Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Catching Up II

TigerBlog yesterday combined a few items into one entry under the heading "Catching Up."

And now, just one day later, he again has some things to catch up on.

* As he mentioned yesterday, TB is writing a series of feature stories as part of the celebration of the major milestones in Princeton Rowing. The first two were posted yesterday.

One of them was on Amy Richlin and is an excerpt from TB's book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton. Richlin is the dynamic personality who wouldn't take no for an answer when it came to allowing women to row back when coeducation first began. 

TB first came to speak with her to investigate the legend that said that C. Otto von Kienbusch, for whom the top senior female athlete award is named, was an opponent of women at Princeton until the first women's rowing captain went and talked him into being a supporter. It turned out not to be the case, but there wouldn't been women's rowing as early as there was without Richlin, that first captain.

You can read about her HERE.

The other feature TB did was recommended by men's heavyweight coach Greg Hughes. He suggested looking deeper into the story of Gordon Sikes Class of 1916, for whom the Sikes Room in the Shea Rowing Center is named. As it turns out, Sikes suffered from polio as a child, which left him unable to walk without braces and crutches for the rest of his life. 

Despite that, he attended Princeton, was the coxwain for the men's rowing team and went on to be the first lightweight coach, as well as running the forerunner of the career services office for 45 years. When he left Princeton, no one had worked at the University longer.

You can read all about him HERE.

* Mark Kovler was a first-team All-American lacrosse midfielder who scored 34 goals as a senior in 2009. He was recently inducted into the Potomac chapter of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Michael Biles was another Princeton middie, one whose career was hampered by injuries. Biles graduated in 2007.

Here is something that Kovler tweeted Monday night:

Kovler's last game was a 6-4 loss to Cornell in the 2009 NCAA quarterfinals. It remains one of the tougher losses that TB has witnessed in all of his time here. Kovler had one of the goals in that game, one week after he had five goals and one assist in a 10-7 opening round win over UMass.

After the loss to Cornell, then-Tiger coach Bill Tierney was quoted as saying this: "Sometimes in athletics, it doesn't work out the way you want." 

Maybe it didn't work out the way Princeton wanted it that day in 2009. Still, it's long been established that Princeton Athletics is about the four-year experience and then the way it prepares those who go through it for the rest of their lives.

In this case, it's clear that in Princeton Athletics, this worked out exactly how it was supposed to. How impressive are those guys? 

* The sport of skeleton was first contested in the Olympic Games in 1928 and then again in 1948. After that, it wasn't on the schedule again until 2002. 

Skeleton is almost the opposite of luge. In skeleton, the rider is face-down, head-first. In luge, it's face-up, feet-first.

What they have in common is that they are both on ice and they both require, among other things, total fearlessness on the part of the rider.

Princeton will be represented at the upcoming Olympics in the sport, as former Tiger track and field athlete Nathan Crumpton will be competing for American Samoa. It is quite likely that Crumpton, who finished fifth on the International Cup tour in 2021, will be very much in the medal mix. 

Whether he medals or not, Crumpton is already part of history, having now qualified for both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games after having run the 100 meters in Tokyo for American Samoa last summer.

Crumpton, when he competes in China, will become just the 140th athlete to have reached the Olympics in both.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Catching Up

So much has happened since last week, so let TigerBlog catch up a bit:

* One of TB's all-time favorite musicians was lost with the death of Meat Loaf last Thursday. Meat Loaf was a bit of a larger-than-life figure whose 1977 album "Bat Out Of Hell" is the only album every released on which TigerBlog likes every song. This goes for every other album of all time, from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band all the way down. 

"Bat Out Of Hell" was pure genius in every way, starting with the amazingly original songs (written by Jim Steinman, who was the brother of longtime Columbia sports information director Bill Steinman) and because of the way Meat Loaf put every ounce of energy he could into every note he sang. The result was an album that sold 45 million copies, making it the No. 4 most-selling album ever, and stayed on the charts for nine years. 

As Meat Loaf sang: "Oh, baby, you're the only thing in this whole world, that's pure and good and right.
And wherever you are and wherever you go, there's always gonna be some light."

* The Princeton men's hockey team played No. 1 Quinnipiac last Tuesday in Hamden. This is from the story on goprincetontigers.com:

Princeton's most recent game before venturing to Hamden came on December 11, with pauses both expected – the annual break for exams and the holidays – and unexpected – a six-game halt due to COVID-19 protocols – keeping the Tigers away from game action for over a month.

