Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Stop Storming

As we learned yesterday, TigerBlog watched the second half of the Princeton-Harvard men's basketball game Friday night in the Johns Hopkins sports information office.

As the final seconds ticked away, TB had these two thoughts:

1) nice win
2) don't storm the court; please don't storm the court

TigerBlog is a fan of great moments of spontaneous celebration, with the emphasis on the word spontaneous.

Court storming? Not spontaneous.

And possibly dangerous. Someone's going to get trampled at some point, right?

Oh, and by the way. If your team beats Duke and you really want to rub it in? Calmly applaud and then leave quietly, as if it's something you actually expected your team to do, rather than acting like a win over Duke is the ultimate accomplishment in all of human creation.

Thankfully, nobody stormed the Jadwin Gym court Friday after the win.

For starters, it wasn't the ultimate accomplishment - though it was a huge one.

Princeton spent all of last week focused on Friday night, knowing full well that a loss to Harvard in that game would basically have ended the Tigers' season. Had Princeton lost, then Harvard would have been two games clear of Princeton in the loss column with three remaining.

Yes, yes, TB knows what happened Saturday night. Harvard fell behind big at Penn and tried to come back, only to fall short at the end.

And perhaps the same thing would have happened had Harvard won Friday. It's just that the Crimson would still be one game up with two to play, and Princeton would need help from Columbia and/or Cornell.

As it stands now, Princeton knows that if it wins all three of its games (at Yale, at Brown, at Penn) that it will be the outright champion. If it wins two of three, it'll be no worse than co-champion with a playoff game for the NCAA bid.

That one game Friday was a huge swing.

TB doesn't want to talk about Friday, though.

He wants to talk about Saturday.

When you're around Ivy League basketball as long as TB has been, it's easy to forget the uniqueness of the format. In an effort to minimize the amount of class time missed, the league schedules its games for Friday/Saturday.

The road teams have to travel between the games, either a short distance between Philadelphia and Princeton, a more-than-two-hour distance between Providence and New Haven and Hanover and Cambridge or a nearly four-hour ride between Ithaca and New York City.

 And then they have to play again. It's not easy.

It might even be harder than playing back-to-back in hockey, because the minutes are spread among seven or eight players rather than an entire hockey roster.

The physical grind took a back seat to the mental one this past Saturday though, at least for Princeton and Harvard.

It was clear that they were both so focused on the game Friday that they had little emotion left for Saturday. The result was a lackluster first half for Princeton that saw the Tigers trail Dartmouth at intermission before Will Barrett put on an epic shooting display en route to a career-high 24, as Princeton escaped 58-53 against a team it had beaten by 18 on its home court earlier this season.

Harvard wasn't as lucky. The Crimson had a lost weekend, largely because of the slow start against Penn. And that was natural. Why wouldn't Harvard be a bit flat?

TB wonders whether or not it's better to have the bigger game Friday or Saturday. If it's Friday, then there is the huge risk of being unable to pump it back up the next night. If it's Saturday, then Friday is going to be a struggle emotionally.

The fact that Princeton and Penn dominated the league for so long meant that there weren't too many head-to-head battles for first place on Fridays and Saturdays through the years.

Now it's about the final seven days of the season, or possibly more.

Princeton has already lost to Yale, and Harvard has already lost to Columbia.

TigerBlog's sense is that the Crimson are going to win twice this weekend and be 11-3 in the clubhouse a week from today, when Princeton is at Penn. At least Princeton has to think that way.

Brown, by the way, is playing better now, so Saturday night won't be easy either. Nor will Tuesday.

It's an exciting time for the men's basketball team and the Ivy League race.

And it goes without saying that TB is happy that Princeton and Harvard are playing for more than just the top seed in an Ivy tournament.


G Clark said...

I am not a fan of what Harvard is doing in the always-hazy world of recruiting policy. But that is an issue for another time and another forum. The back-to-backs exposed the only weakness in Harvard's program: Amaker tried to coax too many minutes from his freshman floor general, Siyani Chambers. Without Casey and Curry the roster is not very deep. The inevitable price had to be paid, although it took (I am told) a typically horrible Saturday night officiating job to make the Crimson pay it. Let's hope the Tigers don't pay the same price in Providence.

Anonymous said...

I believe that rushing the court after beating Duke has developed for three main reasons, none of which has anything to do with how good Duke is.

1 is ESPN’s ridiculous pedestal-placing of the Duke program for as long as any kid currently in college can remember. 2 is a general dislike of the head coach’s pompousness. 3 is a school’s students trying to show that, actually, they are way better fans than the Cameron Crazies.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Ivy League could play Friday-Sunday. There would be no class time missed and the Sunday game would find both teams refreshed, rested and ready to play a better game.