Friday, May 2, 2014

Tournament Thoughts

TigerBlog will be at the women's lacrosse tournament tonight.

He'd rather be at the men's, no offense to the women. It's just that he was hoping Princeton would have qualified for both.

The first game today on Sherrerd Field will be Harvard and Penn at 4, followed at 7 by Princeton and Cornell. The winners meet Sunday at noon, and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament will go to the winner.

Regardless of what happens this weekend, Princeton and Penn will be the Ivy League co-champs.

On the men's side, it's Cornell and Penn in the first game and Harvard and Yale in the second.

Sherrerd Field will become the first facility to host both the men's and women's Ivy tournaments. The Ivy tournament is being played at Princeton for the first time on the women's side and at Harvard for the first time on the men's side.

The Ivy League is an interesting league.

It famously has no tournament in basketball (or postseason in football), but it has these two lacrosse tournaments. There is a championships series for baseball and softball but just the regular season in everything else.

TigerBlog is okay with most of it - he'd love to see the Ivy football champion in the playoffs.

He's long on record as hating the idea of a basketball tournament, and he loves what the lacrosse tournaments have done for the regular season. It's not a one-size-fits-all situation; you can be pro-tournament in one sport and anti-tournament in another.

It's like when people say you have to invite Aunt Martha to the wedding because you invited Aunt Polly. Why does it have to work that way? Maybe Aunt Polly has always been nice to you while Aunt Martha is a drunken pain in the butt? So what if they're sisters.

TigerBlog will be okay with a basketball tournament shortly after the league starts to get multiple bids to the NCAA tournament, something that has never happened. And even then he wouldn't want to see a full eight-team tournament.

He loves the lacrosse tournaments, how they put such a premium on getting into the top four in the league, how just about every game has something riding on it. Wouldn't that be even more true in basketball?

The difference is that TB wants to give the league its best chance to succeed in the NCAA tournament. There will almost surely be multiple Ivy League teams in both the men's and women's NCAA tournament, and these tournaments are affording the other teams the chance to move into the field as well.

Besides, there's a big difference between establishing yourself as the best team in a double round-robin league as opposed to a single round robin. If anything, TB would love to see soccer tournaments, though that would also mean giving up a regular season game, he assumes.

Meanwhile, back at lacrosse, TigerBlog is still not 100% convinced that Princeton won't find itself in the NCAA tournament on the men's side when the field is announced Sunday at 9 on ESPNU. He's not exactly willing to bet the college tuition that the Tigers will be in, but he thinks there is at least a slight chance.

That chance requires Penn to win the Ivy League tournament and Hofstra to win the CAA tournament and get back into the top 10 in RPI. TigerBlog won't pretend to be an expert in everything that would go into getting Hofstra back into the top 10 or would get Princeton into the field. He knows a Navy win over Maryland and a Loyola win over Johns Hopkins will help but might not be enough.

Maybe he's being falsely optimistic. Certainly he thinks the odds are small. But they're not zero at least.

As for the women, TB thinks that Princeton has a great chance to be in the NCAA field no matter what happens this weekend in the Ivy tournament. A win in the first round would certainly be a big help; two wins would make any speculation unncessary.

Princeton has made a big second-half run, after starting the season 1-3 and dropping the league opener at Brown. Now it's a Princeton team big on confidence, playing at home against a Cornell team it beat 10-7 in overtime on March 29, hopefully to be followed by a game against either Penn (a 9-5 Tiger win) or Harvard (15-6 Tigers).

The indisputable part about a conference tournament is that it can be an exciting event. TigerBlog will be the first to admit that without a basketball tournament, the league is missing out on some drama, though in TB's mind, that's a fair trade-off to get the best team to the NCAA field.

In lacrosse, with multiple teams going, you get the best team and the drama.

And this weekend you get it at Sherrerd Field.

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