Friday, March 20, 2015

The Main Event

TigerBlog tried to stay up to watch the Georgetown game. Much the same way he did when Monday Night Football was a new idea, he saw a little but fell asleep.

Happily, the Hoyas won, ending that streak of falling to double-figure seeds - even if one of those double-figure seeds reached the Final Four, another reached the Elite 8 and another reached the Sweet 16. Why would the media add context to it?

Harvard lost, even though the Crimson really fought North Carolina hard and Wesley Saunders was great. TigerBlog joins all Princeton fans in celebrating his great career and the end of his eligibility.

Two No. 14 seeds won. Mostly what it shows is that there isn't much of a difference between the power conference teams and the next level teams if you can get the power conference teams out of their buildings, which you can't in the regular season. 

There were a bunch of close games. There were some head-scratching calls by officials.

Northeastern couldn't get a shot off at the end against Notre Dame. VCU couldn't convert at the end of regulation and lost to Ohio State in OT. The kid from SMU took it way too personally; it wasn't his fault. What was he supposed to do? Not go for the ball and let the UCLA kid have an uncontested offensive rebound on a ball that was nowhere near the basket?

Best of all, the kid from Georgia State knocked his father - the team's coach - off of his stool with his game-winning three against Baylor. The coach was only on the stool because he tore his Achilles while celebrating the conference tournament championship.

And basically that was Day 1 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

What else does TigerBlog have for you today?

Well, there was the NCAA wrestling that was on ESPN3. Princeton sent five wrestlers to St. Louis, and two Tigers won their first round matches.

There was also NCAA fencing, Day 1 of four. Princeton won the NCAA title two years ago.

This is spring break week at Princeton, which means almost nobody is around. There is a lacrosse doubleheader tomorrow, a big one in fact, as all four teams who will be part of it are currently 1-0 in the Ivy League.

It starts at noon when Princeton's 13th-ranked women meet Harvard. The Tigers come in on a short turnaround after Wednesday's 12-11 win over Penn State to go to 5-1 overall.

Olivia Hompe is Princeton's leader in goals (14) and points (21). Erin McMunn leads the team in assists with eight to go with nine goals, and Erin Slifer has been strong all year, with 12 goals and five assists.

Princeton defeated Dartmouth in its Ivy opener. Harvard knocked off Columbia.

In the interest of gender equity, or perhaps coincidence, the Princeton men are also ranked 13th (in the media poll anyway; they're 10th in the coaches' poll), also 5-1 overall, also 1-0 in the Ivy League and also, amazingly enough, a 12-11 winner in its midweek game.

Princeton's trio of Mike MacDonald, Kip Orban and Ryan Ambler have been incredible the last two games. After getting shut out against Maryland, the three have combined for 24 goals and 16 assists in the last two games.

MacDonald had six assists against Penn and then seven goals against Rutgers. Orban had seven goals against Penn. Ambler had five goals against Penn and then five assists against Rutgers. All three either tied or bettered their career highs in goals, assists and points the last two games. 

Their next test is against a Yale team ranked 9th in both polls, in the second game of the doubleheader, beginning at 3. 

And there you have all that.

Really, though, the Princeton athletic focus this weekend - the main event, as it were - will be at the University of Maryland, where the women's basketball team is hoping to do something that it has never done before and that an Ivy  team has only done once in the history of the league. Win in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.

This will be the first time that an Ivy League women's team is the higher seed, as the Tigers are the No. 8 in the region. The first round opponent tomorrow morning at 11 is Green Bay, a 28-4 team that defends well and can make some shots. You don't get to be 28-4 without being really good.

Nor do you get to 30-0 without being really good.

That's where Princeton is now, at 30-0.

Does Princeton need this win to validate its perfect regular season? No. At least TigerBlog doesn't think that way.

No matter what happens, this will go down as a history-making season by the Princeton women. Nothing that happens tomorrow morning changes that.

At the same time, a win in the tournament would be incredibly special. Certainly Princeton will be confident. The Tigers haven't played in 10 days, and it's been since the beginning of January that the team played a non-Ivy opponent.

Still, this team will be primed and ready to go. And it's for real. Princeton did not schedule to get to 30-0. Princeton exceeded any reasonable expectation, not only with the wins but also with the blowout manner in which almost all of them were achieved.

At the same time, will that hurt Princeton when this game comes down the stretch and is close? Or will Princeton be able to execute even though it has been in that situation so few times this year?

One fan thinks the Tigers are ready for a big run. President Obama, whose niece Leslie Robinson is a freshman on the team, picked Princeton to get to the NCAA championship game before losing to UConn.

TigerBlog? He's not picking the Tigers to go that far.

He just wants to see Princeton come out and play its best against Green Bay and see what happens from there. He would love to see the team get to 31-0. And get a shot at Maryland to try to get to 32-0.

It won't be easy. It would be wild.

With everything else going on this weekend, it's the No. 1 storyline for Princeton athletics. If winning the Ivy League became a foregone conclusion at some point this winter and if the quest for 30-0 dominated headlines, it was always this weekend that had Princeton's focus.

This is what the team has wanted all year. This is what this team is built for.

The NCAA tournament.

The main event.

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