Predictably, that game did not go well, as the Bobcats won 9-0. So what happened next for Princeton? Well, what happened next was character-revealing.

Just three days later, Princeton found itself again on the road against another Top 10 team, this time No. 8 Cornell. What happened? Princeton 5, Cornell 4, that's what.

Princeton then came back the next night at tied Colgate 2-2. That's going from a 9-0 loss to a three-point weekend in a matter of 72 hours, with some long bus rides mixed in.

That's not easy to do. It's not easy to be off for as long as the Tigers were and then come back into that crucible. As TB said, that's character-revealing.

Oh, and Cornell beat Quinnipiac Saturday night after the Princeton loss. 

Next up for Princeton will be Quinnipiac again, this time at home tomorrow at 7, and then Brown at home Friday at 1. 

* It's possible that you can come up with a better NFL game than the Chiefs-Bills game Sunday night, won by the Chiefs 42-36 in overtime. The list, though, would not be a long one. And the last few minutes of regulation? That would be hard to top.

What you can't come up with is a better four-game playoff weekend. The first three were decided on field goals (by the visiting team, no less) on the final play of regulation, and the fourth was the Chiefs-Bill epic, in which there were 25 points scored in the final two minutes. All four games had a made field goal on the final play of regulation, including the wildly clutch 49-yarder by KC's Harrison Butker to force the OT.

Both Bills QB Josh Allen and Kansas City QB Pat Mahomes were ridiculous, taking their teams down the field quickly after the other scored to seemingly salt away the game.

Even a touchdown with 13 seconds to play proved to be leaving too much time on the clock. And yes, a squib kick would have been the smart move probably, but hey, what if that goes out of bounds and you give away great field position. TB can't really fault Bill coach Sean McDermott for that call. He can fault the Bills for not defending better. 

Oh, and the overtime rules in the NFL? They're awful, but football is just not a game that lends itself to an easy overtime solution. 

* TigerBlog has a few feature stories coming this week, including the first two in a series that will commemorate the year-long celebrations of the rowing programs and their major anniversaries. 

For instance, this is the 100th anniversary of the men's lightweight rowing program. TB's first feature will tell the story of Gordon Sikes of the Class of 1916, who was the first coach of the lightweight program. If the name is familiar, it's because there is a Gordon Sikes Room in the Shea Rowing Center.

For the women, TB will be sharing the story of Amy Richlin, who started the women's program through the sheer force of her will 50 years ago. Her story is an excerpt from "I Can Do Anything," the book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton. To give you a sense of her place n Princeton history, Richlin is Chapter 3 of the book (which you can buy HERE).

* The women's fencing team started the week ranked third in the country. Then the Tigers went out and had a 5-0 run through the Penn Duals, but it's how they beat that makes it so impressive: No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Columbia, No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Northwestern.

That's a bit eye-opening with the Ivy League championships and NCAA events on the horizon. 

* And then there's Andrei Iosivas. The extraordinarily talented all-around athlete, who was an All-Ivy League wide receiver who was a threat to score every time he touched the ball, set the Ivy League record for the indoor Heptathlon Saturday at Navy.

Every time Iosivas competes, it begs one question: Is there any sport where he couldn't excel if he devoted himself to it? TB will answer that with a resounding no.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Beyond The Resume

TigerBlog can't begin to guess how many people he's interviewed in his career, whether on the radio, for a podcast or for a story he's writing. 

The common theme has been to let the person answer the question and then follow up on what is said, diving into one subject before moving on to another. He has never once gone into an interview with his questions already written.

As such, the No. 1 piece of advice that TigerBlog would give to someone who is conducting an interview would be to not have a list of prepared questions.

You can have a sense of where you want the discussion to go and what subjects you want to cover. That's all good. It's when you script one question after another that you stop focusing on what the subject of the interview says and start focusing on what your notes say you have to ask next.

To that end, when Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack asked him last week about his own upcoming interview with 11-time Olympic track and field medalist Allyson Felix, TB gave him the same advice. 

The conversation between Mack and Felix was the keynote address of Wintersession. The talk was entitled "Beyond The Resume," and it brought Felix and Mack to the stage at Richardson Auditorium Saturday night for about an hour.

This is not an easy setting. In almost all of the interviews that TB has done (somewhere north of 99 percent), there has not been an audience who was watching live. It can be a bit intimidating.

