasn't there.

Still, it seemed to be a great event, one that drew 45,000-plus to Citizens Bank Park twice, once for an old-timers game and once for the event itself.

The Princeton men's hockey team, somewhat stunningly, has only 12 regular-season games remaining and then the ECAC playoffs.

The Tigers played two 3-3 ties this weekend at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis, the first against Northeastern and the second against Niagara.

The first game went to a shootout because one of the teams had to advance to the championship game, and that turned out to be Northeastern, who scored on the eighth opportunity. The Huskies then defeated the host (and second-ranked) Gophers in the final 3-2.

Princeton is on the road again this weekend, though back in the ECAC, with a trip to Brown and Yale.

Princeton is currently tied for ninth in the league standings, which means that the team will be playing for (and in the mix for) a home playoff series in the upcoming playoffs.

TigerBlog is vehemently against a conference tournament in basketball, but he loves them in lacrosse and hockey. What's the difference?

The Ivy League has never gotten more than one team into the NCAA tournament, so an Ivy tournament might result in having the best team in the league not make the NCAAs.

And yes, Harvard this year is nationally ranked. Would a Crimson team (or a Cornell team of a few years ago or Princeton or Penn from any number of years through the last five decades) that went undefeated in the league and then lost in the league tournament get an at-large bid? Unlikely.

In hockey and lacrosse, the league routinely gets multiple NCAA bids. Losing in the tournament for the league champ isn't the end of the postseason.

Plus, the hockey format is great, with teams 5-12 playing off in best-of-three series one weekend and then teams 1-4 plus the four Week 1 winners doing the same the next weekend to set up a single-elimination Final Four, this year in Atlantic City.

Through the years, some of the best Princeton events have been ECAC tournament hockey games. This year could be similar.

Hey, right now nine teams are separated by three points in the ECAC standings, including seven teams by one point.

It always makes for a fun end of February/early March.


Anonymous said...

Any idea why the ECAC men's hockey tournament was moved from its usual location in Albany to Atlantic City?

TigerBlog said...

Albany's arena hosted the NCAA men's basketball opening rounds last year and couldn't host. It went out to bid and Atlantic City won the right to host for three years, beginning last year and ending next year.