Friday, March 30, 2012

Mega Optimistic

One day back in 1991, when his Princeton men's basketball team was cruising along somewhere near the end of what became a 14-0 Ivy record and a national ranking, Pete Carril famously had this to say when asked about how it was going:

"These are tough times for a pessimist."

At the other end of the spectrum from Princeton's legendary basketball coach is TigerBlog's friend Corey, as optimistic a soul as it gets.

As a matter of fact, in the nearly 45 years that TB has know Corey, he can probably count on the fingers on one hand the number of times that Corey wasn't in a good mood and thinking that everything was just fine and that whatever was to come next would be even better.

Corey sent out an email this week inviting TB to join in on the Holy Grail that is the mega millions jackpot, which this week tops $500,000,000.

For $20, Corey would go out and buy a bunch of lottery tickets, and everyone who was in would split the winnings. There are probably thousands of such arrangements going on around the country, and it's likely that you'll see one of those groups on the news this coming week.

Eventually, Corey sent out a follow-up saying that he had 54 people who were in.

TB's advice was to make up some numbers for them and keep the $1,080.

TigerBlog is not sending his friend $20. Instead, Corey has agreed that if he wins - each individual's share would be $9.66 million - that Corey will pay the remaining 11 payments of TB's car.

Corey also sent back a correction - "when we win," he wrote, not "if we win."

TB is pretty sure that if Corey bought one ticket alone, he would have won the entire $500,000,000 - or that his odds would be 50-50 at the worst. With each partner he brought in, though, the odds went down.

The odds of winning are 1 in 176 million. You are apparently 50 times as likely to get hit by lightning as you are to win the mega millions, though as one college professor pointed out, if you buy 50 tickets, your chances of winning the lottery and getting hit by lightning are the same.

The big question of the lottery winner is always the same: Will you quit your job?

If TB won $500,000,000 - keep in mind his odds are even worse than 1 in 176 million since he didn't buy any lottery tickets - he'd probably still work here. What else would he do?

Maybe he'd buy lunch more than he'd bring it in - though there is something to be said for the convenience of having lunch already in the fridge in the office after squash.

And even if TB was part of Corey's group and had $9 million coming his way, he'd still go to Providence tomorrow for the men's lacrosse game.

TB knows he's in the right business because he still gets excited about the games.

What's the point of working in athletics if you don't like the games, right?

It's almost like there are two separate entities to working here.

There's all the regular during-the-week work stuff, the business of putting together a college athletic program with 38 varsity teams and 1,000 athletes.

Then there are the games.

TB has always been fascinated by the idea that he works in a building where people come to see teams play. He gets paid to be in a building that other people pay to get into.

It's the games - an extension of the athletes and coaches -  that really secure the connection between those who work here and the institution itself. It's why there's such pride in working here, because of the fact that your work is part of something that directly represents the school.

There is a unique sense of pride in that.

TB's sense is that many jobs - even really good ones - are all about how the company can help the individual who works there. To the employee, it's about getting back from the company. Maybe there's a sense of pride in working for a well-known, well-respected company.

On the other hand, TB doesn't see too many of his friends who wear their company logo on their clothes seven days a week, like many of the people here do.

TB considers himself extremely lucky to be part of a place like Princeton Athletics and Princeton University.

And he's looking forward to going to Brown tomorrow.

And he feels like he probably saved himself $20 by not getting in with Corey's group on the mega millions.

On the other hand, maybe he's just a pessimist.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Here Come The Blues

Let's face it. If you saw the movie "Oxford Blues," you were entertained.

Okay, maybe it wasn't as good as "A Yank In Oxford," the 1938 original on which they 1980-something remake was based.

And maybe "A Yank In Oxford" had a starting lineup of Lionel Barrymore, Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor and Maureen O'Sullivan, whereas the remake countered with Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe and a bunch of English people.

Still, how could you go wrong?

Rob Lowe as the cocky American who ends up rowing at Oxford after being a dealer in a Las Vegas casino, all in the name of pursuing the cute English gentry woman who ended up married to Corbin Bernsen (in real life, that is).

The movie exploits every cliche there is, and the end isn't exactly up there with the end of "The Sting" in terms of being surprising.

As an aside, TigerBlog has never met anyone who saw "The Sting," the 1973 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, and wasn't fooled by the end.

Meanwhile, back at "Oxford Blues," it wasn't quite an Oscar nominee. Still, you couldn't help but come away thinking that there'd be bigger wastes of time in your life than the two hours you spent on that movie.

Anyway, TB long ago filed "Oxford Blues" away along with the other movies that are not exactly showered with great critical reception and yet are fun to watch. At the top of that list, by the way, is the hard-to-beat "Point Break."

There's also another file of movies that do great critical reception that couldn't be duller and only got the reviews they got because critics like to show how much smarter they are than the people reading their reviews. How else can anyone explain movies like "The English Patient?"

TigerBlog thought back to "Oxford Blues" when he saw that the real Oxford Blues are on their way to Princeton for the weekend.

In what has to be one the great decisions for an out-of-season team, the Princeton men's soccer team hosts Oxford University Saturday at 5 at Roberts Stadium.

Oh, and if you weren't already rooting against Oxford as a Princeton fan, there's next week's Oxford-Cambridge regatta, the rather prestigious "Boat Race" as it's called. Princeton alum Jack Lindeman, the captain of last year's Tiger heavyweight boat, has been named to Cambridge first varsity 8 for the event.

Earlier this week, TigerBlog got an email from former Princeton marketing chief Scott Jurgens about a college football coach (Clemson's?) who wants the NCAA to allow schools to play other schools in their spring games. Sure, why not. College football's already out of control. Why not add to it, right?

Actually, it's not the worst idea TB has ever heard.

In soccer and most other sports, the rules already permit out-of-season competition against other schools. And apparently, it doesn't limit it U.S. schools.

Oxford has already tied Harvard and beaten Yale on their American tour, which has come at the end of their college season.

For more information on the Blues, go to Google, though you have to do a search for "Oxford Football," not "Oxford Soccer" to come up with anything.

For Princeton, the match comes at the beginning of spring practice.

And it's not just any game.

It's a chance to play an English team in its own game. There's also the backdrop of having it be between two of the top five or 10 academic universities in the world.

For an out-of-season game, it doesn't get much better than that.


It has a real ring to it, no?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Welcome Home

The ride from Princeton to Providence isn't TigerBlog's favorite, largely because of the neverending (okay, a little more than 100 mile) stretch that is I95 in Connecticut.

One time, TB was driving to Brown for a football game, back when TB swore he'd leave by 11 am each football Friday when he had to go to New England, ended up leaving around 2 and ended up getting destroyed in traffic the whole way.

This time, it was 1995, and typical of TB and Tom McCarthy and whoever else went that day, it was a late start.

Now, when you have to drive to New England from here, there are all kinds of options.

TB likes to avoid the Cross Bronx Expressway at all costs, which usually means the Henry Hudson to the Saw Mill to the Cross County to the Merritt and cross over to 95 after the helicopter factory (though the Merritt isn't always a bargain either).

On that 1995 day, TB was following that route when traffic came to a complete stop. And stayed that way.

Eventually, a helicopter landed not far in front of where the line of cars was. An accident?

Nope. It was the Pope.

Anyway, by the time the Pope was all settled into the church where he was speaking, it ended up taking eight hours to get from Princeton to Providence.

TB makes the ride again this weekend, as he heads to Rhode Island for the Princeton-Brown men's lacrosse game.

Since 1995, TB has found a nice sandwich shop in Northern Connecticut, where he got a great turkey club hoagie the first time he was there and then an even-better roast beast, roasted red pepper, onion one the next time.

TB will be on the road this weekend.

Not many others in orange and black will be.

Between the end of the basketball doubleheader against Penn on March 6 and this coming Friday, there have been seven home events on the Princeton campus. For the record, there were two men's volleyball matches, two men's tennis matches, one men's lacrosse game, one women's lacrosse game and one crew race.

And this weekend?

There will be no fewer than 15 home events between Friday and Sunday, spread across seven sports.

And there is no admission charge for any of them.

This weekend marks the home openers and the Ivy openers for the baseball and softball teams, as both host Dartmouth and then Harvard.

In softball, that's Friday/Saturday.

In baseball, that's Saturday/Sunday.

Princeton had its worst Ivy League baseball record ever two years ago and then came back to win the league last year, defeating Dartmouth in three dramatic games in the Ivy League championship series.

The Ivy League format has two four-team divisions (Cornell, Columbia and Penn are in with Princeton) for baseball and softball. Each team plays the other four teams twice and then plays four games against each of the teams in its division.

At the end, the two division winners meet for the Ivy title and automatic NCAA tournament berth.

The women's lacrosse team hosts Cornell, one of four Ivy teams in the Top 20, as the Big Red are ranked 17th, followed by Princeton at 19th. Dartmouth (ninth) and Penn (10th) are also looming out there for the Tigers.

In other words, it's a big game.

There is also a visit from Penn State in men's volleyball as Sam Schweisky's team is home twice this weekend, as well as rowing and tennis.

The full schedule for Princeton games this weekend is here.

For the first time in awhile, it has a lot of events in bold.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fencing Lessons

TigerBlog is learning more and more about fencing every day.

Among the things he's learned? Princeton is really good at it. And so is Jonathan Yergler.

What else does TB know now about the sport?

There are three weapons - the epee, sabre and foil. There are subtle differences in the swords themselves and also in where on the opponent's body where a touch equals a point.

Still, fencing remains mostly foreign to TB, though he can appreciate the job that Zoltan Dudas and his staff have done in establishing Princeton as a national power.

Princeton had its highest finish ever in the NCAA championships in their current format (the 1964 men won the title), finishing second to Ohio State. Yergler became an NCAA individual champion, as he won the epee title.

It's a huge accomplishment - and it's one that leaves the door open to take the last step.

The women's team would have taken that step each of the last two years had there been separate championships for the men and women. Instead, the NCAA fencing championships combine the two sexes into one, so Princeton had to settle for second behind the Buckeyes.

Princeton's women actually tied Ohio State on points. A year ago, Princeton's women would have been outright champ.

As for Yergler, he qualified for the individual championship by essentially point differential after his 23 bouts during the team event.

TB also learned about this.

Each team could qualify two fencers per weapon, for a total of 12 per team. There are 24 fencers per weapon, and they all go head-to-head, with bouts up to five points.

The top four fencers in the standings for each weapon go to the semifinals for the individual championships.

Yergler was tied for fourth after 23 bouts but got in on the tiebreaker, which is the scoring of each of the 23 bouts (think point differential). Once there, he won the title.

Here's another thing TB learned from the fencing championships:

Twitter is great.

TB kept checking Twitter on his iPhone to see how Princeton was doing. No muss. No fuss. Simple and easy.

Yeah, there are too many retweets going on that clutter up the medium, but TB doesn't follow that many people.

TB thinks that Princeton isn't using its Twitter feed enough. For that matter, he's not using his own TB Twitter feed enough.

Moving forward, we'll have to look into it and see what can be done.

Of course, TB also fears that the 140-character limit is having really negative effects on the way that people write, use grammar, spell and all.

For a college athletic department, though, Twitter is here to stay and needs to be maximized. It was great for the EIWA wrestling and the national squash championships as well.

As for fencing, it's a pretty fascinating sport.

TB wonders what kind of specific athletic skills are necessary to be a great fencer and how they'd carry over to other sports.

In the meantime, Princeton continues to excel at the sport, with an NCAA individual champion and an NCAA runner-up finish.

At least that's what it said on Twitter.

Monday, March 26, 2012

An Epic In New Haven

TigerBlog should have known that Saturday was going to be a bit different when he ran into Megan or Maggie or whatever the name of the little girl who was selling Girl Scout cookies outside the bagel place at 7:30.

TB couldn't tell her name, since she spoke only in whispers. He also could barely tell what she was saying when she asked "would you like to buy some cookies," and in fact he's just assuming that's what she said, since she was somewhat shy and inaudible.

So TB said in a loud voice "What'd you say?"

Then, seeing that she was a bit startled, TB said he was only kidding and then coughed up the $4 for Thin Mints.

And then it was off to New Haven, armed with a bacon and egg on a plain for the way up and Thin Mints for the way back.

As he drove, TB though about how many times he'd made this trip, for how many different sports, in how many different decades. He concluded that a defining moment of his life is going to be how much of it he spent driving back and forth to watch Princeton play, always on the same roads, always to the same destinations.

He thought about all the games he went to that are now a blur to him, with fuzzy details of who scored, what the final score was, what the big play was.

As he drove back, he was struck by another interesting thought.

One of the great aspects of his job is that he never knows when he's going to stumble on an all-time great game.

It could happen at any time, without any warning.

Like Saturday, for instance.

TB expected another Princeton-Yale lacrosse game - close, competitive, and then on to the next.

What he got was one of the best games he's ever seen.

Yes, Princeton's 10-9, five-overtime win over Yale was the longest game in the history of either program, ended on Alex Capretta's goal after 18:21 of OT.

Oh, the game lacked the historical significance necessary to put it over the top. There was no NCAA championship at stake, no championship of any kind.

Still, TB has seen hundreds of lacrosse games. Few have been able to match this one for drama.

Princeton led Yale by three with four minutes to go and by two with a minute to go before Greg Mahony tied it with 21 seconds to go.

Then it got exciting.

Keep in mind what was at stake here.

Princeton had won back-to-back games coming into this one and was looking to get to 5-2, 2-0 in the Ivy League. Yale had lost three straight and was looking to get to .500 overall and in the league.

For Princeton, it was especially huge, considering where the team was a year ago and where it hope to be heading this year.

And so whoever scored next was going to have accomplished something huge for its season.

TigerBlog cannot remember too many games that had this kind of back-and-forth "we've got it, no we've lost it, no we've got it back, no we've lost it" momentum swings.

Both teams had great chances in all five OTs.

Both goalies played great.

Both lineups were filled with players who made huge plays - and with players who just missed ending it.

The second-longest game in Princeton history - now, anyway - was the 1999 15-14 win over Syracuse, which ran 73:25 before Josh Sims won it for the Tigers.

That game in Syracuse featured a total of 11 shots in the four OTs.

The game Saturday featured 28 shots in the five OTs.

That's 28 shots in a little more than 18 minutes.

Prorated over a 60-minute game, that would have been 92 shots.

Colgate (apparently) leads Division I with 44.5 shots per game. TB couldn't find another team averaging more than 40.

The overtimes were a track meet, back and forth, shot after shot, any of which could have ended it and each of which added to the drama.

In the end, it was Capretta's shot that finally brought it to a conclusion.

Capretta, by the way, is the possessor of a cannon of a shot who is finally putting all of his potential together and having a strong senior year. Through seven games, Capretta has eight goals and seven assists while playing in the midfield; he had 10 points through his first three years.

If you weren't there, you couldn't possibly sense just how exciting and dramatic it was, and ultimately how draining it was for both teams when it ended.

TB was in the Princeton team room after the game, and the emotions there rivaled those of a championship win.

It wasn't, of course.

Just a huge win in late March.

In a game that reminded TigerBlog why he loves what he does so much.

You never know what the next game has in store.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Final Buzzer

TigerBlog, somewhat shockingly, watched more CBI basketball than NCAA basketball so far this week. He's sure that will change as the weekend goes along, though right now the score is "CBI games watched on TV since Monday 2, NCAA tournament games watched in the same span 1."

Princeton's men's basketball season ended with a loss to Pitt in the CBI Monday (TB listened to that one on the radio), and it was a week ago that the women were in Bridgeport getting ready for their NCAA game.

Still, before the book is closed on the 2011-12 Princeton basketball seasons, TB has one more thought on each team.

Let's start with the women.

TigerBlog was minding his own business when he got an email yesterday that had the subject line of "WBCA Announces Finalists for the 2012 RUSSELL ATHLETIC/WBCA DI Coach of the Year Award."

TB opened the email and read the first paragraph:
Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame, Brenda Frese of Maryland, Tom Collen of Arkansas, Curt Miller of Bowling Green, Kim Mulkey of Baylor, Coquese Washington of Penn State, Reagan Pebley of Utah State and Tara VanDerveer of Stanford are the 2012 RUSSELL ATHLETIC/WBCA National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Regional Coaches of the Year, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association announced today.

Okay, good for them.

And as TB read further, he saw that there was one finalist for each region nationally, which meant that Frese was the representative of this region.

This is knock on Frese, whose Terrapin team is 30-4 and playing in the Sweet 16 against Texas A&M this weekend.

Still, TB has a hard time believing that anyone in this region deserves it more than Princeton's Courtney Banghart.

Go ahead. Call TB a shill.

After all, he did spend the first 14 games of year as the women's basketball contact. And he isn't exactly objective in all this, given that this is Princeton's blog.

Even with all that, how can anyone be more deserving than Banghart?

Yes, Maryland has had a great year. Of course, Maryland also is one of the elite programs in women's basketball, a team that has won an NCAA title and is more likely than not to win 30 games and go to the Sweet 16.

Sure, Frese built all that. Her team won 10 games her first year, a decade back.

It's just that this year is essentially what Maryland women's basketball is supposed to be.

And Princeton?

The Tigers had never played in the NCAA tournament in women's basketball before Banghart arrived. This year was the third straight time the Tigers were in the tournament.

Princeton went 24-5 this year, lost its NCAA game by three points, had three players reach 1,000 career points and was the only team in Division I - men or women - to go undefeated in its league while winning every game by double figures.

Of Princeton's 14 Ivy League wins, 12 were by at least 25 points.

To go from seven wins her first year to Ivy titles and NCAA tournament appearances in her third, fourth and fifth is remarkable.

Still, if that was all there was to it, then it would just be a nice job in a non-power league.

What Princeton did this year was break into the national Top 25, coming in at No. 24 in the final regular season poll. No Ivy League women's basketball team had ever accomplished that.

Yes, Coach of the Year often goes to the coach of the best team, rather than the coach who did the most compared to what reasonable expectations might be. If it was the other way around, then Banghart would be on the list. No question.

On the men's side, Douglas Davis finished his career with 1,550 career points, second-best all-time at Princeton.

Davis scored 51 points in two CBI games to pass Kit Mueller, who had 1,546.

Davis played in 13 more games in his career than Mueller, but their career minutes were fairly similar. Davis also is second all-time at Princeton in three-pointers made with 276, five off the school record held by assistant coach Brian Earl.

What put Davis over the top as a scorer was his ability to create his own shot, especially driving into the lane and pulling up from 10-15 feet. Very few Princeton players have ever had that skill, certainly not to Davis' extent.

Davis is one of three players (among 30) in program history to score 1,000 points and not be named first-team All-Ivy League. The other two? Bob Roma and Dan Mavraides.

Maybe it's a testament to his consistency. Davis wasn't a spectacular player for Princeton. He was just a very solid, very consistent, very reliable one.

Oh, and he did make one of the two biggest shots in school history.

Barring injury or some other member of what Bill Carmody always called "The Whammy" family, Davis will get to enjoy being the No. 2 scorer in Princeton history for one season, until Ian Hummer passes him next year.

Hummer has 1,170 career points and scored 515 this year. If he does that next year, then he'll have 1,685, or two more than Sandi Bittler (now Leland) scored in her Princeton career.

Right now, Bittler ranks second behind Bill Bradley among points scored at Princeton. Niveen Rasheed, as an aside, will enter her senior year with 1,134 points, leaving her 549 away from Bittler; Rasheed had 490 this year.

Bradley scored 2,503, in three years, without a three-point shot. Just for some context.

Had Bradley not destroyed the record book, then there would have been a great deal of drama to Davis' pursuit of Mueller and now Hummer's pursuit of Davis.