Despite that, the talk between Mack and Felix was exactly what the audience wanted it to be. Mack asked a series of insightful question – Felix would often pause after he finished to say "that's a great question" - and then she would give a thoughtful answer. Instead of ending the topic right there, Mack would dive deeper and follow up before moving on to a different subject.

As a result, there were no awkward pauses while they spoke, and the hour flew by. The last 10 minutes or so were devoted to questions from the audience, which was made up largely of student-athletes, especially track and field athletes.

It didn't hurt that Felix has such an incredible story to tell. She has competed in five different Olympic Games, beginning in 2004 and running (literally) through the Games of last summer in Tokyo. Along the way she's won those 11 medals, which are the most of any American track and field athlete (male or female), the most of any female track and field athlete from any country and and the second-most of any track and field athlete, behind only Paavo Nurmi, a Finnish distance runner who competed in the 1920s.

Felix began her Olympic career as an 18 year old, winning silver in the 200 meters. In Tokyo she won bronze in the 400 meters and gold on the 4x400 relay team. In between she also ran the 100 (and on the 4x100 relay), a sprinting range that apparently in the track and field world is a very difficult task.

That was one of the highlights of the night. Mack asked Felix about going from the 100 and 200 to the 400, and she said you had to be "crazy" to want to run the 400. Did she know that Mack himself was an accomplished 400 meter runner? 

The fact that Mack was such a great track athlete certainly helped in his questions, especially when he asked her "who is the one competitor you loved to beat?" He also just had an innate feel for what it means to be a track athlete and could really appreciate what it means to be able to compete at that level for as long as Felix has.

Mack also asked Felix about competing after giving birth to her daughter, as well as the business ramifications that she had to deal with after becoming a mother. She also mentioned her difficult pregnancy, how nervous she'd get prior to races, the emphasis her family put on education and how she first started running track in ninth grade as a way to make new friends, some of whom are among her best friends to date.

All in all, it was a great event. Certainly everyone in the audience loved to hear from her.

Maybe the best moment was when Felix was asked if she had a mantra that she has used. It turned out to be a really apt response.

"I can do hard things," she said.

She certainly can. And has for a long, long time.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Conversation With Maddie

TigerBlog's starts your Friday with a trivia question, the answer to which will be at the end: 

The Princeton men's basketball team currently has three players averaging at least 14 points per game (Jaelin Llewellyn at 15.9, Tosan Evbuomwan at 14.7 and Ethan Wright at 14.4). When was the last time the men's basketball team had three players average at least 14 points per game for an entire season?

Meanwhile, TB's weekly "Conversation With Carla" had a different look to it this week.

Or do podcasts not have "looks?" Would that be "sound?"

The different sound this week was the inclusion of the voice of a player. TB will be adding a player each week for the rest of the season, which hopefully extends well into March. 

For this week, TB spoke with Maddie Plank, who missed her freshman season due to injury and then didn't get to play last year due to the Covid pandemic. This year she is starting to get more playing time and more confidence as the year goes along.

Plank speaks about her experiences of being injured, what she learned while being on the sideline and how she spent her Covid year. She also talks about her cross country bicycle ride with men's basketball player Charlie Bagin from this past summer.

From the conversation with Maddie, you can see (hear, actually) how much energy she has and how much zest she has, for basketball and for life in general. It's not surprising that she dove into the cross country bike ride the way she did. It takes physical stamina of course to do something like that, but if you don't have the right attitude, you won't make it past Pennsylvania.

TB wanted Plank to be the first player guest on the podcast, largely because of how much interest he took in that bike ride, something he wished he'd done 35 or 40 years ago. You can hear Plank (and of course, head coach Carla Berube) on this week's conversation HERE.

In the new world of Ivy League basketball, each team in the league has only one game this weekend. In the case of Princeton, that means that the women are home and the men are away against Dartmouth, with tip-off in Jadwin and in Leede Arena both at 2, both on ESPN+.

There is also only one game apiece on the schedule next weekend, when Princeton plays Yale (women away, men home) on Saturday. The Ivy schedule this year is spread over 10 weeks, as opposed to the six or eight it has in the past, with the travel-partner format.

As part of the podcast, Plank spoke about the difference it makes, in terms of preparations, both physical and mental. You can go to the 22-minute mark to hear what she has to say about it. If you don't feel like listening, she lays out some plusses and minuses that are interesting coming from a player's point of view.

