Monday, March 31, 2014

A Division I Divide

FatherBlog used to have a rule - no checking mail on the weekends.

This was back when checking the mail was a big deal, as opposed to now, when most important "mail" comes with an "e" in front of it.

Anyway, his basic thinking was that he didn't want to have to deal with anything during his weekend, so he'd wait until Monday to check the mail - and any problems that might come along with it. TigerBlog isn't sure FB still employs this philosophy, though he was pretty adamant about it for a long time.

TigerBlog, on the other hand, probably checked his email 1,000 times over the weekend. So did you, he's guessing.

TB can't help it. How could anyone? It comes at you on the computer, on the phone. It's everywhere.

And, in TB's case, it's work-related.

Still, it does point out that the world has changed a lot since FatherBlog's self-imposed 48-hour information blackout. Life just doesn't seem to black out information anymore.

So there TigerBlog was yesterday, on his laptop, while watching Kentucky-Michigan in the NCAA tournament. And as he checked his emails once again, he couldn't help but think that he was seeing the great divide that is intercollegiate athletics.

On the way hand, there was the flood of emails about postponements and cancellations and reschedules due to the relentless weekend rains, the ones that never stopped, turning the opening Ivy League weekend of baseball and softball scheduled for Saturday and yesterday at Princeton into, well,  a washout.

On the other hand, there was Kentucky basketball and its unapologetic coach, turning another one-and-done group into a trip to the Final Four.

Here was a group of baseball and softball players who were hoping to get their games in. There was a group of basketball players playing on national television in front of a huge crowd in a football stadium and then ultimately heading off to a bigger football stadium and a bigger crowd with a bigger national television audience.

And all of them fall under the same heading - Division I athletes.

Princeton's baseball and softball players took a different path to become a Division I athlete than Kentucky's basketball players. That's for sure.

The baseball and softball players hoped to use their athletic ability to maximize their educational opportunity for college and succeeded by ending up at Princeton, the nation's top University. Along with the men's hockey players, the baseball players can point to a legitimate chance at playing professionally, but that's only for a handful of them, and the odds remain long.

They're not here as a stepping stone for the Major Leagues. They're here for the combination of education and athletics, both of which are extremely important to them. They've committed themselves to both their whole lives, and this is their reward - the chance to play their sport at a high level while getting a world-class undergraduate education.

And they get to play at a school that places a premium on their complete athletic experience. This is defined by the ability to compete for the league championship, to travel, to have proper support from athletic training, communications, faculty fellows, the equipment staff - to reach their fullest potential as individual athletes and as a team. Mostly, it's meant to be an extension of the educational mission of Princeton - Education Through Athletics - with its life lessons about teamwork, self-discipline, hard-work, time management, sacrificing the individual for the greater good of the team.

To do this, Princeton University acknowledges the importance of intercollegiate athletics and agrees to fund it accordingly. The idea that the baseball or softball teams generate revenue? It's non-existent. There's not even an admission charge to see either team play. 

The five freshmen who start for Kentucky are there for one reason - the NBA didn't permit them to join the league straight out of high school. That's it. That's why they're in college.

It doesn't make them bad people. Or bad students. It doesn't make them good people or good students either. None of that is the issue. They're there to play basketball.

Their student-athlete experience is defined by first-class travel, hotels before home games, many million dollar facilities, locker rooms, weight rooms, etc. 

And the money pours in. From ticket sales at 20,000-seat Rupp Arena. From NCAA tournament revenue, which is derived from what really matters, TV money.

And yet they're both groups of Division I athletes.

So what do you do about all of this, now that the first step towards unionizing college athletes cleared the hurdle last week in Chicago, when a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern football players can be considered employees of the school.

If the ruling stands, it opens up a huge can of worms that intercollegiate athletics will be forced to deal with, though this is probably years away with all the legalities that are coming up.

TigerBlog won't pretend to be an expert in labor law, and nor will be pretend to be an expert on the specifics of the Northwestern case.

What he does know is that there exists this great divide in college athletics, between big-time football and basketball and everything else. The problem is that big-time football and basketball involve a tiny percent of the Division I athletes but brings in all of the money, while the everything else in Division I athletics brings in no money.

It would be an oversimplification to say that the first group is there solely to try to get to the pros while the second group is legitimate student-athletes. Still, follow the money, as in, where the money comes from so do the majority of the off-field issues.

