Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Standing Up

As TigerBlog pulled into Lot 21 today, he saw it was blocked off near the fence by Finney Field, just short of the circle around Caldwell Field House and DeNunzio Pool.

Pothole repair. In case you haven't been in that part of Lot 21 lately, you missed out on one of the great potholes of all time.

Anyway, the tarry smell of the repair took TB back, as that smell always does, to his first day of classes in college. As he walked down Spruce Street to the University Museum opposite Franklin Field, TB smelled the same kind of street repair going on, and all these decades later, he can still close his eyes and remember the moment.

Back then, there was no internet or anything, which meant that the majority of information that TB got came out of a newspaper, specifically a sports section.

For as far back as TB can remember, FatherBlog would bring home the New York Post every day, and TB would read through it, amazed that going to games was actually some lucky person's job.

One of the main attractions of reading the paper every day was the opportunity to check the standings, regardless of what sport.

TB was originally fascinated by the concept of "games behind," especially for those rarest of moments when the team in first place was actually a half-game behind the team in second. TB learned some basic mathematics from reading the standings, such as calculating percentages and figuring out magic numbers.

There were many years were TB could tell you with pretty good accuracy who was were in any sport.

Today? Forget it.

TigerBlog hardly ever looks at the standings in any professional sport other than the NFL anymore. And, actually, the English Premier League, where he hopes Blackpool can avoid relegation and either Tottenham or Liverpoool or even Everton can catch Chelsea and knock the Blues out of the Champions League.

Oh, every now and then, he'll check to see who's where, but for the most part, he has no idea.

He knows the Knicks and Sixers are tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference, but he has no idea where anyone is in the NHL. By two weeks from now or so, he'll completely lose track of the Major League Baseball standings.

Why is this? TB would chalk it up to the innocence of youth if he thought it was true, but that's not the case. It's probably more about how much money professional athletes make and how much that turns TB off.

And, it's also about the fact that college sports have become more important to TB, both because he works in college athletics and because they're more interesting.

Except the NFL, which TB presumes will be up and running again in time for kickoff in September.

Anyway, speaking of checking out the standings, let's look at a few around the Ivy League:

Princeton has won seven straight games, including a 4-0 start in the league with a sweep of Yale and Brown last weekend. Earlier this year Princeton knocked off then-unbeaten LSU on the road.

In many years, the Rolfe Division (Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, Brown) was much stronger than the Gehrig Division (Princeton, Penn, Cornell, Columbia), to the point where the winner of the Gehrig would have essentially the same record as the third or even fourth place team in the Rolfe.

This year, Princeton is 4-0 - and only tied for first in the division with Penn, who is also 4-0. Columbia is 2-2, and Cornell is 1-3. On the other side, Dartmouth and Yale are tied for first at 2-2.

Coming up this weekend, Princeton is at Harvard (0-4 in the league, 3-20 overall) and Dartmouth, where, amazingly, the weather is going to be sunny and 60 both days.

Men's Tennis
The highly competitive Ivy League, with four teams ranked in the top 75 nationally, has two teams without a league loss and three others with one.

Princeton is on top of the standings now at 3-0, while Cornell is unbeaten at 2-0. This week's opponents are Dartmouth and Harvard at home; both of those teams are 1-1. The season winds up next weekend with a home match against Columbia and then, on Sunday the 17th, with a trip to Cornell.

Women's Tennis
Princeton is the two-time defending champion, but getting a third won't be easy. Still, Princeton may have saved its season with a win over Yale last weekend.

Brown - who defeated Princeton 6-1 - is 2-0 in the league, along with Dartmouth and Harvard. Princeton, at 2-1, is at Harvard and Dartmouth this weekend. The math here is fairly easy.

Women's Lacrosse
The Big Three of Ivy women's lacrosse is Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth, and you have to go back to 1992 to find a year when at least one of those three didn't either win the title outright or earn at least a share.

This year will be no different. The question is who or how many of three it will be.

Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth are a combined 9-0 against the rest of the league.

The three games between the teams will take place in eight-day stretch, beginning when Penn hosts Dartmouth April 16 and continuing two weeks from today with Princeton at Penn and then the concluding Saturday, April 23, with Princeton at Dartmouth.

The Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament will feature the top four teams in the league, and Princeton appears to be a lock to get there. The tournament winner gets the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Men's Lacrosse
As much as Princeton's season has been a struggle, the Tigers still could get to the NCAA tournament in one of two ways. Both would require some big performances during the second half of the season, but it's certainly possible.

First, Princeton could win any four of its remaining five regular-season games and then win its first-round Ivy tournament game. Doing so would leave Princeton at 7-6 and essentially lock up an at-large bid, because 1) there would be at least two Top 5 wins (Johns Hopkins and either Syracuse or Cornell) on the Tigers' resume should this happen and 2) the Tigers would be at least .500 prior to the tournament.

Should that not happen, then Princeton would need to win the Ivy League tournament to get the league's automatic bid.

Of course, Princeton has to get into the Ivy tournament, which means finishing in the top four in the regular season.

Right now, Cornell is the lone Ivy unbeaten at 3-0, followed by three teams with one loss each (Penn, Harvard and Dartmouth). Princeton, at 1-2, is tied for fifth with Yale, ahead of 0-2 Brown.

Princeton still has league games against Dartmouth, Harvard and Cornell, and wins in two of those three will almost surely mean a spot in the Ivy tournament, as only three times in the last 25 years has a 3-3 team not finished in the top four (though last year was one of those three, as four teams were 4-2).

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