Also in the new world of Covid, there are a few postponements that will be made up along the way, such as Dartmouth-Yale Sunday and Penn-Columbia Wednesday on the women's side and Columbia-Yale on Tuesday on the men's side Tuesday.

Princeton enters the weekend unbeaten on the men's side and the women's side. They're also both one of two unbeaten teams in the standings.

The women are currently 4-0, followed by Columbia at 3-0 (the Lions are also 12-3 overall). Princeton's first game against Columbia was postponed and will be made up Feb. 23 in New York, which means that the first meeting of the year between the two is still two weeks away at Jadwin.

Yale (3-1) and Penn (2-1) are next up. The other four all have at least three league losses already as the eight teams chase four Ivy tournament slots.

Princeton is also 4-0 on the men's side, and there is also a 2-0 team, in this case Yale. Harvard is 2-1, and then comes Penn and Columbia with two losses each. The chase for the four tournament spots here would appear to be the most competitive top to bottom since the format began in 2017, and there are no easy dates on the schedule.

The game in New Hampshire tomorrow matches the No. 2 scoring offense team in the league (Princeton at 80.8 points per game) against the No. 2 scoring defense team in the league (Dartmouth at 69.3 points per game).

Finally, the answer to the trivia question:

It was in 1968-69, when Geoff Petrie averaged 20.8, John Hummer averaged 15.8 and Chris Thomforde averaged 14.8.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Field Hockey In Chile, Lacrosse Here

When TigerBlog tells you the score was 14-0, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

The end of the first quarter of a football game maybe? Certainly not field hockey, right? 

Well, yesterday in Santiago, Chile, that was the score of Game 1 of the Pan American Cup field hockey tournament, as Canada took down Peru 14-0. It was also almost the score of the second game, in which the United States defeated Trinidad and Tobago 16-0.

If you're wondering, the weather forecast for Santiago for the foreseeable future is sunny skies and temps in the 80s. That's Chile, not chilly, and TigerBlog assumes that line has been used about a million times.

It was a big day for Princeton at the field hockey tournament yesterday. Elise Wong scored twice for Canada in its win, and Beth Yeager had three goals - including the first of the game in the first minute - for the United States team.

Both Yeager and Wong earned first-team All-American honors at Princeton, Yeager this past year and Wong in 2018. Yeager, in fact, became Princeton's first freshman to be a first-team All-American this past fall after she set the program record for goals by a freshman with 16. She was also the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year. 

There's a third Princetonian at the tournament, Julianna Tornetta, who was a two-time All-American at Princeton. 

Up next in the round robin part of the event is a game Friday between the U.S. and Canada in Pool B. Goal differential, by the way, could come into play when it comes to tiebreakers. At stake for the top three finishers is a spot in the World Cup this coming summer. 

In other Princeton athletic news, there will be 14 Princeton teams who will compete in 25 different events this weekend. It's already the start of men's volleyball season and women's water polo season, and the spring sports will be here soon enough, even if that Santiago weather doesn't figure to be here for awhile.

Yesterday marked one month until the start of lacrosse season, as the men will host Monmouth on Feb. 19. As of yesterday, you can see the game times on the men's schedule page of the website. 

If you don't feel like clicking on the link HERE, Princeton begins the men's season with the game against the Hawks and then a game the following Tuesday at 5 against Binghamton. From there Princeton has back-to-back games at Maryland and Georgetown, followed by a home game against Rutgers. That is certainly a challenge.

The women don't play until one day after the men, which means that their opener is one month from today, a noon start at Virginia. This season, of course, is the last one as head coach at Princeton for Chris Sailer, whose resume already includes three NCAA championships and a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Sailer's final season at Princeton begins with that game at UVa, and it will be followed by the home opener against Temple on Saturday, Feb. 26. The Ivy opener is against Cornell on March 5. There is also a spring break trip to California to take on USC and San Diego State.

It's been awhile since the Princeton lacrosse teams have played. TB is pretty excited at the idea that it's just a month away.

The women are ranked 13th in the preseason. The men are unranked. Then again, they were unranked in 2020, and it took five games to reach No. 2 in the country. 

TB is okay with the fact that Princeton's men have gotten very little attention in the preseason. Just as in 2020, the opportunity is there to get into the rankings when it starts to count.

On the women's side, Kyla Sears enters her senior year with 139 career goals and 221 career points. She is 59 goals and 64 points away from the school records for both, held by Olivia Hompe.