So what do you do? Unionize everyone? Are they all employees? If athletes are going to be paid, does everyone get the same? Does Johnny Manziel get the same as the nameless center who snaps him the ball? Do Kentucky's basketball players get the same as Princeton's baseball and softball players?

And what about athletic scholarships, which don't impact Ivy athletes, of course? If you're on employee, does the scholarship money become imputed income, and therefore subject to taxation?

These are questions TB has asked before.

They all became a bit more urgent this past week, with one ruling in Chicago. Who knows what impact it will ultimately have on college sports, but it could be hugely significant. How? Because it could force schools to make decisions that they don't want to, such as how much money can they possibly pay out to "employees" while also putting teams that generate no money at all on the field? And, of course, there's the whole gender equity piece.

The nature of college athletics may be shifting forever. TB has read many doomsday stories in the last few days, and while he doesn't think that the end is near, it's possible it could all look a lot different than it does now once it all gets sorted out.

The current system has a lot of flaws, but the best part is that broad-based participation is allowed to flourish.

TB would hate to see that no longer be the case.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cheering For Kimmie

From TigerBlog's seat in the Jadwin balcony, Kim Meszaros was a small blur standing next to a larger blur, who just happened to be Princeton University president Chris Eisgruber.

The occasion was the University's annual employee recognition luncheon, the one where staff members are recognized for service for 10, 15, 20, 25 years and so on. And the one where the most deserving are given the President's Achievement Award.

The language for the award reads like this: The award was established in 1997 to recognize members of the support and administrative staffs with five or more years of service whose dedication, excellent work and special efforts have contributed significantly to the success of their departments and the University.

And so there was Kim Mesazaros at lunchtime yesterday, a blur at such a great distance, from the balcony down to the main floor and then all the way across the cavernous interior of Jadwin, which had been set up with tables behind the main court on the track and then ultimately with a stage just in front of the far end.

A blur, holding a large framed certificate, one that presumably mentioned that she was one of the 2014 Princeton University President's Achievement Award winners.

TigerBlog joined a group of about 40 athletic department staff members who had come to cheer on Kim in her moment in the spotlight. When her name was announced, the entire group cheered, loudly enough that many of the people in the audience turned to see who was making all the noise, loudly enough that the person who was videotaping turned the camera to the nearly empty balcony and flashed the athletic department contingent on the screens.

If you're a Princeton Athletics fan, the name Kim Meszaros is probably not familiar. Nor are the reasons why she was being honored.

Kim Meszaros has been in the athletic department for 18 years, the last 14 of which have been spent as the assistant to the Director of Athletics. Hers is the chair closest to the office of Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters, down in Room 1.

Before President Eisgruber presented the awards to the recipients, there was a short video tribute to each of them, courtesy of a co-worker. And so there came Gary on the big screen, talking about Kim, calling her the MVP of the athletic department.

Kim's job description and what she does for the department probably don't match up. She is the assistant to the AD, which means that she is involved in basically everything that happens. She is also the primary contact between the athletic department and human resources, which means she takes the lead in all searches, of which there are a lot every year.

Mostly, she's the babysitter for the athletic department, the one who makes sure everything is going smoothly, that everyone is doing what they're supposed to be doing, that nothing is falling through the cracks. In a world where everyone is focused on specific tasks and responsibilities, Kim is the one making sure all the pieces are fitting together.

She seems to know everything about everyone, like any good babysitter would. She knows what makes TB tick, and TB assumes she's figured everyone else out as well.

She does this was an ever-present smile and a laugh that doesn't quite make it all the way down the hall from her office to TigerBlog's but does come close. She is self-deprecating without overdoing it, funny, friendly, affable.

She is dedicated and loyal. She is a multitasker of the highest order, and she is as likely to send an important email at 2:30 am as 2:30 pm.

She is the one that everyone goes to with every problem, and she is the one who solves them all. She's also the one who plans the parties, remembers the birthdays and does all the little things that make the department more than just a collection of people.

For those reasons and so many others, there she was yesterday, finally get her due as a recipient of such a big award. The president spoke of her glowingly, and why wouldn't he?

And there was the large contingent from the athletic department, cheering her on. It's a very spread-out group, with offices in Jadwin, Dillon, the rink, the boathouse. And they came from all of those places to cheer on Kim.

That's what athletic department people do. It's the nature of the business.

They cheer. For their teams. For the athletes. For the uniform, for the colors of orange and black. 

