Friday, February 3, 2012

A Super Weekend

It didn't take Eli Manning long to earn TigerBlog's highest respect.

Even when he was being derided as merely Peyton Manning's little brother - the ESPN commercial with them on the tour is tremendous - TigerBlog liked how he threw the ball down the field and especially his penchant for playing better as the game went along and the moment became bigger.

Now, two days from now, Eli can do something his brother never did - win a second Super Bowl.

Quite amazingly, the Giants have made a march almost identical to the one they made IV years ago, reaching the big game to find waiting there for them the New England Patriots.

This time, New England isn't undefeated, or for that matter undefeated against the Giants. In Super Bowl XLII, New England was going for 19-0 and a Giant win seemed so unfathomable; this time, it seems like either team can win.

FatherBlog was almost more of a Jets fans, and TB remembers watching Super Bowl III as one of his first sporting memories. One of TB's favorite early athletes was Joe Namath (the other was Tom Seaver).

It has been decades, though, since TB became a Giants fan.

And while there have been some brutal years and some awful losses, on balance, there haven't been too many better teams to root for all these years. The team has already won three Super Bowls and been to four, and two of the three Super Bowl wins came in some of the greatest games pro football has ever seen, including possibly the best ever the last time these teams got together in the big game.

TB's prediction - Giants 31, Patriots 21. This is his third prediction, after one abysmal one (Colts over the Saints easily) and one that was almost right on the nose last year (Packers over Steelers).

Bonus prediction - Victor Cruz wins the MVP award.

Of course, TB will have to miss the opening kickoff, because of the decision to schedule a basketball game for Little Miss TigerBlog at 4:30 Sunday. Must have been an Eagles' fan who did that.

Between now and kickoff, there is more than just LMTB basketball.

There is also a huge weekend in Princeton Athletics, including:

* Yale at Princeton men's squash, tomorrow at noon

The Ivy title is essentially Princeton's with a win, though not necessarily Yale's should the Bulldogs win.

So far in collegiate men's squash, you have Princeton 5, Harvard 4; Yale 5, Trinity 4; Trinity 7, Princeton 2; Harvard 5, Yale 4 (that last one was at the Ivy League's preseason scrimmage, so it doesn't count in the regular-season standings).

Harvard and Yale still have to play each other, and that figures to go either way. As for Princeton, wins over Yale and Harvard would basically seal the title, even with a very good Cornell team still to play.

This year, the national squash title is not a gimme for Trinity, obviously. In fact, depending on matchups, any of the top four could win it. Getting an Ivy title would be a big prize along the way.

* women's basketball vs. Brown tonight (7) and Yale tomorrow night (6)

Princeton hasn't played in three weeks, since its 59-point win over Columbia and 29-point win over Cornell, which followed a 35-point win over Penn.

The Tigers are the lone undefeated team in the league, but this weekend figures to be a challenge, with 2-2 Brown and 3-1 Yale (both are 11-7 overall) catching the Tigers after the long exam break.

Harvard and Cornell are 2-1 in the league, and Princeton is at Dartmouth/Harvard next weekend.

Princeton is bidding to become the first team to win three straight outright league titles since the start of double round-robin play in 1982-83. The Tigers are getting considerable national attention in polls, RPI, potential NCAA tournament scenarios and all the rest, but none of that will matter if the team doesn't take care of its business in the league.

This weekend should be a pretty good indicator if there will be a race or not.

If nothing else, Saturday night's game is a draw because of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which begins with an interactive athletic fair that includes several of Princeton's women's teams. It's one of the best events that Princeton does each year.

* men's hockey home vs. Dartmouth tonight (7)

Like the women's basketball team, the men's hockey team has been out of the league for three weeks. Unlike women's hoops, the men's hockey team did play a non-league game, defeating UConn 4-3 Tuesday.

The ECAC hockey standings are, in a word, bizarre. Princeton is currently ninth, though the Tigers are also two points out of sixth and three points out of fifth.

The goal as always is finish in the top four, to get a first-round bye, or at the very least finish in the top eight, to get home ice in the first round.

Princeton has only the game against Dartmouth this weekend. There is a Skate With The Tigers event after the game.

* men's basketball and Brown/Yale

Even with a 1-2 league record, Princeton knows at the very least that if it wins its remaining 11 games, it would probably have at least a share of the title (only Penn at 13-1 would be better than Princeton in that scenario). Regardless, there is still so much of the season to play, and this weekend if nothing else brings a halt to the ridiculous stretch of road games against Division I opponents.

Princeton is home next week (believe it or not) against Dartmouth and Harvard.

By that time, Ian Hummer almost surely will have reached the 1,000-point mark, as he enters this weekend 1) with 988 career points and 2) having been in double figures in every game this year.

* H-Y-P swimming

While it lacks the importance of knowing there's a league title on the line, anytime Princeton swims with Harvard and Yale there is significance.

The HYP event will be contested at Harvard, where the women will have the Ivy championships later this season. The men's Ivy championships will be in DeNunzio Pool.

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