And all of that starts in another month. Yes, it'll be peak crossover season, and yes, it'll be really busy and a lot of work. 

Still, TB is looking forward to it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

New Parents, A New Record And A Big Win

As TigerBlog said yesterday, there are a few things he'd like to mention this week.

He starts with congratulations to Kat Sharkey and Tom Schreiber on the birth of their first child, Lillian Grace.

Off the top of his head, TB can only think of one other time where a von Kienbusch Award winner (Sharkey) married a Roper Trophy winner (Schreiber), and that is when Katie Reinprect married Taylor Fedun. Is he missing anyone?

TigerBlog is rooting for Lillian Grace to grow up and score 108 goals in some sport at Princeton. Why 108? That's because Schreiber scored 106 for the men's lacrosse team, and Sharkey scored 107 for the field hockey team.

In fairness to Schreiber, he also added 94 assists, and his resume includes professional and world championships, professional MVP awards and the game-winning goal with one second left in the most recent World Championship, in 2018 in Israel.

For her part, Sharkey was an NCAA champion and an Olympian. Between the two of them, they earned the maximum eight first-team All-League selections. They also were both three-time first-team All-Americans.

How many kids can say that about their parents? That's a lot of athleticism being passed on to the next generation. 

It's also a lot of another quality that you can't get enough of: Sharkey and Schreiber are two of the nicest people you can ever hope to meet. Again, congratulations to the two of them. 

What else? TB goes from husband and wife to brothers.

This past Friday night in Las Vegas, Princeton's and Sondre and Simen Guttormsen competed at the World Pole Vault Summit, and they both had big-time performances.

Sondre set the Ivy League record by clearing 5.71 meters. Simon had been the previous record-holder, having cleared 5.51 meters earlier this season. Simon bettered that mark too, going 5.61 in Las Vegas.

Just to give you a little perspective on those numbers, the NCAA champion outdoors last spring was Branson Ellis of Stephen F. Austin, who went 5.70. That means that Sondre - who competed at the Olympic Games in Tokyo for their native Norway last summer - would have won the NCAA championship with his performance last week. Simon would have been third, behind Sondre and Ellis and ahead of Kentucky's Keaton Daniel, who vaulted 5.55 meters. 

If you're wondering, 5.71 meters is 18 feet, 7.3 inches. The Guttormsen brothers are two athletes to definitely keep your eye on, in much the same way that Donn Cabral was when he ran the steeplechase at Princeton. 

In other Princeton news, there was the wrestling team's 20-18 win over Arizona State Sunday afternoon. That was sixth-ranked Arizona State, by the way.

The win was the third time in three seasons that Princeton has defeated at Top 10 team. The Tigers are also the defending Ivy League wrestling champion, having ended Cornell's nearly two-decade run atop the league standings in the 2020 season (earning Princeton's 500th Ivy title in the process).

TB knows he's said this before, but the job that Chris Ayres and his staff (Sean Gray, Joe Dubuque, Nate Jackson) have done is as great as anything any other coaches have ever done at Princeton. Starting with a team that couldn't field a full lineup, they have built the Tigers into a factor on the national level.

It's extraordinary.

The Tigers open their Ivy League season Saturday against Columbia. The biggest date on the calendar is Feb. 5, when Cornell comes to Jadwin, but that is hardly the only big match left. In fact, that match is followed by a Feb. 11 trip to Lehigh and then a home date with Penn the following day. It doesn't get any easier after that, as it's Princeton-Rutgers on Feb. 16 in Piscataway.

The EIWA championships are the first weekend in March at Cornell.

And those are some of the things that TB wanted to talk about this week. A birth. A record. A huge win.

It's always good when there's good news.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Charlie Volker, Olympian


There are so many things TigerBlog wants to talk about, and he'll get to all of them this week.

For today, though, he has had to shift on the fly, after the news came out yesterday that Charlie Volker had made the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

Volker had an amazing athletic career at Princeton before graduating in 2019. His time as a Tiger saw him win seven team championships between football and track and field; individually, he was an Ivy League champion in both indoor and outdoor track and a first-team All-Ivy League football player. 

It wasn't until after he graduated that he was introduced to the sport of bobsledding. And now he's heading to the Olympic Games in Beijing as one of six push athletes for the U.S. sleds.

It's an incredible story. It speaks so much about Volker and the dedication he's shown, his work ethic and his spirit of adventure. 

