Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tournament Thoughts

TigerBlog sat in the Harvard Stadium press box Saturday afternoon trying to figure out all of the possibilities for the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament, the race for which as of that moment was down to just three games.

And yet, with three games and eight possible outcomes, only one team was definitely in and one team was definitely out. The remaining five all still had a chance, and three teams were still able to host.

Or was it only two teams that still had a chance to host? The answer to that depended on an interpretation from the Ivy League, since if Cornell beats Princeton, Brown beats Dartmouth and Harvard beats Yale, then the tiebreaker for hosting would be decided by whether or not Harvard would be considered the No. 4 team by itself (by virtue of its presumed win over Yale) or whether Harvard and Yale together would be considered the No. 4 teams, because they would both finish fourth.

Early Sunday, TB decided to put all of the scenarios together into one story. The result was a somewhat lengthy, at times confusing and in its original form twice incorrect piece.

And so TB sent it out into the world of 2010, which is vastly different than what he would have done with it in the world of, say, 2000.

First, TB put it on Then he sent it to and Inside Lacrosse, knowing that it would be seen there by more people than anywhere else.

He also sent it to the local newspapers, none of whom used a word of it.

The first mistake that TB made was more of a oversight than anything else (he had the wrong result of one the scenarios, and it was somewhat obvious), and he received an email in the first 20 minutes the story was up on the web pointing it out. TB made that change quickly.

The second mistake was that Harvard needed to win and get some help to get in the tournament, rather than the actual situation, which is that a Harvard win over Yale gets the Crimson in.

How did TB find out about this mistake? By anonymous posters on two different message boards.

As an aside, TB thanks them for pointing it out; TB made the change to his story.

The lesson continues to be that sports information these days continues to go directly to the people who want the content, rather than through the traditional media outlets. This is nothing earth-shattering, though it is fascinating to TB every time it is reinforced.

The other lesson is that the audience will jump on your errors and will do so 1) quickly and 2) usually anonymously.

And, of course, way more people read the story about the scenarios than read the Harvard-Princeton game story.

The lessons are obvious. It's important in this profession to learn from them.

As for the tournament itself, it's fascinating that it has come down to this mathematically. Cornell and Brown, for instance, go into this weekend knowing that they could be the host school - or not in the tournament at all. Dartmouth and Harvard could be in the tournament - or finish with a .333 league winning percentage. Even Penn was still alive last week, despite having only a single league win.

And, the tournament could very well accomplish what it set out to do - get an extra bid to the NCAA tournament for an Ivy League team that it otherwise might not have had. And, in what could be astonishing irony, it could be at the expense of Bill Tierney and Denver, who would clinch an NCAA berth with a win over Loyola at home Sunday or, with a loss, will find themselves directly on the bubble as probably the last team in or out of the field.

And so, with all of the excitement about Ivy League lacrosse being generated by the tournament, the obvious question to ask is: Wouldn't it be great if there was a basketball tournament as well?

TB's answer is: No way.

The best part about the Ivy League lacrosse tournament is that it has made each regular-season game so important. It hasn't in any way devalued the regular-season; it has instead made it twice as big.

Look at last weekend. Harvard could not win the league title heading into the Princeton game. Without a tournament, the Crimson would be probably playing out the string and coming in with four losses in five games. Yes, they would have been motivated by beating Princeton and ending a 19-game losing streak in the series. But the game wouldn't have meant as much tangibly; would that have affected Harvard's psyche?

An Ivy League basketball tournament would destroy the regular season, where all the drama is.

The Ivy League lacrosse tournaments have taken the regular season drama and taken it to another level.

There's a big difference.

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