Friday, December 4, 2015

Weekend Hoops

There is no way to tell how long the ride is from Princeton to Stony Brook.

It could be about 2.5 hours. It could be forever. Depends on the Long Island traffic.

TigerBlog has done it once, this past spring, when Princeton played lacrosse out there. That was on a Saturday, when the traffic was a little lighter.

As an aside, if you've forgotten what last year's spring weather was like, that game was played on April 4, on a field completely lined with snow.

Anyway, TB has been to Hofstra a million times, but he'd never been to Stony Brook before that.

It's a really nice campus, with outstanding athletic facilities. That's the first thing he noticed. It's a way bigger campus than TB would have guessed, with an enrollment of more than 25,000. That's pretty big.

Princeton's men's basketball team will be out there tomorrow afternoon at 2 to take on the Seawolves. If you're a Princeton fan, you can do that game and, regardless of traffic, be back here in plenty of time for the other big Princeton basketball game this weekend, the women's game against unbeaten Michigan Sunday.

For the men, Stony Brook is a strong opponent. The Seawolves are a perennial contender in the America East, and their best result this year to date is actually a loss, in OT to No. 13 Vanderbilt.

Princeton is 4-0 and looking to do something that it has never done before, ever, in the history of the program, and that's score at least 90 points in three straight games. Actually, that's a subplot. Princeton is just looking to get to 5-0.

On the women's side, the 5-1 Tigers host Michigan, who will bring a gaudy 7-0 record into the game. And will be smarting after last year's 30-point loss to Princeton in Ann Arbor.

The game can be seen on ESPN2. That's a pretty significant thing.

Women's basketball doesn't make it onto ESPN or ESPN2 all that often, and when it does, it usually involves UConn or Notre Dame or teams like that. Or both, as they play on ESPN tomorrow.

Now it's Princeton's turn to be on a bigger stage.

Why? Because Princeton has made a significant impact on women's college basketball on a national level, and it's been that way for the last seven years now. Yes, last year's record-breaking season was epic, but don't forget that Princeton has been to the NCAA tournament five times in six years now. And those five would be the five best seeds for an Ivy League team in league history.

Oh, and the game also marks the return to Jadwin Gym of Melanie Moore, who was on Courtney Banghart's original staff here at Princeton.

So that's two pretty good basketball games this weekend that are on the schedule. Both of which are seeable for Princeton fans in person.

One of them, though, is seeable anywhere.

That says a lot about where the college sports world has gone in the last 20 or so years. When TigerBlog first started here, it was a big thing to have a men's basketball game on ESPN. Or ESPN2, back when ESPN2 was supposed to be the more casual younger brother of the main channel, and so it had much more informal graphics and looks.

TB isn't sure if you remember that.

Princeton was fortunate that it was able to work out an agreement with ESPN when ESPNU first came along, and Princeton Athletics and ESPN have had a great relationship for more than a decade. This has opened the door for several Princeton teams to have games televised by the company that can honestly call itself the "worldwide leader" in this area.

ESPN has also been open to the idea of having women's teams featured as well, including in the past Princeton soccer and water polo.

The current agreement has seven Princeton home events per year on one of the ESPN networks, but it's almost always been ESPNU.

And yes, the WatchESPN app and ESPN3 have brought the games to iPads and phones and laptops and all. And yes, there are very few cable companies that don't have ESPNU on the basic package.

But still, there's something a little special about having an event on ESPN2.

And women's basketball to boot.

Princeton at 5-1, against Michigan at 7-0, on ESPN2 Sunday at 4.
The Princeton women have earned this moment in the spotlight.

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