TigerBlog first caught up with Volker a little more than a year ago, after he'd been immersed in the sport for a few months. This is what Volker said then: 

“I’m not someone who can sit behind a desk. I want to live an adventurous life.”

He also said this:

“Bobsled is track for the first 50 meters and football for the rest. The key is to push the lights out of the sled and then load cleanly. How you jump in the sled has to be practiced over and over. How low you get and how locked in you can be, and how little you can get thrown around.”

It's proven to be a perfect match.

Volker learned the basics of the sport in Lake Placid and has spent two winters competing, mostly in Europe. His goal all along has been to reach the Olympic Games, and now he has.

Princeton has a long history of competing in the Olympic Games, dating back to the first modern Games in 1896, where four Princeton track and field athletes combined to win seven medals. Since then, the overwhelming amount of the Tigers' success on that stage has come in the Summer edition.

To date, Princeton has had five of its athletes win Olympic medals in the winter, and all of those have come in ice hockey (this does not include the three speed skating medals that Joey Cheek won and the snowboarding gold that Chloe Kim won).

Volker is the third Princeton varsity athlete who is heading to these Winter Games, after Claire Thompson and Sarah Fillier were named to the Canadian women's hockey team. Volker is Princeton's first Olympic bobsledder ever.

Why has Volker been able to go from novice to world-class athlete in such a short time? It's because he has the perfect physical and mental makeup for the sport.

Maybe the key lies in what Volker told TB yesterday, after the team was announced:

"I like the Drew Brees quote “You can accomplish anything in life if you’re willing to work for it.”

And there you have it. Ask either of his Princeton coaches - track and field coach Fred Samara or football coach Bob Surace - and they'll tell you all about how hard he works. 

The results speak for themselves. Volker has gone from having 28 rushing touchdowns in his last two years at Princeton while also winning the Ivy 60-meter dash indoors and setting the Ivy record in the 4x100 outdoors to the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

Volker finished his Princeton career with 1,994 rushing yards, which leaves him in eighth place all time. He also rushed for 32 touchdowns, fourth-best at Princeton, including 14 each as a junior and senior. He earned first-team All-Ivy honors as a senior in 2018, the year Princeton went 10-0.

The Volker family, by the way, has 34 rushing touchdowns at Princeton, as his younger brother John had two (and two more receiving, including a huge one against Yale) this past season as a freshman, when he also helped the Tigers to an Ivy championship.

As for Charlie, how did he react at the news of being an Olympian?

"It was nothing crazy," he says. "I guess it hasn't hit me yet."

Oh, and there's one other thing that he said that goes a pretty long way to defining who he is:

"My goal was never just to get there," he said. "I'm looking forward to doing well there."

And with that, TigerBlog wished him "Cool Runnings."

What else would you say to an Olympic bobsledder?



Monday, January 17, 2022

Martin Luther King Day Basketball

The National Basketball Association first started playing matinee games on Martin Luther King Day in 1986.

The first game to feature NBA players in honor of Dr. King came much earlier, back in 1968, the year in which he was assassinated. In fact, on the day after the assassination, which happened on April 4 of that year, Oscar Robertson began to organize a special exhibition game that would be played outdoors in New York City on Aug. 15.

According to an AP story, that game included players like Wilt Chamberlain, Lenny Wilkens, Dave Bing, Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed and Walt Bellamy. That game raised $90,000 in support of Dr. King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

If you're too young to know who Oscar Robertson is, the concept of the "triple-double" originated with him. The Big O, as he was known when he played, was the first player ever to average a triple-double for a full season (he did it in 1970-71 with the Milwaukee Bucks), and to date only Russell Westbrook has matched the accomplishment.

Robertson won an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and an NBA title with the Bucks in 1970-71. He led the nation in scoring all three of his varsity seasons at the University of Cincinnati, where he averaged 33.8 points per game, which is third all-time behind Pete Maravich (44.2 per game at LSU, yes, that's not a typo) and Austin Carr (34.6 at Notre Dame).

Bill Bradley, by the way, ranks 16th at 30.2, just behind Larry Bird.

The bottom line is that if you make a list of the 15 best basketball players ever and didn't include Oscar Robertson, then your list has no credibility. 

It's definitely worth reading that AP story for more of an understanding of what Dr. King meant to the players of his time. And to get an understanding of what race relations were like in the 1950s and 1960s. And, in honor of the day, it's worth reading more about who Dr. King was and the impact he had on America.