Because of Bradley, Davis' climb was more steady and a bit under the radar, as was the player himself during his career.

It's his accomplishments that are spectacular.

The same goes for Courtney Banghart.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Voices From The Past

The decision to put the NCAA men's basketball tournament games on four different CBS-controlled networks was a great one.

Now, instead of being at the mercy of the having to watch the game in your region, viewers simply watch what they want, as every game was on last weekend.

TigerBlog used to hate the way the network would switch from one game to another. Not the concept, mind you, but the execution.

For whatever reason, CBS would always stay with games too long, keeping the viewer locked in until the final buzzer of games that were close but had deteriorated into foul shooting, all while the ticker showed that there was a two-point game with three minutes to go that you were missing.

Of course, with eight first weekend sites comes the need for eight broadcast teams.

Some of them TB likes; some he doesn't like. It's personal preference.

The ones that TB finds unlistenable might just be your favorite.

And the sideline reporters? TB doesn't like the whole concept, as he's said many times before.

Aside from the fact that they offer nothing that can't simply be relayed to the broadcast team and that everything has to start with "I spoke to Coach Boeheim" or "Coach Williams told me," there's the whole degrading, exploitative aspect of "we have to find an unbelievably attractive woman to be our sideline reporter."

If TB were a female journalist, he'd be horribly offended by it all. Actually, TB's a guy and he's horribly offended by it.

Of course, no offense to the sideline reporters themselves. Especially Tracy Wolfson, who is TB's all-time favorite sideline reporter.

Wolfson, for those who never knew it, began her career at WZBN, the tiny cable station in Hamilton, which is two towns away from Princeton.

Tracy used to come here and do interviews and features and reports on Princeton athletes across many sports, back maybe 12-14 years ago, somewhere in that range.

Back then, TB remembers her as being friendly, funny, good-natured, well-prepared - and short, very short.

And there she was on CBS last weekend, where she's been for about 10 years, looking exactly the same as she did when she was at WZBN, interviewing coaches and players who were nearly two feet taller than she is.

The last time TB saw her at Princeton, she was doing a feature on something (TB can't remember), and she was very, very pregnant with one of her three sons. In other words, it appears that it's all worked out well for Tracy Wolfson, and TB wishes her continued success and happiness.

Seeing her on TV last weekend got TB to thinking about the others who used to cover Princeton sports who have hit it big.

There's a pretty good list.

There's Walter Perez (Uncle Walt to TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog), who went from doing color on Princeton football in Palmer Stadium to a career in TV that now sees him as an anchor/reporter on Channel 6 in Philadelphia.

There's Tom McCarthy, who was Walt's play-by-play partner for football and who also did Princeton basketball for years. Tom moved up to do the Phillies on the radio, the Mets on the radio and now the Phillies on TV.

One of TB's favorite memories of the two of them is the time that TB trudged up the wooden steps in Palmer Stadium to the top level, where radio and TV would broadcast. As he put down a stat sheet or the out-of-town scores, he heard McCarthy say this:
"Washington [as in Marc Washington, former Princeton running back] up the middle for seven and Walt, don't even think about eating my cookie."

Tom - or Boog, as he is known - has reached the top of his profession and has gotten TB to root for the Phillies. There is nobody nicer than Boog, and TB couldn't be happier for him, though he does miss the days when he was do his ESPN-radio Tom McCarthy Show from courtside at Jadwin before a Friday Tiger game.

Who else?

Grant Wahl went from being a student-worker in the OAC and the author of an astonishing piece on former Princeton running back Billy Jordan for the Daily Princetonian to being a staff writer at Sports Illustrated. Hey, SI is stocked with Princetonians, including Alex Wolff, who was just inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame.

Howard David used to be the voice of Princeton football before he became a national NFL voice. David Brody, who took over for David (if TB remembers the progression correctly), went from Princeton to be the host of a national sports talk show out of Las Vegas.

Mike Mayock, of the NFL Network and Notre Dame football broadcasts, used to be the color commentator for Princeton football on, TB believes, New Jersey Network.

Sean Gregory, a former Princeton basketball player, wrote a great piece for the 1998 men's basketball media guide about the team's preseason trip to Spain. Today he writes for Time.

There is an army of people who went from writing and broadcasting Princeton sports to other opportunities. Maybe some of the current voices are headed to the same path.

TB is sure he's left a few out, and as always, he apologizes (and welcomes anyone who can offer a few names).

Anyway, the games in the NCAA tournament resume tonight.

And if there have to be sideline reporters, let it be someone who got her start at Princeton.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Winter Wonderland

Well, the long harsh winter is officially over. And now it's spring.

Of course, living here in the tropics, it's hard to differentiate between the two.

TigerBlog remembers when he used to live in an area of the country where there was a change of seasons, where each season flowed one to the other and the coming of spring was a time of rejuvenation and rebirth.

Of course, TB still lives in the same area.

This year, winter lasted from the overnight hours of Oct. 29 until the early evening of the same day. During that time, about five inches of snow fell on Princeton, and it destroyed what would have otherwise been some well-attended events, such as Princeton-Cornell football and Heps cross country.

Within three days of the snowstorm, temperatures reached the 50s, the snow disappeared, and spring was essentially here.

Oh, sure, there were a few flurries here and there, though nothing that required a snow shovel.

Spring lasted through December, January and February. And of course, now it's summer. High temperatures today, tomorrow and Friday will be in the 80s.

And there is the whole tropical nature to Central New Jersey as well, since it rains overnight and into the early morning, clears up and becomes sunny and hot - just like it does in the Virgin Islands.

If you're keeping score, TigerBlog wore his heavy winter coat once in the months that used to be considered winter. He cannot remember one day where he walked outside and said "holy shimolly, it's freezing out here."

In fact, there were probably more "no jacket" days than "jacket" days.

And there's your weather update.

The winter athletic season isn't quite over, and it could go out in a big way.

The NCAA fencing championships begin tomorrow at Ohio State, and Princeton has as good a chance as anyone to bring home the biggest trophy.

TigerBlog isn't exactly a fencing expert, but he did learn how the championships work.

Basically, there are three fencing weapons: sabre, epee and foil. Each weapon has 24 fencers who qualify for the NCAA event, and no school can have more than two fencers per weapon.

The men and women are counted together, and there is one NCAA team championship. That means the maximum number of fencers a school can qualify is 12 (two men and two women per weapon times three weapons), and Princeton is one of five schools to have qualified the maximum (St. John's, Harvard, Ohio State and Notre Dame are the other four).

Each fencer has a bout against the other 23 fencers in that weapon, and the first one to five touches wins a point for his/her team. Add up all the points, and there's your winner.

The top four in each weapon advance to the individual weapon championships.

The job that Princeton's fencing staff of Zoltan Dudas, Hristo Hristov and Szilvia Voros have done is remarkable. The Tigers have won five Ivy titles in the last three years between the men's and women's programs, and they head to Columbus with a legitimate chance of winning the NCAA title.

TB wonders how some of these athletes got into fencing in the first place. He knows little about the sport, and he wonders what the specific skills that it requires.

Fencing 23 bouts in two days seems like a lot. Is it? Is it an endurance contest, or are they so quick that 23 bouts is pretty much standard?

TB knows the answer to none of those questions. Seems like a pretty interesting sport, though, no?

In fact, basically all he knows about fencing is that he's rooting for the Tigers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's Mandatory

The man at the door to the big conference room at the Carl Fields Center - the greeter, if you will - had a scalp full of staples, a reminder that he was a week removed from brain surgery.

Only you couldn't see any of them. Not a single one.

Instead, he had a full head of hair covering any sign that something was amiss. He was his usual self, Bob Callahan was, funny and modest and soft-spoken and genuine and concerned for everyone else.

It's been quite a few months for Callahan.

First, there was the incident in December, when Callahan's car was hit by a power line that snapped, incinerating the vehicle seconds after Callahan had gotten out of it.

Then there was February, when Callahan's team had a dream weekend at Jadwin Gym, where Princeton ended Trinity's 13-year run as national champion.

And then the dream quickly turned to a nightmare.

Not that you could tell by Callahan's original email.

TigerBlog will summarize Callahan's first correspondence this way: He basically said he had something little to take care of, nothing worse than a common cold or root canal, and that he'd be back soon good as new.

And sure enough, there he was, not too long after having a mass removed from his brain, at the monthly athletic department staff meeting, first standing at the door getting hugged from everyone and then taking about three or four minutes to talk to everyone.

In typical Bob fashion, he included this:
"When people asked me why I was here, I told them that it's the monthly meeting. After all, it's mandatory."

Every workplace with more than a handful of people has, TB assumes, a similar dynamic to the one that exists here.

There are the people you like. There are the people you don't like. There are different groups by age, experience, position and so on who hang together more than the people from the other group.

It's just the nature of a large organization of people.

And then there's the Bob Callahan type, the person in your organization that you can't possibly find someone to say something bad about. The one everybody loves.

TB has liked Bob - and Gail Ramsay, the women's coach - since Day 1 here.

They are both such great role models, such great educators, such team players, such funny people - such great people.

They have encouraged TB and all of the other people here who have gotten involved in playing squash almost like proud parents whose kids have decided to enter the family business. They instruct, they laugh, they're patient with beginners.

They seem to love their place here at Princeton, as the well-respected, ultra-successful coaches of a sport that usually operates far from the mainstream.

Any Princeton fan would have been fired up to beat Trinity. That it was Bob Callahan whose team did it made it even better.

And then there was his email, nonchalant, about not a cold or a bad tooth but about a brain tumor, and imminent surgery to remove it.

It was shocking to read; even more shocking to process.

And then there he was the meeting, there to reassure everyone, to talk about how lucky he was in his life, to talk about the sheer joy of waking up and being able to move his arms and legs and speak and see his five Princeton-educated sons and his wife and how no matter what, he'd be back and indeed, as good as new.

