Monday, February 27, 2017

Achieving Goals

Hopefully you're not too busy Friday.

If you are, you're missing out on something that TigerBlog is going to say is a bit unprecedented for Princeton Athletics.

It starts at 3, when the men's lacrosse team hosts Johns Hopkins. When that is over, it'll be Princeton-Harvard men's basketball at 5 in Jadwin Gym. Not at 5:30. At 5. Yes, your ticket says 5:30, but the game is actually at 5.

And when that is over? It's Game 1 of the ECAC men's hockey quarterfinal series between Princeton and Colgate at Baker Rink at 7.

That's men's lacrosse at 3, men's basketball at 5 and men's hockey at 7. And they're all huge games.

The first two can actually be seen on ESPNU, if you're not going to be in Princeton.

The back-to-back games on ESPNU are causing some logistical issues. For instance, the lacrosse and basketball PA announcer is the same person, Bill Bromberg. Can he get from Sherrerd Field to Jadwin Gym to do both games?

That would be a pretty good trick, but it's also unlikely, even with a golf cart to get him between the venues. The lacrosse game will probably be over around 4:50 or 4:55, but it's too risky to chance it. There is little probability that the folks at ESPNU would agree to hold the game to get the PA announcer there.

Jeff O'Connor, who was the voice for five Princeton hockey games this past weekend (including one that went three overtimes), will serve as the PA announcer at men's lacrosse. And then he'll do the men's hockey game.

It's hard to imagine another day where Princeton has had men's lacrosse, men's basketball and men's hockey - three of its five ticketed sports - play consecutively like this. If it ever did happen before, it probably was on a Saturday, not a Friday. TB, for one, cannot remember a time where those three played in a row.

The big question, then, is where to park. By the lacrosse field? By Jadwin? By the rink?

Anyway, TigerBlog will revisit all of this later in the week. He just wanted to give you the heads up on it so you can start to plan.

And remember, the men's basketball game is at 5, not 5:30.

Now TB can get to what he really wanted to talk about today. Or, more specifically, the question he wanted to ask.

What is more impressive? Is it:

A) being picked to finish 12th in a 12-team league and finishing seventh, or
B) being picked to finish first in an eight-team league and rolling unbeaten through the first 12 of 14 games to clinch at least a share of the championship

TigerBlog is referring, of course, to the Princeton men's hockey team (Team A) and the Princeton men's basketball team (Team B).

He'll start with men's hockey.

Princeton started out the season 0-6-1, including an 0-5-1 start in the ECAC. This came a year after finishing 12th and after being picked 12th in the preseason poll.

Contrast that with where Princeton was heading into the weekend. The Tigers were playing for home ice in the first round of the ECAC playoffs, something that requires finishing in the top eight in the league.

After a 7-2 win over Brown Friday, Princeton went into its regular-season finale against Yale knowing that a win would mean not eighth place but actually seventh place. Let that sink in.

This one was all Princeton, who won 4-1. The result was that the 0-5-1 league start turned into an 8-6-2 run from there, and now Princeton gets to play at home this weekend.

TigerBlog was at Baker Rink Saturday night for the game against Yale. When it ended, the Tigers gathered in front of goalie Colton Phinney, who has stood in there for four years while literally thousands of pucks have been fired at him. From TB's vantage point above the goal in the press box, it was clear that Princeton knew it had accomplished something special, even without a championship involved.

As for the men's basketball team, neither Friday at Columbia nor Saturday at Cornell was easy, but in the end, they were like every other Ivy game so far this year for Princeton  - wins.

Princeton is now 12-0 in the Ivy League and assured of at least a share of the championship. It's also possible that Princeton has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League tournament, but the tiebreakers get a little confusing.

Harvard is 10-2 in the league and can be no lower than the second seed. As TB said, he's not sure what happens if Princeton and Harvard are both 12-2.

He does know that should Princeton beat Harvard Friday, it would win the outright championship. Should Harvard win that game, Princeton could still win the outright title with a win over Dartmouth Saturday or a Harvard loss at Penn Saturday.

Getting back to the question at hand, which is more impressive?

Princeton is 12-0 in the league. Its first eight wins included margins of victory of one, two, five, eight and two by nine, as well as 15 and 31. The last four, all on the road, have been by 19, 14, 19 and 15.

More than that, Princeton has held eight straight opponents to 60 or fewer points. The Tigers have gotten better and better as the year has gone along.

Getting back to the question, which is more impressive, what men's hockey has done or what men's basketball has done?

It's actually not a real question. And they're both very impressive.

There is one way in which they are comparable. They're both goals that were achieved, men's hockey to host, men's basketball to win a league championship.

And how else are they comparable?

There are still other goals left to attain this year.

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