Monday, May 10, 2010

Sorry, But It's More Lacrosse Talk

With apologies to the person who left the comment after Friday's entry about there being more sports than lacrosse, today we offer more on, well, lacrosse.

Before we get to today's point, TigerBlog feels the need to respond to the idea that he writes about lacrosse more than other sports. The answer is that while lacrosse probably does get more than its share of space here, TB is mindful not to overdo it. And in the last two weeks, he's written about among others track and field, tennis and crew, and there'll be more on other sports in the next few days.

And, the main site,, would never favor one sport over the others. Here at TigerBlog, it's not as easy to balance it out all the time, and if that's a problem, TB apologizes.

Today, though, is all about lacrosse. Specifically, the question is whether or not the Ivy League tournaments were a good idea or a bad idea.

The logic for having the tournaments was mostly to help the league's chances of getting additional teams in the NCAA tournament. As it turned out, only one women's team (Penn) and two men's teams (Princeton and Cornell) made the fields when they were announced last night.

A year ago, without the Ivy tournaments, there were three men's teams (Princeton, Cornell, Brown) and two women's teams (Penn, Princeton) in the tournament.

On the women's side, Dartmouth is the highest ranked team not to make the tournament. The Big Green finished the season by losing to Princeton, beating Cornell in the opening round of the Ivy tournament, losing the Ivy final to Penn and then losing the regular-season finale 17-6 to No. 1 Maryland.

Did losing the Ivy final to Penn help or hurt Dartmouth? Would the Big Green have had a better chance had there been no Ivy tournament? Playing Cornell a second time didn't help Dartmouth, and having an extra loss to Penn might have helped in terms of strength of schedule.

Also, Princeton and Cornell, the other two teams in the Ivy tournament, weren't bubble teams. They needed to win the tournament outright to get in, because both were below .500. In a normal year of Ivy women's lacrosse, both of those teams would have been in contention for NCAA spots, which would have meant the tournament would have worked

On the men's side, Yale and Brown came into the tournament with an opportunity to play their way in (especially Yale), possibly with just a semifinal win. In both cases, they lost.

Had Yale beaten Princeton, it's probably that the Bulldogs would have been in, as well as Princeton and Cornell. Of course, that's something that we'll never know.

There is more to the tournament format than just whether or not more teams got into the NCAAs, though.

For starters, there's the whole question of economics, something TB won't begin to try to answer here.

Beyond that, though, there is the student-athlete experience factor. In this regard, the tournament was a gigantic success, at least on the men's side.

Before the tournament ever happened, the idea of the tournament completely energized the regular season, in ways that wouldn't happen if there was a tournament in basketball. With a double round-robin in basketball, the delineation from top to bottom becomes clearer, and there is much greater separation in the standings. Maybe an Ivy basketball tournament with only the top four men's and women's teams would be okay, but not with all eight.

In lacrosse, the result of the tournament was that six of the seven teams were alive for a spot in the top four through the final Saturday of the regular season, which, for TB's money, was the single greatest regular-season day of Ivy League men's lacrosse ever. Three one goals games, one in overtime. Had any gone the other way, the resulting effect on the field would have been dramatic.

And then there was the event itself. For Princeton's women, the Ivy tournament was the tournament experience for this year, with no NCAA bid out there.

For the men, the players were completely energized by playing in the tournament format. Yale and Princeton played a great game, and the Bulldogs nearly came all the way back to win it.

And then there was the final. TB has seen a ton of great Princeton men's lacrosse games in May, six of which have ended with a national championship trophy.

There was something different about this one, though. This was a fascinating battle of one team that always starts quickly and imposes its will on the other and another who has shown time and again that it can come from way back. Only this time, Princeton made it all the way back and won the game in overtime.

In other words, from a student-athlete experience standpoint, the tournament was a total success.

So, was it worth it? Depends on your point of view, it appears.

And coming tomorrow to TigerBlog? No lacrosse.


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