It's hard to describe the emotion of a moment like that. TB knows he was smiling with each word that came out of Bob's mouth, that he was shocked at how good he looked (Bob, not TB), that it was all so comforting to find him so, well, normally himself.

And then there was also some envy. Not of the tumor, obviously.

Of the man himself.

Envy at the site of a person so rock solid, someone who long ago learned to cherish every day, who learned what was important in his life, who sees only the good in people and things, who is so genuine in what he says and does.

He's a wonderful man, Bob Callahan. To know him is to like him, to love him, to love to be around him, to be overwhelmed by his gentle humor, humility and character.

He's not all the way there yet. But he'll get there.

And as he goes through this, he knows that everyone here is pulling for him.

Rooting for Bob Callahan?

It's mandatory.

Monday, March 19, 2012

This Much Is True

TigerBlog doesn't understand the car commercial with the Spandau Ballet song.

Clearly, it's about a system in a car that does something that helps out with the ride and the fuel efficiency. The problems are:
1) TB saw it 1,000 times this weekend and can't remember which car it's for, which isn't what you want out of your fancy commercial
2) the guy driving mumbles the name of the system, so you can't tell what he's saying
3) are they marketing solely to dorks?

TB has always liked the song "True," the Spandau Ballet song featured in the commercial, ever since he first heard it a million times somewhere in the early ’80s.

It's just that the four people in the car in the commercial don't come across as exactly the coolest kids in the class.

Anyway, that's one thing from Weekend 1 of the NCAA basketball tournament that TB saw and didn't quite comprehend.

Another was Lehigh's win over Duke.

Actually, TB missed the first 35 minutes of the game, since he was at Little Miss TigerBlog's school play of "Honk Jr.," a musical version of "The Ugly Duckling" in which LMTB played one of the cats. In case you're looking for a review: 1) some of the kids are really talented, 2) the cuteness quotient was off the charts and 3) the bullfrog stole the show.

While the play was going on, TB was stealing updates on the Duke-Lehigh game on his iPhone, which by the way has gone from "TB doesn't need one of those" to "how did TB get along without one of those as long as he did" in about three weeks.

By the time TB was in front of television, Lehigh was up and in control, and Duke was in full panic mode. Ultimately, the Mountain Hawks scored one of the great upsets in NCAA tournament history.

And it was no fluke. Lehigh looked like it had the quickness to play with Duke, and maybe even was a the faster team. C.J. McCollum was the best player on the court, even with a Duke team that features more than one lottery pick.

Maybe the whole Jeremy Lin thing shows that it's all about getting a chance and not about the label of "ACC player" or "Ivy League player" or "Patriot League player." Maybe Duke has so many advantages when playing at home that come tournament time, it's a whole new world for the team.

Whatever it means, a team that lost to William & Mary and Cornell during the regular season and came in second in the Patriot League thumped the biggest name in college basketball.

And, as an aside, TB still thinks that Lehigh didn't belong there and that Bucknell actually earned the chance to represent the league in the NCAA tournament by winning the league championship. Or maybe he thinks a 2 vs. 3, winner plays 1 event wouldn't be a bad idea, but he remains completely anti-conference tournament.

Anyway, Lehigh almost got to the Sweet 16 after putting up a big effort against Xavier. Norfolk State couldn't follow up its win over Missouri with a similar effort against Florida, but for one day, Lehigh and Norfolk State showed why people love this event so much.

And hey, Ohio is in the Sweet 16. And N.C. State, not Duke, is there, after knocking off Georgetown in a game that was frustrating for TB to watch.

So was the Denver-Notre Dame lacrosse game, which was on at the same time as Gtown-NC State, but that's for another day.

TB was rooting for both Georgetown and Denver, and neither won.

The one that stung the most for TB this weekend wasn't it men's basketball or men's lacrosse.

It was in women's basketball.

TB really, really wanted Princeton to beat Kansas State and stamp its season with an NCAA tournament victory.

After two years in which Princeton was essentially never in its NCAA tournament game, this year's Tigers clawed all the way to the end before falling 67-64 to Kansas State, a team from one of the two top women's basketball conferences.

While the men's tournament shows that anything is possible, the women's tournament shows that the gap between the top teams and the next level teams is still huge.

In the men's tournament, nine double figure seeds won their first game, including a 12, a 13 and two 15s. In the women's tournament, only three double figure seeds won their first game, two 11s and a 13 (Marist, whom Princeton beat in the regular season).

For Princeton, a No. 9 seed, the challenge was a big physical K-State team, one whose regular-season results suggested that it would be close.

At least, now looking back on it, Princeton doesn't have to be kicking itself about not playing hard or playing well or letting it get away.

Princeton's women's basketball team can look back on a 24-5 season, another 14-0 Ivy season, the league's first-ever national ranking and so many other high notes.

Princeton fans can look ahead to another season of Niveen Rasheed, the best all-around women's basketball player in Ivy history and quite possibly the greatest female athlete in Princeton history. At least the case can be made for both, which says a lot.

And Princeton can look back on its own season, which, as with the other statements, could make this the best Ivy League women's basketball team ever.

The Princeton-K State contest was one of those great NCAA tournament games, against which sits a rather cruel, harsh reality - if you play hard and well and tough for 40 minutes and don't win, you go home.

It's such a brutal way for it all to end, given the stakes.

A few more shots fall, and Lehigh is a Sweet 16 team.

A few more shots fall and Princeton is playing UConn tonight.

Instead, it's just over, just like that.

It's not a fun way for a great season to end.

To quote Spandau Ballet, TigerBlog knows this much is true.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thanks Pete

TigerBlog isn't sure why the refs were in on it in the Syracuse game yesterday.

What did UNC Asheville do to them?

Oh well. In the NCAA men's basketball tournament, still no No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1.

Yesterday wasn't much of a day in the tournament. There weren't any epic games, no great upsets. The Syracuse-UNC Asheville game was probably the best one, given the 1 vs. 16 aspect of it.

Baylor-South Dakota State was good, except for the Baylor uniforms.

TB didn't see any of the VCU-Wichita State game. In fact, TB hardly saw any of any games.

He'll go out of his way today to watch Georgetown and hope that the Hoyas don't become the big powerhouse to fall early. TB doesn't think they will; in fact, he thinks they're pretty well positioned for a good run.

Anyway, even though the games themselves weren't great yesterday, there were still 16 of them, all on TV, starting at noon and running deep into the night.

And today, it repeats itself.

The tournament's drama obviously builds to next weekend, when the stakes go way up with Final Four bids at stake.

And obviously, the Final Four itself is huge, and ultimately a champion emerges on Monday night, which is one of the great nights on the sports calendar.

Still, the best days of the tournament are yesterday and today.

In fact, TigerBlog heard from more than one person yesterday that the two days of the first round (okay, the second round) of the NCAA tournament are their favorite sports days of the year.

TigerBlog might not put them at the top, but they're very, very close.

And you know whom you can thank for that?

Pete Carril.

Yup, Princeton's former basketball coach.

Or Kit Mueller and Bob Scrabis and George Leftwich and Matt Eastwick and Matt Lapin and Jerry Doyle and Troy Hottenstein and the rest of the 1989 Princeton Tigers.

In case you don't remember or never knew, the Ivy League champion put up the following results in the NCAA tournament between 1986-88:

1986 - Syracuse 101, Brown 52
1987 - North Carolina 113, Penn 82
1988 - Arizona 90, Cornell 50

If you don't want to do the math, the average score was 101.3-61.3, or an average margin of defeat by the Ivy League champ of 40 points per game.

Princeton won the 1989 Ivy League title, but went just 11-3 in the league. The Tigers earned the No. 16 seed in the East and were matched against the No. 1 team in the country, the Georgetown Hoyas.

It seemed like another 40-point beating was in the offing for the Ivy League, especially in the face of Alonzo Mourning and the relentless pressure that Georgetown was going to throw at Princeton.

Before the game, there was talk about taking away the automatic bid from leagues like the Ivy League, because it was considered to be a waste. Who would want to watch this?

Well, the idea was that nobody would. The first rounds weren't even part of the network deal, only on ESPN, which at the time was nothing near the same thing as it is now.

So what happened?

Princeton, as you probably heard, played one of the epic games in the history of college basketball, falling to the Hoyas 50-49.

In fact, if you watch a replay of the game now, Princeton really had it and let it get away. The Tigers protected the ball (Princeton had only seven turnovers, including only one from Leftwich, who went all 40 minutes), controlled the tempo, got an unreal performance from Mueller (nine points, eight assists, two turnovers, 40 minutes), had Bob Scrabis go for 15 points - and shut down every Hoya except for Mourning who went for 21 points and 13 rebounds.

In the end, Mourning blocked two shots in the final six seconds, one each from Scrabis and Mueller, and the Hoyas held on.

Or maybe the two Tigers were fouled?

As Carril famously said: "I'll take that up with God when I get there."

The shock waves from Princeton's performance were felt the next day on TV and in the newspapers (but not on the web, which didn't exist yet).

And they continued way beyond.

Instead of eliminating bids for leagues like the Ivy, the whole concept of the "mid-major" was born.

Instead of not caring about the early rounds of the tournament, CBS instead invested billions of dollars, beginning in 1991, for every game.

If Princeton had been blown out by Georgetown, who knows what might have happened? It's possible that there might be Division IA and Division IAA basketball today.

Instead, we have what many consider the two best days of the athletic calendar.

And the hope that one day, the No. 16 will beat the No. 1.

And the idea that for the first two days of the NCAA tournament, you don't want to look away, because you never know what massive underdog is going to win.

For that, join TigerBlog in thanking Pete Carril and the 1989 Tigers.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let The Second Round Begin

Okay, why would it be so bad to call the games today and tomorrow the opening round and the games that preceded them the play-in round?

Why does this have to be the second round and then the next set of games have to be the third round? Seems somewhat silly, no?

As you might have heard, the most over-analyzed, over-discussed sporting event in American culture gets going for real today.

And then once it starts, it serves as a reminder why there's nothing quite like it.

The NCAA basketball tournament suffers through months and months of meaningless "bracketology," not to mention the beating to death of the actual brackets once they're announced. People can't get enough of whom so-and-so thinks is the most likely 12 to beat a five, or the big sleeper for the Sweet 16.

Everywhere you turn, there's another "expert" offering up opinion that anyone who watches TV can match. Another "expert" referring to the "kid from St. Bonaventure" or "the guard from San Diego State," as if they know or have ever seen any of these people before.

In the next breath, there's another coach, being hailed as a genius for taking this team to the tournament this year, when for the most part, he either got hot for three days in his conference tournament or didn't mess up a good situation in a power conference.

As Pete Carril used to say, genius is a word that should be reserved for "a guy like Einstein."

TigerBlog isn't sure why that line always fascinated him. It has something to do with the fact that he didn't say "Einstein," he said "a guy like Einstein."

Anyway, the NCAA tournament is worse than the Super Bowl in terms of pre-event hype. And yet, just like the Super Bowl, all the hype can't ruin the tournament once it gets going.

The problem with college basketball is that it's the only major sport where the coaches and refs are more well-known than the players. Go ahead, name 10 players in the NCAA tournament, excluding Harvard.

If you can name 10, can you name 10 more?

Coaches? Everyone knows them. The game is all about the coaches, or at least protecting the myth that somehow these are super genius coaches who pull magical strings that others can't.

TB hates to break it to anyone, but he could coach at Kentucky or Carolina or Syracuse.

Gary Walters weighed in on the topic of John Calipari and his one-and-done philosophy at Kentucky last week in a USA Today article.

As for TB, that - and the appearance of Calipari and Jim Boeheim on ESPN after the selection show - got him to wondering why it is that there seems to be so little interest in the day-to-day slop of sports - college basketball and others - on the part of the general public.

He's not talking about things like Jerry Sandusky or Plaxico Burress or George Huguely. Those types of situations clearly generate attention.

No, TB is talking the less visible, the less spectacular. He's talking about all of the stories that come out that barely are worth the time to write the headlines, about drugs or academic fraud or poor graduation rates or one-and-done.

TB was talking about this with a co-worker on the squash court yesterday.

The question is this: Do people not care about all that stuff because all they care about are the games themselves, or are they just desensitized to it all?

TB's co-worker said that he has a wife, a child, another on the way, a mortgage and job and all. He just wants to be entertained by sports.

TB? he's not sure.

He thinks there's a level of desensitizing that has gone on, and this is the result. He thinks that the media is a big culprit in it, because of the fawning - or is it fearful? - way that it usually covers big-time football and men's basketball coaches.

TB is still waiting for the press conference where these coaches are started to be called on all this, when media members ask legitimate questions about off-field conduct or athletic/educational balances or conference realignments and all of it.

Will it happen? Who knows.

TB is as phony as anyone else. He'll still watch the tournament, root for Georgetown, root against a team he always roots against.

Still, a part of him will be glad that he works at a place that doesn't usually have to clean up the slop.

Princeton and the Ivy League aren't above it all.

They're just a little different.

It's a difference TB grew to appreciate a long time ago.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tuesday Night Wrap

It didn't dawn on TigerBlog until he'd walked about 75% of the way down the stairs from the press box and around the field at Villanova Stadium that the gate he was trying to get to was probably locked.

Sure enough, it was.

So, back he went to another gate. Also locked. In fact, they all were.

Not just locked with the kind of luck that you can open from the inside. Chained.

The point was for nobody to get in, except it was also keeping TB from getting out.

Eventually, TB had to walk back up the bleachers to the press box and then take the elevator down to the entrance. Once he did that, he found two more locked doors before finally being able to get out through the main entrance, which was wide open.

After that, he had to walk all the way around again, since his car was parked just outside the first gate he'd been at, albeit 15 minutes earlier.

The little detour back to the press box prevented TigerBlog from hearing the end of the Princeton-Evansville men's basketball game on the radio.

By the way, TB isn't going to go on about men's lacrosse here this morning, except for three thoughts:

1) the second and third quarters, especially the third quarter, of last night's 14-8 win over Villanova is the best Princeton has played in a long time. The Tigers were efficient and essentially unstoppable against a very good team, one that is ranked 10th this week

2) Make what you will out of all of these results:
Lehigh beat North Carolina
Lehigh beat Penn
Penn beat North Carolina
Villanova beat Penn by one
Villanova beat Lehigh by 10
North Carolina beat Princeton
Princeton beat Villanova

3) Princeton is the one men's lacrosse team in the country that is an absolute must-see, because of the wondrous talent of sophomore Tom Schreiber, who is as good as any player TB has ever seen play here, with the possible exceptions of Jesse Hubbard and Ryan Boyle (and there are things he does better than either of those two all-time legendary greats). And keep in mind, this takes into account a lot of great players. Every time Schreiber touches the ball, he's a threat to do something spectacular.

Anyway, enough about lacrosse - for now.

Let's talk about the CBI.

Princeton and Evansville found out late Sunday that they'd be playing each other, which led to little or no prep time for either team.

The result? A wild shootout.

Like, really wild.

TB put up the live stats to find it was 87-85, on its way to 95-86 Princeton.

TigerBlog has never seen Princeton score 100 points in a game, and odds are neither have you, since the last time the Tigers did was back on Feb. 26, 1971.

In fact, the last time Princeton scored more than 95 points in game was the opening game of 1971-72, in a 99-68 win over Rutgers.

And now here were the Tigers in Indiana, in a game where both teams were unstoppable.

Douglas Davis needed one point to become the third player in men's basketball here to reach 1,500; he got a career-high 31. Now, with at least one game left to play, Davis has 1,530, leaving his 16 away from Kit Mueller for second place (and just short of 1,000 away from Bill Bradley, who scored 2,503 points in three seasons without a three-pointer shot; keep in mind just how ridiculous that is).

He also is second all-time at Princeton (behind Brian Earl, with 281) and third all-time in the Ivy League with 270 career three-pointers.

So what do you make of Davis' career?

On the one hand, he's never been first-team All-Ivy League.

On the other hand, he's going to be second or third all-time in scoring at Princeton. Yes, he's played in more games than any player in program history, but he's not just a compiler of numbers.

And, he always has that other thing going for him. You know, having hit the single most clutch shot in school history.

While Davis' career winds down, Princeton fans can look forward to another year of Ian Hummer, who is also something of a walking highlight reel.

Hummer has 501 points this season, which means that only three people have ever scored more points in a season at Princeton than Hummer has this year. Want to name them?

TB will do it for you:
Bill Bradley (who did it three times)
Brian Taylor (who did it twice)
Geoff Petrie (who did it once)

Those are some pretty big names in school history.

Hummer has 1,156 career points - with his senior year to go.

Oh, and least one more game of his junior year.

Any doubt as to whether or not Princeton was serious about the CBI was erased last night in Indiana. TB isn't quite sure if Princeton plays the winner of Pitt-Wofford next, or if they take the remaining eight teams and create new matchups.

Either way, the Tigers aren't playing in the tournament they wanted.

Still, look what happened the last time Princeton was in the CBI. The Tigers got the semifinals - and then the NCAA's the following year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Road To Bridgeport

TigerBlog was in the parking lot last night when women's basketball coach Courtney Banghart and assistant coach Melanie Moore walked by.

They were on their way to Triumph (a proud sponsor of Princeton Athletics; TigerBlog can't recommend the burgers highly enough), where the women's basketball team was to gather to watch the NCAA selection show.

For a coach whose team has clinched the championship of a one-bid league, there is no moment quite like this. You have speculated to no end about your seed, your opponent, your venue - and yet you're helpless, because you have absolutely no control over the final outcome.

A committee has decided it for you, and it's there on a board on a TV network, waiting to be unveiled.

TB has always been amazed by how many people think that the schools know in advance what the outcome is.

There are many times when the participants in something are aware of it before it is made public, and the key then is to have everyone keep it quiet.

Here, for an NCAA tournament draw, that is not the case. Nobody knows. It's all speculation until everyone finds out together.

Oh, and the bracketologists? TB is amazed by how much people buy into what they say, since 1) they change their brackets every five seconds, 2) their brackets mean little and 3) pretty much any nerdy seventh grader can figure out at least 65 or so of the men's teams simply with an active internet connection.

Anyway, the uncertainty of it all is why the excitement is so palpable.

Look at Princeton in 1996, when the Tigers got matched with UCLA in what became an epic tournament classic. What if the committee had tweaked the final lines just a little? History could have been much different.

And of course, when your team is announced, the higher the seed the better, right?

In reality, it's more about matchups than seeds.

Go back to 1996. Princeton was the No. 13 seed. Virginia Commonwealth was the No. 12. UCLA was No. 4; Mississippi State was No. 5.

Except Mississippi State demolished Princeton in the second round on the way to the Final Four. Would Princeton have preferred on Selection Sunday to be a 12 instead of a 13? Probably. Would history remember that tournament the way it does? Probably not.

And so all of this brings us back to Banghart, Moore and the Tigers.

Let's start out with some thoughts about Princeton.

The Tigers are now 41-1 in the Ivy League the last three years.

They are the first Ivy League team ever to be ranked in the Top 25 by either the coaches or media in women's basketball.

They are the only team in Division I - men or women - to go undefeated in its league and win all of its games by double figures.

They are 24-4, and all four losses are to NCAA tournament teams.

They are making their third-straight NCAA tournament appearance for a program that had never played in the NCAAs before that.

Their seeds the last three years are 11, 12 and now 9, which are the three best in Ivy history.

Looking at the resume, it's so easy to forget that Banghart went 7-23 her first year, that she had to convince the current senior class - Lauren Edwards, Devona Allgood, Laura Johnson - to put their faith in a then-28-or-so-year-old coach who had yet to coach her first game.

And now?

