Monday, January 28, 2013


The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia is part of a pretty nice sports complex, one that houses the 20,000 seat arena alongside Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park.

Unlike the other two, the Wells Fargo Center has had five names in its short existence, starting out as Spectrum II and then becoming the CoreStates Center, the First Union Center and the Wachovia Center and now Wells Fargo.

Together, the buildings are the home of Philadelphia's four major professional sports teams - and about a million other events. For a small area that packs so many people into it on a regular basis, the sports complex has great parking and is easier to get into and out of than any other such complex TigerBlog has ever experienced.

Way back when, that area was home to three venues that no longer exist.

The Spectrum was the arena where the Sixers and Flyers played. Mammoth Veterans Stadium was the home for the Eagles and Phillies. Only one person has ever really liked Veterans Stadium, and that's TigerBlog, who thought it was a great place.

Long forgotten is JFK Stadium, which began its life as Municipal Stadium and was mostly known for hosting the Army-Navy football game from the 1930s to the 1970s.

TB was in the Wells Fargo Center early yesterday, very, very early yesterday, for a lacrosse event.

There was hardly anyone in the building, and when the horn went off to end one of the games, TigerBlog knew that the sound was familiar, though it took him a few minutes to place it.

When an arena of that size is full, then the sound of the horn gets muffled, at least a little.

When it's empty, the horn - followed by the sound of applause from a sparse audience - has a pretty unique sound to it. Maybe it's an echo. Or maybe it's just the sound with little else distracting from it.

Then it came to TB. It was the sound of the end of one of the practice sessions that teams have in the arena the day before the NCAA basketball tournament.

Teams have essentially a glorified shootaround on the game court the day before the games, and these practices are open to the public. Mostly they're just dunk contests or something like that, along with a lot of three-point shooting and foul shooting to get used to the environment.

The actual serious practicing is done at some other site, usually a small college or even high school gym in the area, that the NCAA teams have been able to secure.

TigerBlog has been to a bunch of those pre-tournament shootarounds, and they had the same sound as the nearly empty Wells Fargo Center.

Will Princeton's men's basketball team be experiencing one of those shootarounds in the near future?

Well, it'll basically be a sprint from now through the end of the regular season.

Princeton defeated the College of New Jersey 71-33 yesterday in its post-exam return to the court. Princeton, who hadn't played in 15 days, is now 8-7 on the season, with nothing but Ivy games coming up.

Princeton has played 15 games in 79 days since the season began on Nov. 10.

Beginning Friday night, when Cornell comes to Jadwin Gym, Princeton will play 13 games in 40 days.

The Tigers are 1-0 in the Ivy League, with a win over Penn. Princeton almost got a huge gift Saturday afternoon when Dartmouth almost knocked off Harvard, but the Crimson rallied from 11 down with three minutes to go to win in OT.

For 37 minutes, that game was all Dartmouth. And a loss would have been devastating to the Crimson.

No team has played more than two league games, and only Harvard (2-0) and Princeton (1-0) are undefeated. Columbia, who owns an 18-point win over the same Villanova team that just defeated Louisville and Syracuse last week, lost to Cornell in New York City Saturday, which means that Yale and Brown and Columbia and Cornell split their home-and-homes.

Princeton's first five Ivy games are all at home (the Penn game and now Cornell/Columbia this weekend and Brown/Yale next weekend). The Tigers play at Harvard on Feb. 16 (a Saturday) and then wrap up the season with Harvard at home on a Friday, followed by Dartmouth at home and then a game at Penn.

It's a pretty nicely set up schedule.

The goal of every year is to win the league and get to the NCAA tournament.

That's when the fun really starts.

There is nothing like the NCAA men's basketball tournament in college athletics. As 1996 showed, a team never knows when it's going to do something that will live on forever as one of the great March accomplishments.

For Princeton, the goal is to hear the unmuffled sound of a horn in a nearly empty arena the day before the tournament.

The sprint to get there begins Friday.

On your mark ...

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