Monday, March 16, 2015

Tonight's The Night

Manish Mehta was not exactly suited for a life in athletic communications, which is fine. It's not for everyone.

And hey, Manish gave it a try. He worked in the Office of Athletic Communications in the 1996-98 range. TigerBlog is pretty sure he was the women's basketball contact at one point.

TB knows he was a lunchtime basketball player. In fact, that was probably Manish's favorite part of working here.

It certainly wasn't the daily grind of sports information. Manish had this incredible ability to annoy almost everyone and yet do so in a charming way that made almost all of those people really like him. Almost all of those people. Some of his exploits are part of OAC legend.

What Manish was really good at was writing. When he left here, to pursue that as his career, he had made some lifelong friendships, including with TigerBlog. To this day, when you mention Manish to people like Gary Walters, Joe Scott and John Thompson - he called him "muh-NISH" -  the first thing they'll do is smile.

Manish has come a long way from the guy who used to bring quarters of chocolate milk, pounds of lunch meat and loaves of bread to work with him.

Today, Manish is one of the top NFL writers in the country, covering mostly the New York Jets for the New York Daily News. He is a regular guest on sports talk shows all over the country, locally on WFAN, the biggest sports talk station in the country.

TigerBlog saw his friend muh-NISH on a different outlet yesterday. Manish was one of the panelists on ESPN's popular Sunday morning show, "The Sports Reporters."

Jeremy Schaap was the host. Manish was on the panel with William Rhoden of the New York Times and Gene Wojciechowski, who writes for ESPN.

TigerBlog's only pre-show advice to Manish was to mention the Princeton women's basketball team. Early Sunday Manish texted TB to tell him that he was going to bring up the Tigers but that both Rhoden and Wojciechowski had beaten him to it.

Rhoden mentioned Princeton during his opening segment. Wojciechowski mentioned the Ivy League in his "parting shot."

What Wojciechowski said was that this was a great year for Ivy basketball. He mentioned specifically Harvard's 53-51 win over Yale in the Ivy League playoff game at the Palestra yesterday, and he also mentioned the 30-0 Tiger women.

Wojciechowski mentioned a quote by Blake Dietrick, the Ivy League Player of the Year, who said that her two immediate goals were to win an NCAA tournament game and to finish her thesis. Wojciechowski said that, like the Tigers, her quote was perfect.

It's hard these days to turn on ESPN without hearing about the undefeated Tigers.

It's obviously been an incredible year for them. It's far beyond what any of them figured would happen when they came to Princeton.

Did they expect to win? Of course. Did they expect to go 30-0, be ranked where they are and be swarmed by the national media?

Probably not.

Tonight is a big night for the women's basketball team. There will be another media crush, this time around the selection show, which is at 7 on ESPN.

Before he talks about the women, TigerBlog does want to say something about the Ivy League men.

Harvard's win over Yale earned the Crimson a fourth-straight trip to the NCAA tournament, something no Ivy men's team had done since the 1989-92 Princeton men did it. Harvard's margin was razor thin this time around, and in fact it was out of the Crimson's hands a week ago, when it took that miraculous comeback by Dartmouth against Yale to force the playoff in the first place.

Harvard found out last night that it will be the 13th seed in the West region, with a first round date against North Carolina in Jacksonville.

Yale? It came oh so close and had it get away. It's a tough one for the Bulldogs and their faithful, whose team hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1962.

What was the difference between the two? It was Wesley Saunders, who carried Harvard home when it was needed most. Saunders is a total difference maker on that team; his graduation will be huge in terms of the balance of power in Ivy League men's basketball.

As for the Princeton women?

Today is a day to have a party, to celebrate 30-0, to hope that the committee keeps the team in Jadwin Gym for the NCAA tournament.

No matter where they play, the Tigers will be the highest seeded Ivy League women's basketball team ever, bettering their own No. 9 seed two years ago. The 1998 Princeton men were a five seed.

After tonight, Princeton will know exactly what's up, who's next, what stands between them and extending this season more than one more game.

30-0 is perfect. 30-1?

About two months ago, TigerBlog asked Milena Flores, the women's basketball assistant coach, if she would take 30-1 for a final record or play it out from where the season was. She didn't even blink and said she'd play it out.

Now they're at 30-0, with the chance to play it out.

One more day to celebrate perfection. Then it's time for the serious work.

No comments: