Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Showdown Before Sundown

TigerBlog was talking yesterday with a neighbor whose daughter plays lacrosse with Miss TigerBlog.

While practice was winding down, TB and the neighbor talked about the kinds of things that neighbors talk about. Kids. Work. How everyone has hated the weather this winter. The dog who was looking out at TB and the world from the backseat of the minivan. Music. How "Modern Family" isn't as funny this season.

That sort of thing.

Practice ended at 7:30, and TB couldn't help but notice one awesome fact as he waited in the parking lot: It was still light out.

TigerBlog, like everyone else, sprung ahead Saturday. It's one of the surest signs that spring is on the way, and this year more than most, that's a very, very comforting thought.

Depending on the time of year, it gets dark around here anywhere from 4:30 to 9, which is a fairly large range.

The first day after everyone "falls back" is the opposite of the elation of knowing that spring is on the way. No, back then, the clocks get turned back, and suddenly darkness descends around 5 or even earlier. It's depressing.

Ah, but not yesterday. Not when it was after 7 and approaching 7:30 and there was still light to be found.

Today's forecast is for a high of 61. The same applies to tomorrow.

Of course, it's not quite spring yet. For starters, Thursday's high is supposed to be 28. Two days of 61 and then back to 28? Then back to near 60 Saturday. Then the 30s and 40s next week?

Oh well. If any winter is going to go kicking and screaming, it's this one.

The final Princeton home events of the 2014 winter season will be held tonight, with a basketball doubleheader between Princeton and Penn that begins with the women's game at 5:30 - it'll still be light out -  and concludes with the men's game at 8.

Penn's men are locked into sixth place; the only question is whether or not the Quakers will have sole possession of sixth or will share it with Dartmouth.

The prize for the Princeton men is a shot at 20 wins, which is what a win would bring. A win would also put Princeton into a third-place tie with Columbia.

It was also bring a semblance of revenge for the stunning loss at the Palestra back in January, back when Princeton was 11-2. It was really the first bad bounce among several early in the league season that took Princeton from legitimate title contender with Harvard into a team that was out of it relatively early.

There's also the quest for T.J. Bray in his final game to get 23 points, which would bring with it two accomplishments: 1) he would become the first Princeton player since Brian Taylor in 1972 to lead the Ivy League in scoring and 2) would give him exactly 1,000 points for his career.

The Princeton-Penn men's basketball rivalry is one of the great ones in the history of college basketball, and the two teams have had some amazing games through the decades. Even with no championship implications, there's always going to be something special about seeing the two teams together on the court.

The Princeton and Penn meet for the 230th time. The women meet for the 76th time, and none of the first 75 had the significance that tonight's game will.

For that matter, only one other women's game - no men's basketball game - ever played in the Ivy League matches what will happen this evening at Jadwin. Princeton and Penn are tied for first place at 11-2 in the league, which makes this winner take all, and by all that would mean the Ivy League championship and the league's bid to the NCAA tournament.

The only other time a similar situation has occurred in the league was in 1995, when Dartmouth defeated Harvard for the women's championship on the last day of the season. It has never happened in men's basketball, as amazing as that is to contemplate.

As for Princeton-Penn women, the Tigers have won 11 straight over the Quakers, all of which have been by double figures, including a 31-point win at the Palestra two months ago.

You know what all that means tonight? Nothing.

Remember back to 1996? Penn had defeated Princeton eight straight times in men's basketball heading into the playoff game at Lehigh. Remember how it went that night for the team with no players who had ever beaten the other team? Right, Princeton won in overtime and then knocked off UCLA five days later.

Tonight will be the final regular season game for Penn's Alyssa Baron, who has started every gamefor four years for the Quakers. She is the school's second all-time leading scorer with 1,758 points - Diana Caramanico is first with 2,415.

Princeton? The Tigers have won four straight Ivy titles. This was the post-Niveen Rasheed year, and even with that, Princeton is on the verge of another championship.

Win and they're in. It applies to both teams, something that's a real rarity in the Ivy League and is therefore incredibly special.

TigerBlog gives the last word to Eric Dolan, the women's basketball contact for Penn athletic communications. In his notes for tonight's game, Dolan has a section on "A Penn win would ..." that lists what a win would mean, followed by "A Penn loss would ..." that has the opposite.

His final entry in the second category was this: "be less good than a win."

That made TB chuckle.

It's something that's true of every game. Tonight it's a little more true than usual.

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