Monday, March 25, 2013

Eagles And Epees

Okay, so TigerBlog was wrong about his Georgetown-Gonzaga championship game prediction.

Gonzaga was done in by a ridiculous nine-possession spurt by Wichita State that saw the ninth-seed shockingly (get it? Wichita State is the Shockers, which actually is short for Wheat Shockers) score on all nine possessions, totaling 23 points. It was one of the great runs of all time anywhere on any level in any basketball game.

And Georgetown? The Hoyas were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When the draw was announced eight days ago, Florida Gulf Coast was just another modified version of a major school, no different than North Carolina A&T or Western Kentucky or something like that, a school that nobody thought twice about when it's name was revealed.

Hey, for that matter, TigerBlog would have objected to FGCU's presence in the tournament at all, after Mercer won the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title, only to lose in the conference tournament final to the second-place Eagles. Unless the A-Sun adopted the three plays two, winner plays one format, in which case then TB would be fine with it, especially since FGCU beat third-place Stetson in the semifinal.

So who could have guessed that FGCU would come into the NCAA tournament the way it has, like some combination of the Miami Heat and Harlem Globetrotters, that a team that lost twice to Lipscomb during the regular season would suddenly become not only a dynamic cohesive juggernaut but also quite possibly the most entertaining basketball team ever assembled.

That's the real lure of the Eagles. They are just so much fun to watch.

When FGCU had Georgetown on the ropes and there was a change of possession, did the Eagles pull the ball out and wait to get fouled? Oh no. Not this team. No, instead it was a one-handed semi-no-look alley-oop for a one-handed dunk by a player who seemed to come out of nowhere.

Actually, it's sort of a metaphor for the entire team. Players nobody heard of who came out of nowhere and dunked all over the tournament. The way that the Eagles put away San Diego State yesterday? It was mesmerizing.

TigerBlog had to spend six hours in the car Friday, and as he listened to sports talk radio, it was all about Harvard's win over New Mexico Thursday night. Now, after three days of FGCU, that seems like last year's tournament.

And there you have TB's thoughts on Florida Gulf Coast.

While FGCU was capturing the hearts of the basketball world, and even the casual sports fan, Princeton was busy capturing something that only one other Division I school has done this year.

While 99% of the college athletic world was focused on the basketball tournaments, Princeton was winning the NCAA fencing championship in San Antonio.

The fencing championship is a co-ed event, and Princeton figured to have an edge on the women's side, which meant that the men needed to keep it close enough before the women competed.

At least that's what the fencing coaches told TigerBlog in the mail room last week before they left.

The mail room is next door to TigerBlog's office, and is the home to mailboxes, a copy machine, a folding machine, sometimes leftover food - and the coffee machine. TB doesn't drink coffee and never has, but he understands that the fencing coaches make very, very strong coffee.

Anyway, that's exactly how it played out.

The men were in second place, trailing Penn State 94-83 (number of bouts won) when the women took over. And the women made up that difference and more, outscoring Penn State 99-69 on the women's side.

Actually, it was Notre Dame who made a run at Princeton and finished second, as Princeton won 182-175. Ohio State finished third.

Individually, Eliza Stone was Princeton's lone champion and the second individual woman champion in program history, after Eva Petschnigg in 2000. Susannah Scanlan was a runner-up, falling in the epee final to Notre Dame's Courtney Hurley, who had been Scanlan's teammate at the Olympics last summer, where both were part of the bronze medal-winning US team.

Oh, and what did Princeton accomplish that only one other Division I school has so far this year?

Princeton has now won two NCAA team championships.

The Tigers won the NCAA field hockey title in the fall and now have added fencing to the list. Only Oregon, which won women's cross country and indoor track and field, has won two NCAA team titles this year, besides Princeton.

And the Tigers also have the NCAA distance medley relay national champion as well.

Anyway, it was a great weekend for Princeton fencing. And for Florida Gulf Coast.

One may have gotten all of the attention, but they are both fabulous achievements.

No comments: