Thursday, February 13, 2014

25 For 25

TigerBlog finds himself in the rather odd position of being jealous of the weather at the Winter Olympics.

While the temperature in Sochi - which is basically a summer resort on the Black Sea - has routinely made it in to the 50s during the first few days of the Winter Games, here in the Princeton metropolitan area there is yet another snowstorm falling all around.

What has possibly been the worst winter that TB can ever remember continues its hold over the area. In fact, in the last six weeks or so, the only two nice days have been the day before the Super Bowl and the Super Bowl.

Since then, it's been snow, followed by snow and ice, followed by temperatures that haven't made it much above 20 at any point. And now is the No. 1 snowfall of the season, with as many as 14 inches making their way down all over the place.

TigerBlog, of course, always has lacrosse season on his mind, and that's even more true now than usual, even with the terrible winter.

So let it snow all it wants. Princeton lacrosse starts in nine days.

The men will open their season at home against Hofstra a week from Saturday, at 11 a.m., on ESPNU. As is often the case for the opener, there figures to be stacked up snow on the sidelines.

TB looks forward to every lacrosse season. He's especially excited about this one.

For starters, it's the last chance to see Tom Schreiber in a Princeton uniform. For another, Princeton should be a pretty exciting - and pretty good - team, something that is a good combination.

The 2014 season will be TB's 25th with the men's lacrosse program. It doesn't really seem like it's been that long, until he mentions that it's a quarter-century. Then it seems like it's been a long time.

In advance of this season and after he realized that it's been a quarter-century, TB decided to put together a list of the 25 best Princeton men's lacrosse players of the last 25 years. It was his list, so anyone was free to disagree.

He released his list in five parts, with five players a week for five weeks.

He actually had 26 players on his top 25, with a wildcard to start (not to mention 18 honorable mention picks). That wildcard was Matt Striebel, who played his way from being a very good college player to a likely Hall-of-Famer with his professional and international career.

When it got to the top 10, it could have gone in many different directions, something that became clear to TB with the feedback he got from former players who were speculating.

Finally, got to the top five. And then the top three, which could really have gone in any order.

Ultimately, he had it down to Kevin Lowe, Scott Bacigalupo and Jesse Hubbard. All three are in the lacrosse Hall of Fame. Between them they were first-team All-America six times, first-team All-Ivy nine times and NCAA champion seven times.

Lowe is the leading scorer of all time at Princeton, with 247 career points, and all-time Princeton leader in assists, with 174. Nobody is really all that close to those numbers.

Bacigalupo is Princeton's career leader in saves, with 732, or 112 more than the next-best total.

Hubbard is Princeton's career leader in goal scored with 163. The next-best total is 146. The one after that is 126.

Ultimately, TB went Hubbard-Bacigalupo-Lowe. Why did he go with Jesse as No. 1?

It's because when he thought hard about the best player he's seen here, he came up with Hubbard. It was simple.

Hubbard's game was power. He could shoot it with anyone, and even the best goalies struggled to catch up to his shot. He had more games in his career with three or more goals than he did with fewer than three. Think about that for a second.

The entire exercise was fun, and a nice way to remember his quarter-century watching the Tigers playing lacrosse. And to get ready for this year. And to get some debate going.

TB also though about the team that Princeton would put on the field if it went with the highest ranked players at each position from the list. Doing it that way, this would be Princeton's starting lineup:

attack - Jesse Hubbard, Kevin Lowe, Ryan Boyle
midfield - Tom Schreiber, Josh Sims, Scott Reinhardt
defense - David Morrow, Ryan Mollet, Chad Wiedmaier
goalie - Scott Bacigalupo

No offense to any other teams for the last 25 years, but that's quite a collection of talent.

Ultimately, it was a chance to remember the great players and great people who have been part of Princeton lacrosse for the last 25 years. TB has been very, very fortunate to have his vantage point to see it all during that time.

He's not sure he has another 25 years of Princeton lacrosse in him. Maybe he does. Of course, that would put him in his 70s.

Still, a top 50 of 50 years would be fun, no?

Anyway, like he said, he's ready for his 25th season.

And for the snow to stop. Lacrosse is a spring sport, after all.

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