Ninth-seeded Princeton heads to Bridgeport to take on No. 8 Kansas State Saturday at 11:20. Looming for the winner will be UConn (assuming a win over Prairie View), the beast of the sport.

Your best case scenario for Princeton? A win over K-State and reaching the 10-minute mark of the second half against UConn being in the game.

Only once has the Ivy League representative won an NCAA women's basketball game, and that was in 1998, when 16th seeded Harvard defeated No. 1 Stanford - albeit after Stanford lost two starters to injuries just before the game.

Princeton's women's basketball team has had the best three-year run in league history and has accomplished things that no other league team has ever done before.

The case can already be made that this is the greatest team in Ivy women's basketball history.

Niveen Rasheed, the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year, has already established herself as one of the three greatest players in league history, along with Harvard's Allison Feaster (1998?) and Penn's Diana Caramanico (2002?).

A win over K-State would enhance Princeton's status as the greatest Ivy team ever. After two previous NCAA experiences where Princeton was playing catch-up throughout, here is a genuine opportunity against a team with a strong pedigree - but with some head-to-head results against teams like Hofstra, Marist and Dartmouth that suggest that while nothing is going to be easy, Princeton might match up well here.

The euphoria of the selection party has now faded in the name of getting to work.

For teams from one-bid leagues who know they have almost no chance to win their game, the next few days of preparation, travel and on-site activity will be all the fun.

For the Princeton women, the excitement level goes way up at tip-off.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Retiring Inge

Now that the jayvee field has been announced, attention can turn to the varsity tournament as the women's NCAA basketball pairings are announced tonight.

What? People care more about the men's tournament than the women's tournament?

Not TigerBlog, who is more interested in how the Princeton women do next week than anything that will happen in the men's tournament (short of a big Georgetown run).

TigerBlog has been through a bunch of NCAA men's tournaments here with the Tigers. In fact, he has attended nine with the program - though not the famous 1989 loss to Georgetown.

The NCAA basketball tournament is like no other event TB has experienced. The excitement that builds from the moment the bid is clinched is amazing, and it's nothing compared to what happens immediately after the field is announced.

From the moment that your bracket comes up on the screen, all speculation on what your seed or opponent might be vanishes into the reality of who, where and when.

And then the adrenaline really starts to kick in.

It's a complex dance on so many fronts.

For the coaches and players, there's the need to be as prepared as possible to play a strange opponent on short notice on the sport's biggest stage.

For the administration, there's the need to handle every detail so that the coaches and players can focus on playing.

And there are a lot of details in putting together the heavily mandated official NCAA travel party. Not to mention ticket needs, local alumni events, media requests and on and on and on.

As TB thinks back now to all of the times he's been here during those frantic days that lead up to the tournament, he's struck by how remarkably calm Inge Radice always managed to stay.

In fact, as Inge just walked out of the office here after saying hello, TB is trying to remember a time when he saw Inge lose her composure or get angry or raise her voice, and he can't really think of one.

Inge is Princeton's Senior Associate Director of Athletics, at least until June 30, when she officially retires after 29 years in the department.

Mostly, Inge's role has been as essentially the CFO of the athletic department. She has had to deal with coaches, Friends' groups, University administrators, external auditors and pretty much anyone else who has either wanted to buy something or know why something was bought.

She has also worked with general administrative responsibilities, many of which involved being a, well, referee.

For all of that, TB can never remember her ever losing her temper.

One thing that TB does know is that Inge has an unbelievable ability to say "no" without making it personal or without getting emotional about it. This is not an easy skill.

It's not easy to tell people no, that what they want and are positive is for the best is not in the big picture going to happen - and to do so in a way that is at the same time stern yet sympathetic.

Her position here is not one for someone with an ego, as everything she has done here she has done far from the spotlight. She has always been a calming influence, a voice of reason, to use her word, an "adult."

Gary Walters called TB down to his office Friday, and it was typical for the situation Gary will say something along the lines of "I need to see you" without tipping off what the subject is, leaving TB to speculate.

This time, when he got to Gary's office and saw Inge sitting there, he had a sense that something was up.

In reality, it's not surprising that Inge is retiring.

She's certainly put in her time. Her son John (Class of 1997) is a recent father. Her husband Pete is one of the true characters who ever walked into Jadwin Gym.

Surely the time was right to step away and enjoy some time for herself, after her three decades of being here six, sometimes seven, days a week.

Still, the news was a bit stunning. Inge blurted it out, as if she needed to say it quickly before she changed her mind.

It's hard to imagine Princeton Athletics without Inge Radice.

TB has often been one of the people that Inge has had to say "no" to, one of the people told that this expense won't be acceptable or this departmental decision that TB disagreed with was going to stand.

Still, there were so many more times that TB found himself in agreement with Inge.

Or, even more so, uncertain of a certain situation and then swayed by her thoughts.

Beyond any of that, she's just a nice person, one whose door is always open, one whose door TB has gone through thousands of times just to say hi and laugh about something.

One day, TB will look back on his time here and remember the days leading up to the NCAA basketball tournaments as among the most special.

More than that, though, he'll think back of the people he worked with for all his own time here.

Inge Radice? She's a little more special than most.

TB will miss her, as will everyone else.

Friday, March 9, 2012


TigerBlog can’t bring himself to say it. He’s like the Fonz when he was trying to say he was “ruhhhhhhhhhng” that time on “Happy Days.”

TB is trying. Really, he’s trying.

Okay, here goes.

No, he can’t say it.

Okay, here he goes:

“TigerBlog hates the new Springsteen album.”

There. He said it.

Hey, everyone is entitled to come up with something that even the most ardent of fans don’t like. And the Boss can release a bad album every day for the next 100 years and TB would still give his complete portfolio an A++++++.

It’s just that TB was so disappointed in “Wrecking Ball.” He was expected something that rocked, at least.

It has some good songs, and one great one – Land Of Hope And Dreams, which is now the most-played song on TB’s iTunes, since it was released on the Live in New York City album from 2001. So that doesn’t exactly count.

The most recent Springsteen albums – Working On A Dream and Magic – aren’t on a level with Darkness on the Edge of Town or The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle or even The Rising.

And forget about Born To Run, which has four of the 10 best songs TigerBlog has ever heard – Born to Run, Thunder Road, Jungleland and Backstreets.

But hey, Magic and Working On A Dream are still great, and they both have multiple great songs on them.

The new album? Nope.

So, TB’s idea of listening to the new Springsteen all the way down to Baltimore for the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic goes out the window.

Princeton is playing in its fifth Face-Off Classic and its sixth game all-time at M&T Bank Stadium, including the 2004 NCAA semifinal loss to Navy and four FOC games against Johns Hopkins (Princeton split those four).

The Tigers take on North Carolina tomorrow at 11 in a game both teams would really love to get.

UNC was 4-0 before its back-to-back losses to Lehigh and Penn. Princeton is 2-1 and will have had eight days to sit on its loss to Hopkins last Friday.

And since someone brought up that game, TB is now a firm believer in the need for a shot clock in men’s lacrosse.

And honestly, women’s, after watching Princeton-Duke last Saturday.

Hopkins took the air out of the ball, with great success, and was able to use that to dominate possession and win the game.

Already in men’s lacrosse this year, there have been games with scores like 5-2 and 4-3, both of which were Penn State wins.

TB has no problem with low-scoring, tight games. The problem is how easy it is to take the ball behind the goal, get a stalling warning and dare the other team to chase you.

Or just play keepaway on the women’s side, which is what Duke did after Princeton cut it to two with six minutes left.

The offense – and the team in the lead – have way too much of an advantage now in both the men’s and women’s game. A shot clock would address those issues quickly.

TB is now fully on board. A one-minute shot clock. And no calling timeout when you have a stall warning, just before the defense forces the turnover.

Those figure to solve a lot of the ills of the game, especially when its growth level is exploding. It doesn’t need to chase its many new fans away.

Meanwhile, what was TB talking about? Oh year, the Princeton-Carolina game.

TB has been to 17 of the last 20 NCAA men’s lacrosse Final Fours, and the very first of those was the 1992 event at Franklin Field, where Princeton played North Carolina on a 100-degree day.

The Tigers won that game 16-14, and the team that day was a who’s who of Princeton lacrosse greatness. Thinking back to Princeton’s six NCAA titles, it’s easy to take for granted the great players who were part of the first one, without considering that all of those players took a huge leap of faith in coming here in the first place.

Any Carolina-Princeton game conjures up those memories for TB. In lacrosse, anyway.

In general, do a search in TB's brain by entering "North Carolina" and "Princeton," and the first thing that comes up is the 1996 men's basketball game in this building, and how after Shammond Williams threw an alley-oop pass to Vince Carter from the other side of midcourt, a finish that led Bill Raftery to exclaim: "I'm not sure that's what Mr. Jadwin had in mind when he built his gymnasium."

Anyway, for tomorrow's game, there are all the main plots - the intriguing subplot of Princeton's matchup against former captain Jack McBride, one of the great goal scorers in school history.

McBride missed almost all of last year with a groin injury, and as a graduate student could not play for Princeton - or in the Ivy League. So here he is, on Carolina's first midfield, playing against his former teammates.

Hey, TB is excited about this game. Even without a shot clock.

Or the new Springsteen album for the ride down.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hoping For 26

TigerBlog was walking in from Lot 21 this morning with one of his OAC counterparts, and the discussion started down the direction of Carmelo's effect on the Knicks and whether or not the Celtics could possibly miss the playoffs.

Then, all of the sudden, the conversation turned on a dime, and the last 75% of the walk into the building and ultimately to the mail room next to TB's office was focused on fencing.

Zoltan Dudas, Princeton's amiable fencing coach, joined the walk, and the rest of the time was spent talking about the sport, the upcoming NCAA regionals and then championships and ultimately some of the shadier sides of the sport, collegiately and internationally.

Dudas has had a pretty good run here the last three years, having won five Ivy titles (three women, two men). He has Princeton in position to take a run at the NCAA championship (Ohio State is the favorite), which the women's team would have won last year had there been separate men's and women's champions instead of one co-ed champ.