The NBA will have 12 games today, on Martin Luther King Day. It's become a January staple, including home games in Atlanta (where King lived) and Memphis (where he was killed).

This year, the Ivy League will be debuting its own MLK Day tradition, with a full schedule of men's and women's games. Each team will be playing its former travel partner, which means that there will be two matchups between Harvard and Dartmouth, Yale and Brown, Cornell and Columbia and, of course, Princeton and Penn.

The women's game between the Tigers and Quakers tips at 2 at the Palestra. The men's game is at 4 at Jadwin. Both games are on ESPN+.

The Princeton and Penn men and women all come into the game having won on Saturday. 

The Princeton and Penn women combined to win by a total of 57 points, taking down Dartmouth and Brown on the road. Ivy League women's basketball has belonged to Princeton and Penn the last 12 year, as Princeton has won eight championships and Penn has won four (they shared one), while nobody else has won any.

They're both unbeaten in the league so far this year, though it is early. They're joined this year by another team that is currently unbeaten, Columbia.

Princeton and Penn are built around their defenses, and they rank 1-2 in the league in points allowed per game (Princeton at 54.3, Penn at 56.7).

Penn's men won 78-68 over Dartmouth Saturday, while the Princeton men won a tight battle against Brown 76-74. Tosan Evbuomwan continued to be simply dominant, with 21 points and eight assists against the Bears, and he now leads the league in assists by a startling 2.2 per game over the next-best total.

Princeton's men are 3-0 in the Ivy League race, and Penn comes into the game at 3-1. These two have been by far the most successful teams in the history of the Ivy League, and their rivalry has been as good as it has gotten between any two teams in any sport in league history. 

Every time they play is special. 

And that's your Martin Luther King Day Princeton basketball preview. It's a day with a special history in the sport, and it's great to see that the Ivy League is now involved.

Friday, January 14, 2022

A Look At The Weekend

To date, there has been one documented "triple-double" in Princeton basketball history.

That accomplishment belongs to Leslie Robinson, who went for 10 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in a 79-44 win over Brown back in 2018. 

TigerBlog used the word "documented" because it's very likely that there have been others, predating when assists were an official stat (it wasn't until 1974-75 when those numbers were first kept). As TB has written before, Bill Bradley very likely had quite a few games where he had double figures in assists, and since he averaged 30.2 points and 12.1 rebounds for his career, it seems probable that he had his share of what was then not something that was tracked.

In fact, if you had gone up to Bradley after a game in the 1960s and said "you just had a triple-double," even a Rhodes Scholar might have been a bit confused as to what you meant. It's the same reaction you would have gotten when you pointed out that more than 55 years later, his feats at Princeton would regularly be mentioned in a blog on the internet.

There are probably others who had triple-doubles as well, on both the men's side and the women's side. TB could think of a bunch of pretty good candidates. 

Still, the only one who has actually done it is Robinson. By the way, Abby Meyers, then a freshman, scored 18 points in that game, which just happens to be her season average this year.

Meyers had 18 more against Towson Wednesday night in a 68-54 win. In that game, Kaitlyn Chen had 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds. 

Does she have a game with three more assists and five more rebounds in the future? Maybe. She's a strong candidate for a triple-double, TB would guess. 

If you're wondering about Bella Alarie, her career high in assists was six. If you're wondering about Carlie Littlefield, her career highs in rebounding (nine) and assists (eight) came up short of double figures. 

Clearly this isn't easy to pull off. 

If you're looking for the most likely current Princeton basketball player to get there, you might want to go with Tosan Evbuomwan on the men's team. 

Tosan's averages this year are 14.6 points, six rebounds and 5.3 assists. Like Littlefield, he has yet to have a double figure rebounding or assist game, but 1) he's gotten close on both accounts and 2) it wouldn't shock anyone if he did both several times each before he graduates.

Just something to think about anyway in advance of a weekend with some pretty exciting events on the horizon, even with some Covid cancellations.

The basketball teams both play Brown (men at home tomorrow at 2, women at Brown tomorrow at 4). Both Princeton teams are 2-0 in the league heading into the games, which will be followed by Martin Luther King Day games against Penn (again the men will be home and the women away).

As far as excitement goes, maybe the one to circle is the one furthest from campus, in Las Vegas, to be exact. That's where the Guttormsen brothers - Simon and Sondre - will compete in the World Pole Vault Summit. Sondre, you recall, competed in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo last year, and both of them are world class.

