Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Silver Linings

TigerBlog got off the elevator and walked into the press box at MetLife Stadium Saturday afternoon and was greeted by Eli Manning.

Well, not Eli Manning himself. More like a life-sized picture of him.

There are a series of pictures of all-time Giants and Jets greats, and of course they got TB thinking about a few things.

First of all, the picture of Manning identifies him as the MVP of Super Bowl XLII. And yet he was also the MVP of Super Bowl XLVI, right?

Patriots fans, correct TB if he's wrong.

TB couldn't help but wonder how nobody has noticed that and corrected it.

Then there were the pictures of the great Jets, which left TB to also wonder how long after he left that Darrelle Revis' picture was removed. Perhaps it had hung in the spot where the random defensive lineman now was showcased.

The occasion was the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, a men's lacrosse doubleheader that started with Princeton-Cornell and concluded with Notre Dame-Syracuse. A crowd of nearly 20,000 was on hand, and as usual there was the thrill of playing in an NFL stadium.

TB hadn't been to the stadium since the first Big City Classic, back in 2010, which happened to be the first events at the new venue. Like that time, TB came to the same general conclusion - he liked Giants Stadium better.

The two games from Saturday ended up being comfortable wins for Cornell and Syracuse.

Now, somewhat amazingly, there will be rematches of both games less than a week later.

Princeton and Cornell meet Friday in the Ivy League semifinals. Notre Dame and Syracuse meet Thursday in the Big East semifinals.

For Princeton, it'll be the first time since 1889 that the Tigers will play consecutive games against the same team within a week. Back then it was against Berkeley Athletics.

Actually, TB is wondering what lacrosse in the 1890s looked like. And if the people who played the sport then had any idea that it would be played in mammoth coliseums 123 years later.

Anyway, you get the point that rematches in such a short turnaround time are rare in lacrosse.

The question is, what will be different, if anything?

Princeton can look at a million silver linings from the game last Saturday, starting with the fact that it gets another chance right away to turn its season completely around. A win over Cornell Friday leaves Princeton one game away from gaining an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament or possibly even on the right side of the at-large discussion.

And then there's the game itself. Princeton outscored Cornell 10-9 over the final 37 minutes. Or at least that's how an optimist can see it.

For the pessimists, there is the fact that Cornell had built an 8-1 lead to that point.

Princeton averages 14.3 turnovers per game, or 3.5 per quarter. The Tigers turned it over twice that many times - seven - in the first quarter against Cornell the other day.

Partly as a result, Princeton shot 36 times, or 6.2 shots below the season average.

And on top of all that, Princeton also knows that it had several chances in the third quarter and early fourth to get as close as three goals, and every time - five in all - Cornell was able to build it back to five.

On the other hand, Cornell will come in dripping with confidence and playing at home.

The game was the second in the first 74 between the two in which both teams reached double figures. It's likely that Friday night's game will be the third.

Perhaps the first quarter will tell the whole story. Princeton never knocked Cornell out of its comfort zone the first time around. Perhaps if it's 5-4 midway through second instead of 8-1 then the pressure will shift from Orange to Red.

Either way, it's a great opportunity for the Tigers.

Princeton lacrosse history is filled with situations where the team that won the first game lost the second, most notably in 2001, when Syracuse ripped Princeton during the regular season and then Princeton came back to win in the NCAA championship game.

Or in 1990, when Princeton turned a 12-goal loss to Johns Hopkins into a one-goal NCAA tournament win. Or in 2002, when the Tigers again reversed a loss to the Blue Jays in the Final Four, this time in the semifinals.

A year later, of course, Princeton wiped out Mikey Powell in a regular season win and then had Powell go for eight points in an NCAA quarterfinal blowout the other way.

Of course, there is precedent for a repeat.

Like in 1889, when Princeton and Berkeley tied twice in a seven-day span.

Last week TB's prediction was that both teams would reach double figures.

This time, it's that there won't be a tie.

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