Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tip Time

There are thousands of happy school kids in the state of New Jersey this week, and if like TigerBlog you grew up here, you know why.

This is The Week of the academic year for a New Jersey student.

Monday school. Tuesday off for Election Day. Wednesday school. Thursday and Friday off for the New Jersey state teachers' convention.

It was a week that TB always loved, and he assumes the average New Jersey kid feels the same way to this day.

And why not? Going back to the previous weekend, that'd be two school days in a nine-day span.

What kid doesn't love that?

Plus, when you only have two school days in more than a week, there's really not much that's going to go on then anyway, especially when the teachers are enjoying the moment nearly as much as the kids. TB heard two New Jersey teachers talking yesterday, and they were downright giddy.

TB also wonders what percentage of the teachers go to the convention and what percentage simply take a four-day weekend.

Not that he's anti-teacher in any way. It's an incredibly noble profession.

This week has taken on an entirely different meaning for TigerBlog, especially since his own kids attend school in Pennsylvania, where today and tomorrow are regular school days.

No, this is prime fall/winter overlap for Princeton Athletics, where normally busy weekends now take on a life of their own.

Princeton has 12 teams competing this weekend, of which seven are fall sports and five are winter sports.

Included in that list, amazingly, is basketball.

There was a time when the college basketball season couldn't start until Dec. 1. Not anymore.

Princeton opens the basketball season Sunday, when the men are home against Florida A&M at 1 and the women are at Rutgers at 2.

And guess what? By the time Princeton plays, four other Ivy men's teams and all seven other women's teams will have played. And the other three men's teams play within a few hours of when Princeton does.

It's not like Princeton is playing early or something in some special event.

Oh, there are those too. Take TB's favorite non-Princeton college basketball team, Georgetown. The Hoyas open their season tomorrow night against Oregon. Where, you ask? On a military base in South Korea.

It should be a fascinating year for both the Princeton men and women.

The men have to replace the Ivy League Player of the Year, Ian Hummer, who also happens to be the second-leading scorer in program history behind only Bill Bradley, as well as Mack Darrow and Brendan Connolly. Without them, Princeton has been picked fourth in the league's preseason poll, which gives the Tigers a chance to play without the pressure of being a favorite on their backs.

Princeton once again has a big team, with seven players at least 6-8 and all but one player on the roster at 6-2 or taller.

The preseason favorite in Ivy men's baskeball is Harvard, and much has been made about the Crimson's basketball success. There will come a time in the season when Harvard becomes the focus, but first there is a pretty good few months of a non-league games.

That is, after all, one of the by-products of starting so early. It seems like the Ivy League games are 100 years away.

Princeton's first Ivy game is actually two months and one day from the season opener. Between now and that game at Penn, Princeton will travel to Butler (for a game next Saturday) and then places like Houston (to play at Rice) and Las Vegas (to play Pacific and Portland). There are also shorter trips to Rutgers, Penn State, Bucknell and Liberty.

The home schedule has the opener against the Rattlers, as well as Lafayette, George Mason, Kent, FDU and the Division III opponent, Kean.

As for the women, they are again the preseason favorite, though they go forward without Niveen Rasheed and the three other graduates - Kate Miller, Meg Bowen and Lauren Polansky.

Princeton has won four straight Ivy League championships, but TB assumes most league coaches were circling this year as the year that Princeton comes back to Earth. Why wouldn't they, considering Rasheed is the best player Princeton has ever had (and one of the three best in Ivy women's basketball history), the other three were major contributors and the added fact that Princeton graduated three 1,000-point scorers (Addie Micir, Devona Allgood and Lauren Edwards) the two years prior.

But Princeton is hardly out of talent. And TB senses that there is the feeling of something to prove this year.

The home schedule includes games against 2013 NCAA teams Marist, Delaware and St. Joe's, as well as perennially strong Illinois State. There are trips to, among other places, Georgetown, Oregon (to take on Portland State and Oregon), Charlottesville (a tournament that opens with Alabama and includes Virginia and Coppin State), Navy and Drexel.

It seems insanely early to be thinking about regular season college basketball games, but that's what time of year it is now.

Personally, TB liked it better when the schedule started later, at least after Thanksgiving.

It's here now, though.

What kind of March will it be for the Princeton men and women?

Well, the long, grinding march to find out begins Sunday.

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