Tuesday, February 21, 2017

At Home On The Road

TigerBlog wrote about Dave Leach yesterday, about how he's leaving for Penn to head up the Campus Rec department there.

Do they still play intramural softball on Franklin Field, like they did when TB was in school? TigerBlog also played intramural flag football and co-ed flag football on Franklin Field, with the rule for the co-ed team that a woman had to be the quarterback.

TigerBlog's team had a quarterback named Donna who could throw a ball a long way and as such made it all the way to the championship game of the league. Waiting there was a quarterback with long fingernails with bright red nail polish who could throw 50-yard spirals without breaking any of them. As such, TB's team lost in the final.

As for intramural softball, TigerBlog had a friend named Andrew who somehow had never played baseball or softball in his life, or for that matter seen the sport. When he smacked a ball deep into the outfield, he literally did not know what to do next. TB's friend Charlie had to yell at him to run, and to run counter-clockwise.

That really happened.

TigerBlog has played intramural sports at Princeton as well. Advice - don't run into angry grad students. He's pretty sure that it was against the grad students that Senior Associate AD for Finance and Administration Chris Brock had his nose busted in what remains one of the bloodier spectacles TB has ever witnessed.

Meanwhile, back to last Friday afternoon, that's when the meeting was called so that Dave could tell everyone he was leaving. TigerBlog was struck by the difference between that Friday afternoon and basically any other Friday afternoon in February in Jadwin Gym in the last, oh, 33 years or so.

There were no basketball games to be played here last weekend. That had to be a first for February.

The first year of a full double round-robin in Ivy League women's basketball was 1982-83, but it doesn't appear that it was until a year later, the 1983-84 season, that the league went to its current format of having teams play at reverse sites. In other words, if the men were, say, at Harvard and Dartmouth, the women would be home with Harvard and Dartmouth.

Since then, TigerBlog knows of no weekend where both teams were away. It may have happened; TB just doesn't know about it. Or why it would have happened.

If you remember back to January, Princeton hosted Yale and Brown for both men and women because of the finals schedule. As a result, both games were away this weekend, and as a result, Jadwin had a much sleepier feel to it than it would normally have on a Friday February afternoon.

Being away was not a problem for either basketball team. Both won twice, at Yale Friday and Brown Saturday, and both seem to be playing their best as they head into the key weeks of the season.

Back a few weeks ago, the women were 1-2 in the league heading into a home weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard. With seven of the last nine games to be played on the road, that weekend was critical. It seemed like making the Ivy tournament might be iffy.

Now? Princeton is 7-2, and if the Tigers win out, they'll have at least a share of the Ivy title. Princeton has not mathematically clinched a spot in the league tournament, with Cornell and Brown both at 5-5, but it will take a lot to keep Princeton out.

Princeton figured to get better as the season went along. The Tigers graduated four starters from last year, so it was going to be awhile until the team fully gelled. Now that it has, it's going to be a tough out.

Penn was unbeaten in the league heading into this weekend, but the Quakers lost at Yale Saturday. Now the standings have Penn at 8-1, followed by 7-2 Princeton and 7-3 Harvard. Princeton, Penn and Harvard all play each other again before the regular season ends, so the race could go in a lot of directions before the tournament.

Interestingly, Princeton is at Penn on Tuesday, March 7, four days before the Ivy tournament will be played on that court. That game could decide the champion, which will be whoever wins the regular season, or could be meaningless.

As for the men, Princeton is 10-0, two games up on Harvard and four games up on Yale. The Tigers continue to get better week-to-week, and this is a team that has everything figured out - right now. There is still a lot to do, though.

Were this any other year, then Princeton would be focused on winning the championship and then turning its attention to the NCAAs. This year, there's the Ivy tournament, with its own set of challenges.

In some ways, it's a good insurance policy to have. Princeton still has to play Harvard, who will be here March 3. If Harvard wins that game, then it would need Princeton to lose once more to have a chance at a co-championship. With no tournament, that would make for a winner-take-all playoff game in which Harvard would have all the momentum. With the tournament, it's just Step 1.

The tournament has certainly changed a lot of the dynamics in the league. In any other year, nobody would really be paying attention to the move that Penn has made, going from 0-6 and out of it to 4-6 and very much in control of what happens the rest of the way. That's one of the things the tournament was supposed to do, make more late-season games meaningful. There's no way to dispute that.

Oh, and should Penn get in the tournament, then it would be a red-hot team that would be playing on its home court.

The tournament is looming, for both Princeton teams, presumably. For now, there's the coming weekend, with the women home against Columbia and Cornell and the men on the road.

And before he goes, TigerBlog wonders if the Ivy League would ever consider going to doubleheaders in basketball, instead of men and women at opposite sites.

Would that be better? It would be less stress on department staffs, with every other weekend off. TB would want to have the men play before the women some weekends and the women play before the men on others.

Would it attract bigger crowds? Would there be a greater number of crossover fans?

Hmm. TB would be on board with it.

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