For TigerBlog, moments like that are one of the best parts of working at a place like Princeton.

For many people who work in college athletics and especially for fans of college athletics, it's all about BCS football an big-time men's basketball. And yes, those in many ways define so much of what goes on college sports, for the good and the bad.

Here, though, there are 38 varsity sports, and they are treated in many ways equally.

Sure, there is way more that goes into putting a college football team on the field than a college fencing team.

At the same time, there is a general institutional philosophy to having a broad-based athletic program, one where each team is entitled to the same basic considerations.

That's one of the reasons why TB likes the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points standings so much.

A cynic, of course, could point out that another reason he likes them is that Princeton has won 25 straight years.

Another cynic might further argue that if Princeton hadn't won each of the last 25 years that it wouldn't be an unofficial designation.

Princeton has already extended its streak of winning at least one team or individual national champion, something that the men's squash team saw to with its win over Trinity in the national finals. That streak now sits at 41 straight years.

And the chances for a 26th straight win?

The standings looked this way at the end of the fall:
1. Yale
2. Columbia
3. Dartmouth
4. Princeton
5. Harvard
6. Brown
7. Cornell
8. Penn

Now, after Princeton won six winter Ivy championships - m/w fencing, m squash, w basketball, m swimming and diving, m indoor track and field - the standings look like this:
1. Princeton
2. Harvard
3. Yale
4. Columbia
5. Cornell
6. Dartmouth
7. Penn
8. Brown

The points are awarded based on finishes in the 33 official Ivy League sports, so for Princeton, that means that men's and women's water polo, women's lightweight rowing, sprint football and men's volleyball do not count.

Teams get eight points for a first-place, seven for a second and so on down the list, even if there are fewer than eight teams in that sport. If teams tie for a place, they split the points, so if there is a tie for third, each team gets 5.5 points.

As of now, Princeton has 117.5 points to Harvard's 110.5, followed by Yale with 95.

The race is closer now than it is in most years, and making up seven points is certainly possible.

TB will be keeping an eye on it as the spring goes along.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Roots II

In the end, the Ivy League men's basketball season came down to this: Of all of the teams (TigerBlog thinks it's 31) that win an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, only one - Harvard - did so without playing.

Hey, TB has been around Ivy basketball for a long time, and last night was the weirdest moment he's experienced.

Here you had a Princeton-Penn game that figured to force Princetonians to decide if they'd rather have Penn or Harvard win the league's automatic bid, since a Penn win would have forced a playoff between the Quakers and Crimson.

In the end, every Princeton fan basically came to the same conclusion that Pete Carril did Saturday night, when the Tigers were finishing off Brown, when he essentially said that he would never root for Penn to beat Princeton, no matter who it helped or hurt.

As Douglas Davis said: "I didn't feel right letting Penn share the Ivy League title and win it on our home floor. Our rivalry with Penn goes way back. Harvard, they're good, but our rivalry is with Penn. Harvard, they won the Ivy League, but Penn wasn't going to win it on our court."

Even the contrast between the two Princeton-Penn games this year was weird.

Game 1 - Princeton shot 68.4% from the field in the first half and 57.8% for the game.
Game 2 - Princeton shot 64.7% from the field in the first half and 58.3% for the game.

With nearly identical offensive numbers, Princeton lost Game 1 by 17 and won Game 2 by 10.

There were two differences between the two games.

In Game 1, Zach Rosen went off from the opening tip until he was done, putting up 28 points on 10 for 18 shooting, including 4 for 7 from three. Just as importantly, Tyler Bernardini added 14 in Game 1 on 5 for 9 shooting.

In Game 2, Rosen scored 18 points, but he jacked up 24 shots to get them. Bernardini, slowed by a foot injury, was 1 for 6 for two points in 22 minutes.

Between them, they had 42 points in Game 1. They had 20 in Game 2.

In the end, TB had nothing but admiration for the two Penn seniors. Bernardini has had huge games against Princeton in his career, and Rosen basically carried his team this year to the brink of a league championship.

It was hard to watch in the last few minutes, as an exhausted Rosen tried valiantly to bring his team all the way back while Bernardini had to watch from the bench. And when it was over, there was just the hard reality their shot at ever playing in the NCAA tournament was gone.

For that, TB felt a little empathy.

It was senior night at Jadwin, and as the Tigers honored Davis, Patrick Saunders and John Comfort, it was sort of like on the Oscars, when last year's Best Actor gives out this year's award.

Here were the Tigers, out of it, about to help decide who would be in this year.

And when the ball went up, it was somewhat surprisingly easy to put aside the whole Harvard/Penn angle and foot for the Tigers. It was just the normal thing to do. Whatever happened was beyond Princeton's control, but the Tigers did have a game to play and they played it well.

In the end, there was the fact that Princeton came to the end of the 2011-12 season playing as well as any team in the Ivy League. If there was an Ivy tournament - TB is against it, obviously - Princeton would have as good a chance as anyone.

And really, what did Princeton in this year? Well, there was the loss at Harvard that could have gone either way, and if that one game changed and everything else stayed the same, then it'd a three-way tie between Princeton, Penn and Harvard right now.

But that's not what TB points to. Nor is the loss at Yale.

It's the opening day loss at Cornell, which really put Princeton in a play-from-behind, no-margin-for-error situation for the entire season.

And then there was the fact that Princeton had to play its first Penn game on the Monday after exams, after a 16-day layoff, at the Palestra.

Yes, Penn played a great game that night and clearly deserved to win, but as last night showed, Princeton wasn't itself the first time around. Had the Tigers been on in their rhythm for that first game, who knows how much different everything the rest of the way might have been.

Instead, it's congrats to Harvard and admiration for how hard Rosen played.

And a lot of pride for the home team.

In the end, here's all the reason you needed to root for Princeton last night: With the win, the Tigers keep their lead over Penn for all-time Ivy titles, 26-25.

And the knowledge that next year can't start soon enough.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Root, Root, Root For The Home Team?

There is one question that TigerBlog has been asked - and has asked - more than any other the last few days.

For whom will you be rooting in the Penn-Princeton men's basketball game Tuesday night?

See, it's not as simple as rooting for Penn or Princeton.

And, by the way, that hasn't always been so simple for TigerBlog anyway.

Back when he was a student at Penn, TB implicitly rooted for Penn. The idea of rooting for Princeton? Impossible.

Then, when he started to work at the newspaper and cover Princeton, he was supposed to be neutral. And of course in many ways he was, though he does remember when Chuck Yrigoyen asked him circa 1990 which team he was rooting for and TB said something along the lines of "don't tell anyone, but Princeton."

Through the years, TB has found it surprisingly easy to root against his alma mater, a place that he has nothing but great memories of from his time as an undergraduate.

There are many people that TB talks to who ask him how such a thing is possible or if he's torn or anything. The answer is no. He's been here nearly a quarter-century; he was there four years.

Tonight, though, is a vastly different situation, a mathematical one at that:

Rooting for Penn = Rooting for Penn
Rooting for Princeton = Rooting for Harvard

Princeton hosts Penn tonight in the regular-season finale for the Ivy League, and the league's automatic bid is very much in play. Just not for Princeton.

The Tigers, who are playing as well as any team in the league now, were eliminated last weekend, even though the team swept Yale and Brown.

As the ball goes up tonight, Penn is 11-2 in the league, while Harvard is finished at 12-2 and with at least a co-championship. A Penn win tonight forces a playoff Saturday for the automatic bid; a Princeton win tonight gives Harvard the outright title.

If this seems familiar, it's because it's sort of the exact situation as last year, except with the Penn and Princeton roles reversed.

Last year, Princeton was 11-2, Harvard was 12-2, Penn was mathematically eliminated and Princeton had to win on the road to force the playoff. That worked out well for the Tigers.

Will it for the Quakers?

Only if Princeton loses.

Which means if you're a Princeton fan but would rather see Penn than Harvard in the NCAA tournament, what do you do?

Do you actually root for the Quakers to beat your Tigers?

Elsewhere in college basketball, two Princeton alums suffered excruciating losses last night, as Sydney Johnson's Fairfield team lost by three to Loyola - and its, uh, excitable coach Jimmy Patsos - in the MAAC final and Joe Scott and Denver lost in the Sun Belt semifinals 67-63 to Western Kentucky.

Were you rooting for either? Both? Neither?

If there was an Ivy League tournament, then it's like Penn-Princeton would have a been one semifinal, with the winner to play Harvard. Even though it hurts Princeton, TB still is anti-tournament.

Iona, for instance, should be representing the MAAC, not Loyola. Middle Tennessee State went 14-2 in the Sun Belt and 25-6 overall; instead the league will be represented by either Western Kentucky (13-16 in the regular season) or North Alabama (16-13).

And by the way, did you notice the crowd at the MAAC final? Yeah, there wasn't one.

Come the NCAA tournament, TigerBlog will definitely be rooting for Georgetown and hopefully will get the chance to root for Northwestern.

Come tonight, when push comes to shove, he'll be rooting for the Tigers, even if it costs his alma mater its NCAA shot.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday, The Day Of Rest

Today is TigerBlog No. 947.

That would mean that No. 1,000 is 53 business days away, or, let's see, 10 weeks and three days, which makes it May 17, a Thursday.

What should TB do for the occasion? Business as usual? Gala 1,000th celebration? A week of the best of TB?

None of that is the point today, though.

TB was thinking this morning about how at most places, today is the beginning of the work week, while around here it doesn't quite have a Monday feel to it.

TB was thinking about writing about the great songs that are about Mondays, and then he thought that he'd done that before, and so he did a quick search and found out that he had, back on April 20, 2009, when he mentioned these songs:

* "Manic Monday," by the Bangles
* "Monday, Monday," by the Mamas and the Papas
* "Rainy Days and Mondays," by the Carpenters
* "Come Monday," by Jimmy Buffett
* "I Don't Like Mondays," by the Boomtown Rats - TB has a version by Bon Jovi as well

Anyway, it got TB thinking that the more TB's he written, the harder it is to come up with something that he hasn't at least touched upon before.

Oh well, that's what the search function is for, right?

Meanwhile, back at Jadwin today, it feels like a holiday rather than a work day.

And why is that?

Because of what went on in Princeton athletics this past weekend.

There was home men's lacrosse. There was home women's lacrosse. There was home men's basketball, Friday and Saturday. There was the Ivy League swimming and diving championships Thursday through Saturday. There was the EIWA wrestling championships Saturday and yesterday. There was home men's volleyball. There was home men's tennis.

Now if that doesn't seem like a lot, consider that the wrestling and basketball were in the same facility, which shares parking with the pool.

Consider that the men's lacrosse game was on ESPNU. Against an opponent (Johns Hopkins) that traditionally has drawn more fans to campus than any other.

Consider that there were enough away events that it took people from several areas off campus for the weekend.

Consider that there could have been home men's hockey in the ECAC playoffs, which Princeton would also have figured out a way to host.

If you attended any of these events this weekend, you probably didn't think anything was out of the ordinary. It was one event that went off without a hitch while another event was doing the same nearby.

If anything, you might have been annoyed that Lot 21 was filled and that you had to walk a little, but that was the only negative - and there was nothing athletics could do about that.

The amount of work that went into this weekend's events would have been extraordinary, had it not been for the fact that TB has seen it before. And it's not TB who did the work.

It's everyone else who works here.

On the subject of things that TB has written before, the people who made all this happen are the people who never get any of the credit. They are:

Equipment staff - Clif Perry, Gary Audet, Gary Mosley
Grounds crew - Brad Cabral, Garfield Brown, Jay Hulick, Jeff Madill, Paul Merrow, Elysee Nicolas and Jim Ogden
Ticket office - Stephanie Sutton, Clare Baxter, Dee Vertucci
Event staff - Karen Malec, Mike Doto, Dave Santoro, Sean Morey
Pool - Kaitlin Naudts
Business office who do a lot at events people - Jon Kurian, Ryan Yurko
Marketing/OAC/IT - Yariv Amir, Craig Sachson, Andrew Borders, Kristy McNeil, Diana Chamorro, Greg Paczkowski, Dan Joyce

TB is afraid that he's left people out, and for that he's sorry.

Still, the people above did a ton of work this weekend, without ever being in the spotlight, and with a lot riding on it if they didn't do a good job.

And for all those people, TB would like to single out one, and that's Karen Malec.

You've probably never noticed her at events here, which is fine with her. And yet almost none of what happened here this weekend would have gone off without a hitch the way it did without her work.

TB's lasting memory of this weekend will be when he walked into the gym Saturday night to find Karen climbing out from under a table, having retrieved from the pool the shot clocks that water polo uses in practice, because the two in Jadwin couldn't be synced, resulting in a delay of the opening tip for basketball.

When TB saw Karen come out from plugging in the clocks, all he could do was shake his head.

She didn't have enough to do this weekend?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Why VMI?

TigerBlog was watching "Around the Horn" and then "PTI" yesterday, in much the same fashion that everyone else does.

They watch the first show because it's on before "PTI," even though the show itself is only about 10% as good. Hey, if Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon were on "Around the Horn," then that show would be better.

Anyway, as the shows were playing, the ever-present crawl along the bottom of the screen kept rolling. Over and over and over, TigerBlog was told the news that in the Big South semifinals, it would be seventh-seed VMI vs. sixth-seed Winthrop, because those two had beaten the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds.

Now, after VMI beat Winthrop 75-55, it's No. 7 VMI (regular-season record of 14-15) against No. 1 UNC Ashville. VMI went 8-10 in the league in the regular-season, while UNC Asheville went 16-2, finishing eight games ahead of the Keydets in the standings.

In fact, UNC Asheville won the league by four games, over the Coastal Carolina team that VMI beat in the quarterfinals.

In their two regular-season meetings, UNC Asheville beat VMI by three points and nine points. In other words, is it out of the question that VMI can continue its roll and knock of the favorite?

Why focus on the Big South Conference?

Because it shows the inanity of the whole conference tournament system.

There is no way VMI deserves to go to the NCAA tournament. Sorry. No offense to the Keydets, but it has been proven through the year that UNC Asheville is the Big South's top team.

And if the Big South is going to make a name for itself, won't it be because UNC Asheville gives it the best chance of winning a first-round game? VMI, should it win, would be be in one of the play-in games (its RPI is 281). Asheville wouldn't exactly be a Final Four favorite, but it does have an RPI of 118.

Each year at this time, TB enjoys watching all the games on TV during "championship week," but he shakes his head at the same time.

Why do leagues insist on risking not sending their best to the NCAA tournament - and lose big money at the same time while hosting the conference tournament.

Yes, it's time for another installment of TB's long-time series: "TB hopes the Ivy League never adopts a conference tournament."

Look at the Princeton women. Has there been a team that's dominated its league more this winter? Nope.

Princeton wrapped up the league with three games to go, is undefeated heading into tonight's game at Yale and has won every game by double figures, including 10 of 11 by at least 25 points.

Is there any question what team should represent the league in the NCAAs?

On the men's side, it's a bit murkier.

Harvard and Penn have two league losses each; Yale and Princeton have four. Still, Yale has beaten Penn and Princeton has beaten Harvard, so clearly there is a highly competitive top four teams.

Wouldn't that make a tournament interesting?

Sure it would. And it would give each team hope for advancing to the NCAA tournament.

Except this isn't fourth grade, where everyone gets a trophy for showing up. This is NCAA Division I basketball. You should have to earn your chance through the course of the year, not be rewarded for getting hot over of a few days this week.

And, as teams bunch of games as they get further into tournaments, players get tired, play gets sloppier and anything can happen.

Should Harvard and Penn sweep this weekend (or split), then Penn would have to beat Princeton Tuesday to force a playoff for the NCAA bid. Okay, TB is fine with that.

A full tournament? No, not even if it helps Princeton this year.

What's that you say? The Ivy League has cost itself an opportunity to have a game on ESPN or ESPN2 during championship week?

TigerBlog knows that eight times as many people watched the lowest rated conference tournament final on TV last year than watched the Princeton-Harvard playoff game on ESPN3. And if there had been no playoff game, then there would have been no ESPN3 game either.

To which TB says, so what? It's all about the NCAA tournament, getting your best team in the field to make a splash for your one-bid conference.

If the Ivy League does want to guarantee itself a championship game each year, then instead of a tournament, why not just have No. 1 play No. 2 for the automatic bid? Or even better, have No. 2 play No. 3 the day before and then the winner plays the rested No. 1, giving No. 1 more of an advantage.

Just don't go to a conference tournament.

Let's recap: the best team doesn't always get to the tournament, and the league loses money on its event, all in the name of having one game on TV in an era when basically every game is on anyway.

Where's the point in any of it?

Enjoy the games - and the fact that the Ivy League is doing the right thing.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

People Say We Monkey Around

TigerBlog was walking outside a locker room near tennis courts one time when a man walked by, showing all the signs of just having played.

He carried his bag. His hair was wet. He had a towel around his neck. His face was beat red.

And he was short.

The person TB was with pointed over to the man and said "you know who that is?" TB had no idea and replied as such.

"Davy Jones. You know, the lead singer from the Monkees."

Upon further glance, that's exactly who it was.

It was definitely the face that TB had seen on the TV show all those years ago.

And then TB heard him speak, in a distinct English voice.

And then he was gone, into the locker room, one more TB brush with greatness behind him.

The locker room was the one on E level of Jadwin Gym, and this was when TB worked at the newspaper. He has no idea why the lead singer of the Monkees would be playing tennis on E level of Jadwin, has no idea if he had a connection to this area, if he played here more than once.

If you're TB's age, then you watched the group - the "pre-fab four," as opposed to the Beatles - and its rather wild TV show. And you know all of the group's biggest songs.

There was "Daydream Believer." "Last Train To Clarksville." "Pleasant Valley Sunday."

The song "I'm A Believer" was written by Neil Diamond of all people.

And of course their most famous offering, which was the theme song for the TV show: "Here we come, walking down the street, we get the funniest looks from, everyone we meet; hey, hey, we're the Monkees, people say we monkey around ..."

Then there were other songs, like "I Wanna Be Free," which flew under the radar, and TB's favorite song by the Monkees, "Shades of Gray."

If you know anything about the Monkees, you know that it was Davy Jones and three Americans, that it's like other people were playing the music, that their sole goal was to capitalize on the Beatles craze, that they looked like they were having so much fun and that they sang some good songs.

TB thought of all that, and the time he saw Jones in Jadwin, when he heard the news yesterday that Jones had died, of an apparent heart attack, at the age of 66.

The Monkees never played a concert at Jadwin, as far as TB knows. TB doesn't have the full concert list for the building's history, but he does know that Boston played here. So did the Beach Boys. And Joan Baez. And Cat Stevens. And Mary Chapin Carpenter (well, she played outside Jadwin).

And of course, the single greatest event it the building's history is the 1978 concert here by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

TB loves the arenas that are used for basketball, hockey, indoor soccer, concerts, political events, the circus and all and have on the concourse great pictures of all of those. The Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State, where Princeton played basketball a few times, is one such arena.

So is Madison Square Garden.

Jadwin isn't quite like that. It's not booked with outside events too often, if ever.

It doesn't usually require quick turnarounds of the seating setup, other than to roll in the south stands for basketball after a track meet.

This weekend it will have the EIWA wrestling championships and then men's basketball and then back to wrestling and back to basketball. Someone here hit upon the idea of setting up a camera to check out the changeover and then turning it into one of those time lapse videos.

That should be cool. We'll see what comes of it.

In the meantime, the world goes on without Davy Jones, the diminutive front man for one of the fun groups of all time, group that was too busy singing to put anybody down.