The rest of the men's and women's track and field teams will be in Annapolis. It's even the start of men's volleyball season.

The women's squash team takes on its rival Harvard Sunday at noon in a rematch of the 2020 national championship match, after taking on Dartmouth tomorrow. The men also take on Dartmouth and Harvard at home.

There is also another huge wrestling match in Jadwin Gym Sunday, when No. 6 Arizona State comes to town. The women's ice hockey team is at RPI tomorrow (its game at Union and the men's two games against Dartmouth and Harvard have been postponed).

Tennis season also begins, with the women away and the men at home. The complete schedule is HERE.

Keep in mind, with the Covid attendance restrictions, you have to be a Princeton student, faculty member or staff member in the testing protocol to be able to gain entrance. As TB has said all week, the ESPN+  productions are a great way to follow along if you're a fan.

You can watch the Tigers and have the NFL playoffs on TV (muted of course).

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Tigers vs. Tigers

So how many teams has the Princeton women's basketball team played who were also nicknamed "Tigers?"

Obviously one of them was last night, when Princeton hosted Towson. How many other Tigers have there been?

The answer is two. Can you name them? TigerBlog will give you a chance to figure it out.

Had TB spent all of this time at one of the other "Tiger" schools, he could still have been referring to himself as "TigerBlog." In fact, he did a quick search yesterday and found there were a few others who wrote their own TigerBlogs, though none of them have done so in recent years and none of them stuck with it for more than a few entries.

One of them was from East Texas Baptist University, which had a few entries before TB started doing this here every day. Here's what was one entry from 2007:

One of the toughest parts of being an SID is the need to try and make everything seem positive with every bit of news released out of the department. No matter how bad the news may be, the good SID will always, always be able to put a good spin on it.

He was spot on there.  

It appears there are 72 four-year colleges who have the nickname "Tigers." The first of those 72, by the way, was Princeton, back in the 1880s. 

The only more common nicknames among four-year colleges are Eagles (118) and Hawks (106). As for the other Tigers that Princeton has played in addition to Towson, it has been Missouri and Pacific.

Princeton is 1-1 against Missouri (loss in 1998, win in 2019) and 0-1 against Pacific (loss in 1996).

As for Towson, Princeton is now 3-1 against those Tigers after the 68-54 win last night. Abby Meyers led Princeton with 18 points - her average - and Kaitlyn Chen had a huge game with 14 points (12 in the fourth quarter), five rebounds and seven assists.

It was the kind of game Tiger, er, Princeton head coach Carla Berube loves, one where her team held the opponent way, way, way below its season average. In the case of Towson, the season average prior to last night was 80 (or, to be exact, 79.6). All of those points, coupled with the fact that Towson allowed only 58 per game, led to an 11-1 record for Towson heading into Jadwin - which made the win 1) even more impressive and 2) an important one for a potential NCAA at-large bid, as Towson's NET was 71.

There was an extraordinary graphic during the ESPN+ broadcast (another great performance from Jon Mozes and Dei Lynam) that pointed out that in each of the last eight seasons, Berube's teams have allowed few than 50 points per game. That's ridiculous. 

The two words that Mozes said most were "tough shot," and that's how it was - every shot was defended. Nothing came easily. The No. 1 thing you need to play great defense is effort, and Princeton certainly gives it every time the ball is on its side of the court.

When you defend like that, you can weather rough shooting nights and scoreless stretches in ways you can't if your game is trading baskets. When you grab offensive rebounds the way Princeton can (18 last night), it makes you even better. 

The game was tight through three quarters, which ended with the Tigers (the visiting ones) up 41-40. Princeton used a 13-0 run to built the lead to 12, but it was a bit shaky after both Grace Stone and Ellie Mitchell fouled out. 

Considering that in the last game played on that court, Princeton's men rallied from 18 down in the second half to win, and considering that Towson cut a 12-point deficit to five after Mitchell fouled out, this one was never really comfortable until Towson missed some big free throws and the Tigers built it back to double figures.

Princeton has little time to reflect on what happened against the Tigers last night, since there are Bears and Quakers on the immediate horizon. The game last night is followed by two road trips this weekend, to Brown Saturday (4) and then to Penn Monday (2) in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

There are currently three Ivy unbeaten teams: Princeton (2-0) and Columbia and Penn (both 1-0).