Friday, April 9, 2010

Orange And Black And Orange

TigerBlog was putting together the 2001 men's lacrosse prospectus, something that was a little more extensive than a release and less than a media guide, something that thankfully is obsolete.

Anyway, part of the prospectus obviously was the schedule, and TB entered all the regular-season games and then the dates for the NCAA tournament as "NCAA opening round - TBA" and "NCAA quarterfinals - TBA" and such.

When it came to the championship game, though, TB put down "NCAA final vs. Syracuse" as a joke. Only this time, he forgot to change it before he sent the first copy out, and only then did he realize he hadn't fixed it. Fortunately, only one copy was sent before it was corrected.

Of course, the 2001 season was pretty much pre-ordained to end with a Princeton-Syracuse final, which in fact it did. The Tigers defeated the Orange on B.J. Prager's fourth goal, which came more than three minutes into overtime.

The 2001 season was the middle one of three straight in which Princeton and Syracuse played for the NCAA title, as SU defeated Princeton in the 2000 and 2002 finals. Princeton and Syracuse have split four NCAA championship games, as Princeton's first came in 1992 on Andy Moe's goal that beat the Orange off the face-off for the second OT.

Syracuse beat Princeton in the 1993 semifinals, 1995 quarterfinals, 1999 opening round and 2003 quarterfinals. Princeton beat Syracuse in the 1996 and 1998 semifinals. The teams played twice a year - regular season and NCAA tournament - every year from 1999-2003 and played in the NCAA tournament every year except Princeton's perfect 1997 season from 1995-2003. And all that postseason history doesn't even include Princeton's 15-14 four-overtime win at the Carrier Dome in the 1999 regular season.

Between them, they've won 16 of the last 22 NCAA men's lacrosse championships.

TigerBlog's favorite Princeton rivalry is probably Princeton-Penn in men's basketball, but Princeton-Syracuse men's lacrosse is the only other one that could top it.

When the teams meet tomorrow, it'll be something a little special, even by the standards of this rivalry.

Princeton and Syracuse are the nightcap of the Konica Minolta Big City Classic, which begins at 1 with Delaware-Hofsra and continues at 4 with the only two remaining undefeated teams in Division I, No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 North Carolina. Syracuse, ranked third, and Princeton, ranked fourth in one poll and fifth in the other, play at 6:30.

Beyond just the quality of the games, there is the lure of the new Meadowlands Stadium, the 82,500-seat home for the NFL's Giants and Jets. The lacrosse games (it actually begins at 8 a.m. with the first of two high school games) are the first games played in the new stadium.

A year ago, the same tripleheader drew 22,208 fans to Giants Stadium on a raw day in which temperatures never made it much above 40. This time, the weather is for a high of 62 and zero percent chance of rain.

Add it all up and you have a great tripleheader with the curiosity factor of the new stadium on a perfect spring day. What will the attendance be? 40,000? More? Who knows.

TigerBlog mentioned a week ago that playing all of these games off-campus in NFL venues is nice, though there is a down side to it as well. Then the games last week at Gillette Stadium drew 6,408 fans, more than triple what they would have at Dartmouth and Brown.

And now there is the Big City Classic, where the attendance should be extraordinary.

As for the game itself, the prevailing wisdom to date in Division I lacrosse is that Virginia, North Carolina and Syracuse are a cut above the field. Princeton is 7-1, and that one is a one-goal loss at UNC (four of the wins are against Top 20 teams).

Last year, Princeton knocked off Syracuse 12-8 behind some great defense and goalie play from Tyler Fiorito, who made a career-high 15 saves. He tied that number last year against Harvard and two weeks ago against Yale and then bettered it against Brown with 17 last week.

SU is stocked with great lacrosse talent, veterans of the last two NCAA championships like longstick midfielder Joel White, attackman Stephen Keough, goalie John Galloway, shortstick defensive middie Jovan Miller and other stars, especially on defense. And that group doesn't even take into account Cody Jamieson, who scored the game-winning goal in overtime to defeat Cornell in last year's NCAA final, and the dynamic face-off man/middie with the long braided hair, Jeremy Thompson.

Princeton, of course, has a strong mix of veterans and newcomers, as well as the new coaching staff headed by Chris Bates. The Tigers have been impressive from Day 1, and they are not short on talent themselves.

TigerBlog has pretty much gone on the assumption that if Princeton can't win it all, then he'd like to see Syracuse do so. Why? Because then the stat of "Princeton and Syracuse have combined to win xx of the last xx NCAA championships" can be even more impressive.

But that won't carry over to tomorrow, when TB will be wearing black with his orange, and not just orange by itself.

Princeton-Syracuse men's lacrosse. For TB, it's as good as it gets.


Anonymous said...

The legacy of the 2000-01-02 Princeton-Syracuse three-peat in the championship game was the 2003 bracket in which the selection committee seemed to go out of its way to ensure that the Tigers and Orange would meet in the quarter-finals.

NCAA lacrosse seeding appears to be subject to this kind of manipulation more often than, say, the basketball tournament.

In 1999, Syracuse, Princeton and #1 seed Loyola were on one side of the draw, virtually ensuring that Virginia would make it to the title game through the other half. The Cavaliers also had a suspiciously easy road to the final in 2003, which they also won.

Last year's draw, with Princeton and Cornell slated to meet in a re-match in the quarterfinals, was not fair to either the Tigers or the Big Red.

I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist but the evidence is there to at least ask the question. TB, you are very close to this sport. Don't you think that the tournament brackets occasionally seem to reflect the committee's desire for certained preferred outcomes, such as Syracuse and Princeton not meeting for a fourth consecutive year or not having two Ivy teams (which do not draw well) in the Final Four?

Princeton OAC said...

TB is a believer in conspiracies. He'd like to give the benefit of the doubt to the committee, which is hampered by having 16 teams rather than four times as many in basketball, which makes avoiding certain matchups difficult. Still. you do refer to some pretty good examples.