Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Don't Panic

Had TigerBlog been writing a story about the Princeton-Northeastern men's basketball game last night at Jadwin Gym, it probably would have started something like this:

Princeton scored five seconds into the game to take its first lead. Northeastern scored with 2.5 seconds left to take its first lead. Unfortunately for the Tigers, that would be the only lead change of the night.

Princeton fell to Northeastern 67-66 last night in a game the Tigers led by 18 with 13 minutes to play.

As an aside, TB is back into today's blog mode, not still writing the pretend game story he otherwise would have.

Oh, and it was great to have Tom McCarthy do the play-by-play with color man Noah Savage last night. McCarthy, who used to do football and basketball for Princeton, is now the Philadelphia Phillies' TV man and a Westwood One NFL voice, and he agreed to fill in for a night, as new play-by-player Derek Jones cannot start full-time until December.

As a result, Princeton will have four different voices in the early season, including the outgoing John Sadak Friday night against Rutgers.

TB did more games on the radio with McCarthy than he did with anyone else, and McCarthy is a link to a great era for Princeton basketball, back in the mid-1990s. He's also a special person whose schedule keeps him fairly busy, so it's always nice to get a chance to see him.

On its surface, it seems like a pretty bad loss for Princeton. And yes, no team ever wants to lose its home opener in this fashion after being up by so much and appearing to be in a comfortable place for almost the entire game.

To TigerBlog, though, this is the kind of game you get when your season starts earlier and earlier. And, other than the final score, there were so many encouraging signs for Princeton that it's hard not to be excited about this team's potential.

It was right there from the opening tip, when the Tigers controlled the tap and Ian Hummer needed only five seconds to make it 2-0 on a skying dunk. It reminded TB immediately of another Jadwin Gym opening tip, back in the magical 1997-98 season, when James Mastaglio finished the same way five seconds in against Manhattan.

Mitch Henderson, like Tom McCarthy, was one of the stars of Princeton basketball for that era. Now he's the head coach, in Year 2.

His team is ridiculously big, and the big men are athletic. It's a great starting point in basketball, a game that is often unkind to the short.

Princeton lost the game last night for a few reasons.

First, Northeastern made 8 of its 11 three-pointers. If that happens, sometimes you just have tip your hat to the other team and remember that it's very, very rare that a team can make 73% of its three-pointers even in a shooting drill in practice.

Second, Princeton missed a few shots that usually would fall while Northeastern was making its run, and really any of those shots might have been enough to hold off the Wildcats.

Third, there was the whole "this all happened so fast" aspect, in which Northeastern went from down big to back in it without it seeming to be that way. TigerBlog was watching the game and talking to people from the athletic department, and every now and then he'd glance at the scoreboard and think "this game is getting closer than it appears."

Mostly, TB thinks Princeton lost the lead and the game because it was Nov. 13. Had this been a little later in the season, it probably wouldn't have happened the same way.

All teams, no matter how many players are back, have to make adjustments from one year to the next. In Princeton's case, there is no Douglas Davis anymore, and he's only the second-leading scorer in program history.

The options that are available to Henderson are impressive. Clay Wilson, who has made seven three-pointers in two games, is the kind of shooter the team needs with all that size down low. Will Barrett is back from missing last year due to injury. Freshman Hans Brase looked solid off the bench. T.J. Bray is trying to get back into his regular rhythm after being hurt in the summer.

And then there's Hummer, a highlight film at all times, he tied his career high with 25. But even with a player like that, each year is a different kind of challenge, with different dynamics involved.

And it takes time for teams to gel. Especially when the season starts more than a week before Thanksgiving.

As a result, you get outcomes like last night. It's hardly a reason to panic.

If anything, this game was one to leave Princeton fans a little frustrated - but way more excited about what's to come.


Anonymous said...

I've always thought that Tom McCarthy and John Sadak are great radio announcers, the kind that I would expect to be working Big Ten or ACC games. It's always amazed me that we get to enjoy them here in our little world. Did Princeton just luck out in having two successive "big time" announcers or is it a function of the fact that we are on the periphery of the New York and Philadelphia markets? Maybe Jadwin Gym is the equivalent of Off Broadway for radio announcers, where talent which is headed for bigger things gets to develop. Good luck to Derek Jones; he's got big shoes to fill. By the way, Noah Savage is an excellent color commentator as well. We are very fortunate in the Orange Bubble.

George Clark said...

Sadak will do play-by-play for the Scranton-WilkesBarre Rail Riders of the AAA International League next year. One more step on the way to the Big Show for him. Scranton-WB is the top minor league affiliate of the Yankees. Since John Slaughter is over 70 could the Yankees be grooming Sadak as their new Voice? I hope so!

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't that be wonderful? I would be able to listen to Yankee games again and not be forced to turn the dial to Howie Rose in frustration. I think Sadak is terrific and I'm sorry to see him leave Princeton, but an eventual move to the Bronx would be some consolation.