Friday, May 19, 2017

More Friday Thoughts

The Princeton University Department of Athletics had a BBQ last night in the lobby of Jadwin Gym.

TigerBlog was tied up for a little while before the party started, and when he finally got to the lobby of Jadwin, he saw a bunch of pizza boxes and thought he might have missed out. Then he saw assistant wrestling coach Sean Gray, who pointed him in the right direction.

That direction, by the way, would be the ribs, the bacon wrapped shrimp and the mac and cheese. That worked.

Oh, there was also a hot dog truck outside. TigerBlog didn't venture there, but the cheesy fries looked pretty, well, cheese-covered. 

The party is an end-of-athletic-year event. Or a near-end-of-athletic-year event, anyway.

Last Friday, TigerBlog offered up a bunch of different thoughts, and he was pleased with how it came out. Since another week has sailed by, TigerBlog will again do what he did last week. Who knows, maybe this will become a Friday tradition.

*  Tournament locations

The Ivy League announced this week that the men's and women's basketball tournaments will return to the Palestra for Year 2. It also was announced that the men's lacrosse tournament will be played at Columbia.

If you recall the first Ivy basketball tournaments, you remember that the No. 1 seeds won both tournaments - Princeton's men and Penn's women. You also might recall that Princeton's men, as the top seed, had to play fourth-seeded Penn on Penn's home court. It wasn't just that - Penn had been the second-hottest team in the league by season's end to climb into the fourth spot in the first place.

As TB wrote at the time, it was the worst-case scenario for the league in Year 1, with a 14-0 team having to go play at the fourth seed, one that was on a roll by the end of the season. It ended up working out in the end, at least in terms of sending the best teams to the NCAA tournament, but it raised all kinds of questions of fairness, especially when Penn very nearly knocked off Princeton in the semifinals.

It's still a very divided crowd of Ivy basketball fans out there. TigerBlog has heard any and all opinions - the Palestra is the perfect spot, the Palestra is the worst spot, the top seeds should host, the men and women need to be together, the perfect spot is Madison Square Garden or the Barclay's Center, there shouldn't be a tournament at all.

One thing TigerBlog will say - he'll be surprised if Penn is again the fourth seed (on either side) with a matchup against the undefeated league champ, as was the case this year. It was almost laughably unfortunate for the Ivy League that it happened that way last year.

And TB will also say that Year 3 will be a big indicator as to what the league is thinking in terms of all those issues raised two paragraphs ago.

As for the men's lacrosse tournament, TigerBlog's first thought was like everyone else's: But Columbia doesn't have a men's lacrosse team. His second thought was unlike most people's: Who will do the stats?

His third thought was that it's a pretty good idea. TigerBlog is all for trying out different game times at basketball, for instance, to see what resonates. The same logic applies here.

On the down side, the regular season champ has hosted each of the first eight Ivy men's lacrosse tournaments, and they were spread out around five locations.

On the plus side, there are probably more Ivy League men's lacrosse alums in New York City - or a short drive - than there are the rest of the world combined. Maybe having the tournament there will draw them to Columbia; maybe it won't. TigerBlog is okay with taking a year to see.

Maybe there will be lessons learned that will then apply to basketball.

* What do you write on a card to the men's lacrosse coach after he has a baby?

TigerBlog wrote this to Matt Madalon (and his wife Ashleigh) after the birth of their daughter Waverly Rose last week: May she bring you even more joy than knowing you have three more years of Michael Sowers.

* Speaking of men's lacrosse

And, of course, TigerBlog is happy to speak of men's lacrosse. The quarterfinals are this weekend, and TB's four predicted Final Four teams all advanced out of the opening round.

For the record, the games this weekend are Ohio State-Duke and Notre Dame-Denver tomorrow and Syracuse-Towson and Maryland-Albany Sunday. Also for the record, TB's predicted Final Four was Ohio State, Denver, Syracuse and Maryland.

Of those, TB feels like the two most likely to make it through this weekend are Ohio State and Denver. The more TB watches  Ohio State, the more he likes this team.

It wouldn't shock TB to see Towson beat Syracuse, and of course Albany has a shot at Maryland. TB will stay with his four pre-tournament picks though.

* Speaking of women's lacrosse

The Princeton women are in the NCAA quarterfinals, playing at Penn State Sunday at 1. TigerBlog saw the first meeting between these teams back on March 21, when Penn State defeated the Tigers 13-8.

A week ago, Penn State led James Madison 8-1 in the first half, had JMU come back to tie the game at 9-9 and then won by five (19-14). In the regular season against Princeton, Penn State led Princeton 5-0, had the Tigers come back to take a 6-5 lead and then won, also by five.

What does it mean for tomorrow? Nothing at all.

Princeton is playing very well. The Tigers have great balance and depth, and they've played in a ton of big games, this year and in recent years. It should be a really good one - and you can see it on the Big Ten Network (Sunday at 1). 

* Aw, shoot

TigerBlog was talking to Princeton women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer at the department staff meeting yesterday about the impact that the shot clock has had on the pace of play. TB said he would look up how many shots per game Princeton averaged in the recent years to see if there had been a jump.

He had no idea what he'd learn. Here's what he found out:

Year, and Princeton's shots per game
2011 - 24.1
2012 - 24.3
2013 - 24.9
2014 - 24.9
2015 - 24.5
2016 - 22.8

That's remarkably consistent, actually. Five years between 24.1 and 24.9 and one with 22.8.

And this season, with the rules change? Princeton has averaged 32.1 shots per game.

* Speaking of softball

Don't forget. Tonight is the first game in the NCAA softball regional for Princeton, who will play at Florida State at 7 on ESPNU.

* And finally ...

The staff meeting yesterday also was where Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux Samaan announced the winner of the Lorin Maurer Award. The award is given to a staff member in memory of Lorin's great spirit; Lorin was the Friends' Group coordinator who passed away in a plane crash in 2009, shortly after turning 30.

The winner this year was Elysee Nicolas. Nobody here, by the way, has ever called him "Elysee" or "Nicolas," not in his 35 years or so working for the Department of Athletics.

Nope, he's just "Nicky." He's one of the members of the grounds crew, a hard-working and well-liked group that does so much to enhance the experience of the athletes. Together, the grounds crew builds great relationships with coaches and athletes, and they are among the most visible members of the department in the daily lives of the people who compete here.

TB knew Nicky was the winner, and so he focused on him as Mollie talked about Lorin and what the award means. At that moment, Nicky had exactly zero idea that he was about to be honored.

As he was announced and came forward, the rest of the department stood and cheered him. You could tell he was overwhelmed, and a bit taken aback that he was being recognized.

TigerBlog was very happy for Nicky. He's a warm, friendly, caring man, one who has done his job far away from the spotlight all these years.

He definitely earned this moment in the spotlight - and the applause that came with it.

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