Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Kaleidoscopic View

TigerBlog starts today in Scotland.

Did you see this story yesterday? It was in the Scottish highlands that a farmer called the police to report that there was a tiger in his barn, and he thought his pregnant cows were about to become the tiger's dinner.

For nearly an hour, none of the police wanted to advance on the tiger, who was sitting completely still. They thought that if they startled him, he'd attack - either the cows or them.

At one point, the cops thought the tiger might be dead, because he hadn't moved at all. Eventually, they began to approach - carefully. And what they found was somewhat astonishing.

The tiger was neither alive nor dead. He was stuffed. And not from eating too many cows.

No, this was a stuffed tiger. If you've been to a Princeton women's soccer game, you've seen such a stuffed tiger on the top of the bench area.

He certainly looked real enough to the farmer and the cops, who agreed that the original call was not a prank or anything.

By the way, you know what was weird about writing those paragraphs? Not capitalizing the "t" in "tiger." It was weird.

TigerBlog writes the word "Tiger" about a million times a week. It's become second nature to capitalize it.

Anyway, TB read that story yesterday afternoon, while he was waiting for the main event of the day - the men's basketball game between Princeton and Penn. Weekday gamedays are interesting, in that they are like pretty much any other day until a few thousand people come by the office at the end.

The capital "T" Tigers had a rough one against the Quakers. In the end, it was Penn 82, Princeton 65, a loss that dropped the Tigers three games back of Penn in the race.

That was in the end. In the beginning it was 11-0 Penn, and that set the tone for everything that happened after that.

As an aside, the last five men's college basketball games that TB has seen live have all started out with one team in double figures before the other team scored. Those five games were Princeton-Columbia, Princeton-Cornell, Princeton-Rowan, Princeton-Penn - and Purdue-Wisconsin.

Anyway, Princeton hung in there last night and would actually take the lead at 31-30. That, though, would last just 19 seconds, before Penn regained the lead. It would never be tied again, and Penn steadily pulled away in the second half.

The common denominator was that Princeton, from that 11-0 deficit, played with no margin for error, something that makes it even more difficult to get into a comfort zone.

As a result, Penn is now 6-0, while Princeton is 3-3 and headed to Harvard (5-1) and Dartmouth (0-6). In fact, the Tigers are currently tied for third in the league with Brown and Columbia, with Yale and Cornell just a game back.

Ah, but there is good news.

For one, Princeton is done with Penn for the regular season. For another, Princeton will be the favorite in almost every game it plays the rest of the way.

And, mostly, there is the kaleidoscope that is the Ivy League tournament. Kaleidoscope, as in a constantly changing view.

One year, your team is 14-0 in the regular season and is forced to play two more games - one on its biggest rival's home court - to get to the NCAA tournament. The next it is out there like a beacon offering hope when the seas get a little rough.

Princeton needs to be in the top four to get into the Ivy tournament. Then it's a two-game, two-day fight for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

If the tournament exists to provide second chances and to keep the teams playing important games all the way to the end, then it's definitely mission accomplished.

That's why this 3-3 Ivy start is different than it might have been in the past. Princeton has all of its goals still ahead, with a slew of huge games on the horizon.

It starts in Cambridge Friday and Hanover Saturday, the first weekend away from home (Princeton has played at Penn already obviously) and the conclusion of a five-games, eight-days run that is always taxing.

Will it end at the Palestra for the Ivy tournament? Princeton still has complete control over whether or not that will happen.

Will it go beyond there?

When last night's game ended, TB is pretty sure there wasn't a Princeton player, coach or fan who walked out of Jadwin who wasn't thinking about how much they'd love another shot at Penn and who wouldn't take their chances on those two days next month.

TigerBlog included.

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