Monday, March 20, 2017

What A Difference A Week Makes

TigerBlog was in Franklin Field when he remembered that he had left something important in his car.

It was his sandwich. Tuna, on a plain bagel, to be exact.

This actually the second time he had to go back to the parking lot. The first was to get his umbrella, the big one that says "Education Through Athletics" on it.

The second time, he went out at the closed end of the stadium, through an old rusty gate. He walked around the sidewalk, past some football practice equipment and then towards the bridge to Penn Park.

He walked back to his car, got the sandwich and started back to the stadium, which would be the site of the Princeton-Penn men's lacrosse game, scheduled to start in exactly 90 minutes.

There was nobody else in the parking lot. There were no other people anywhere, it seemed.

As he walked past the back of the Palestra, there was no excitement in the building, only a few workers finishing some project or another. It dawned on TB as he walked by that at that moment exactly seven days earlier, Princeton and Penn were tipping off in their Ivy League men's basketball semifinal.

There had been buzz there at that moment. The same was true six days to the minute earlier, as Princeton at that time was starting to pull away from Yale in the Ivy championship game.

At this one? There was just gray, cold drizzle.

Oh what a difference seven days can make.

When TB had been on that spot a week earlier, there was buzz. When he came back, there was nothing even close.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament is definitely unique. As TB has said many times before, it is the only major sporting event that he can think of that gets worse as it goes along.

In fact, the best part of the NCAA tournament is over. The best two parts, actually.

First is the build up to the selections. The teams have no idea where they're going, and any speculation is just that, speculation. If you've never been around a team that's about to find out its fate, there are few things to compare in college athletics as when its name comes up and the entire group explodes.

The absolute best part of the entire event is Thursday and Friday, when there are 32 games, 16 each day, starting at noon and running deep into the night. If this game isn't good, that one on the next channel is.

It's wall-to-wall, different venues, different stations, different announcers, teams you don't usually see, teams from smaller conferences who never get a chance to play teams from the power conferences anywhere other than the power team's home court.

It's the best part.

Now it's down to the Sweet 16, which is still okay. And then the Final Four, which is overhyped.

Nope, the best part of the tournament has come and gone.

But not without a few thoughts about what TB has seen to date:

* TB's favorite part of the games he did see this weekend was during North Carolina-Arkansas, when the TV camera showed John Thompson - the other one, not the Princeton one - as he did the Westwood 1 radio feed. And who was there with him? Former Princeton play-by-play man John Sadak, who is certainly on the rise in his broadcasting career, well-deservingly so. 

* What is the point of instant replay in college basketball? Is it to put tenths of seconds back on the clock or is to correct clearly wrong calls? Northwestern was hurt - but not beaten - by an obvious non-call of goaltending, which was compounded by the technical foul called against Wildcats coach Chris Collins for protesting. The worst part about the replays is that they grind the game to halt, often for no reason at all. Reset the clock to 28.2 instead of 28.5? But here was a legitimately wrong call, one that the rules prevent from being corrected. Why can't calls like that be reviewed? The argument is that it would slow the game down, and there are already way too many reviews. TB would suggest that any review consist of one look. If it's not obvious then, the game goes on, with the call standing.

* TigerBlog told you he had no confidence in his Final Four picks, and Villanova and Florida State are already gone. Oh well. He was technically right on his prediction that his predictions weren't good.

* The wedding singer guy who was pretty funny in "The Hangover" is unwatchable in the DirecTV commercials. That's the same guy, right?

* It's amazing how few players TB has heard of on the teams in the NCAA tournament. It's not because of the one-and-done thing either, because that affects so few teams. He really hasn't been paying attention.

* To follow up on that point, he had to be among the very few people who was happy that the Wichita State-Kentucky game ended, because it meant it was time for Ohio State-Denver lacrosse to start on ESPNU.

* The end of some of these games gets to be excruciating, between time outs, fouls and replay reviews. TB has no idea how many times a team has ever erased even a two-possession deficit in the final minute by fouling and having foul shots not fall. If it happens, it doesn't happen a lot. College basketball needs to figure out what to do about this. TigerBlog will help - how about tinkering with timeouts. Add a fifth media timeout to the first half and eliminate some of the team timeouts. Or limit when they can be called, perhaps only when your team has possession, which it no longer does after a made basket.

* Donnie Marsh, whom TB mentioned earlier this month, got to the NCAA tournament with Texas Southern, who lost to North Carolina 103-64 in Round 1. Still to this day no No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 in the men's NCAA tournament, and it just shows you how incredible Princeton's 50-49 loss to Georgetown in 1989 was. 

* Like all Princeton fans, TigerBlog wanted to see Notre Dame win in the second round against West Virginia. You always root for the team that eliminated you to do well.

Speaking of Princeton, the basketball season has come to an end. The last game was Friday night, when the women's basketball team played a close and entertaining game against Villanova in the WNIT, falling 59-53.

The Princeton women finished second in the Ivy League in 2017, behind Penn, and then reached the Ivy tournament final, falling to the Quakers. The Tigers return a lot next year, including Ivy Rookie of the Year and first-team All-Ivy selection Bella Alarie and second-team selection Leslie Robinson.

One of the best parts of the women's game Friday was at the end of the first quarter. About half of the members of the men's basketball team had come in, and there was a PA announcement recognizing them on their great season, something that drew a huge ovation from the Jadwin crowd.

It was well-earned.

Princeton had a great 2016-17 season, one of the best it's had in the last, oh, 35-40 years. Not the best, but certainly in the conversation. And, again, these Tigers went 16-0, something that hadn't been done before because of the Ivy tournaments.

No, the game against Notre Dame didn't end the way Princeton and its fans would have loved to see, but that's just a minor thing to TigerBlog. It doesn't take away from what this team accomplished, and how much fun it was to watch these guys play.

And hey, they got to be part of the very best part of the NCAA tournament. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

98% of the top 100 men's teams end their season with a loss. Bunch of losers!