For each other. Usually that means the ones who are the most visible publicly, the ones whose names are most familiar to those who follow the Tigers.

On this day, they were there to cheer for one of their own.

Kim Meszaros was in the spotlight yesterday. Like so many others who are more comfortable cheering than being cheered for, she was probably a bit uncomfortable. And also appreciative.

Kim spent last week in France with the women's soccer team. She came back to be honored by the University president with a huge award.

It's been a pretty good week for her.

She deserves it.

Congratulations, Kim Meszaros. The athletic department is in good hands with its babysitter.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

First Pitches

TigerBlog is pretty sure that the Major League Baseball season started already.

The Los Angeles Dodgers played two games that counted against the Arizona Diamondbacks in, of all places, Australia.

It wasn't that long ago that Opening Day in Major League Baseball was played in a far more exotic location than Australia, and that place was Cincinnati. Each year, tradition held that the first regular-season baseball game would be played in Cincinnati, though in recent years that went by the wayside in favor of more of a made-for-TV primetime Sunday night event.

TigerBlog tried to figure out how many years in a row the first baseball game of each season was played in Cincinnati, so he went to, of course, Wikipedia. Before he ever got around to figuring out the whole thing about the Reds, he was struck by a picture of Princeton alum Woodrow Wilson as he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day 1916.

In fact, according to the site that knows all, there have been 12 Presidents who have thrown out the first pitch on Opening Day. The first was William Howard Taft - a Yale man - in 1910, something that TigerBlog already knew.

Something that TB didn't know was that Harry Truman threw out first pitches lefthanded and righthanded in 1950. Now that's bi-partisan spirit.

TB always liked Opening Day. Each stadium would be packed, and there would be a promise of a new year for each team. For one day at least, everyone was even. The reality of the long season sets in for Game 2, which has a fraction of the attendance of Game 1 and which begins a very, very long grind.

Tom McCarthy, the former Princeton football and basketball play-by-play man, is now the TV voice of the Philadelphia Phillies. Before his current assignment he spent a few years as the radio voice for the New York Mets.

It's great, glamorous work, but it's also grueling. And that's for an announcer. How about for the players?

The physical aspect of playing football or hockey or even basketball is much greater than baseball, until you factor in the grind of 162 games. Every night, night after night, city after city, from now through October, especially in the heat of the summer.

It can't be easy.

Scott Bradley did it for years and years, as a Major League Baseball player from 1984-92. Since 1998 he has been the Princeton baseball coach, and he has led the Tigers to 10 Gehrig Division championships and six Ivy titles and NCAA appearances.

Unlike Major League Baseball, Ivy League baseball is more of a sprint. The same, by the way, applies to softball.

Ivy baseball and softball teams go through the same formula each year. The season starts not in Cincinnati but instead with a trip or trips to areas with favorable late February/early March weather, always against opponents with a big head start to their seasons.

The results are fairly predictable. If you look at the current Ivy League baseball and softball standings, you'll notice no team in either sport is over .500 right now.

Still, there is a lot going for Ivy baseball and softball.

For starters, Princeton's baseball and softball teams made early-season trips to both Florida and California to play. For another, there are an endless number of opponents out there, so there's always someone new to play.

And then there's the league season itself. Five weekends, doubleheaders back-to-back, either Friday/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday.

It builds to the Ivy League Championship Series for both sports, which matches the winners of the two divisions for the league title and NCAA bid.

TigerBlog is on the record as being vehemently anti-basketball tournament but very pro-lacrosse tournament. He's also a big fan of the ILCS.

Would something like this work in basketball? Probably not, since in baseball and softball each team plays 20 games, four against the other three in the same division and two against the teams in the other division. Still, a basketball championship game between the top two teams? Sure. TB would be okay with that.

The run to the Ivy League Championship Series begins this weekend. Of course, the schools have to compete with another issue each "spring" around here - rain, which is in the forecast. That's another great thing about lacrosse. It gets played in the rain.

Princeton is scheduled to open at home against Harvard and Dartmouth in both sports, with softball tomorrow and Saturday and baseball Saturday and Sunday. It will be the home opener for the baseball team and the first games on Class of 1895 Field for the softball team, who did play two games on Finney/Campbell Fields earlier this month.

The goal for both is to playing on a beautiful May weekend, with the ultimate hope of getting to the NCAA tournament.

First pitches for both are at home this weekend. Weather permitting, of course. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Best Of The Best

Each year, a commercial that simply tortures TigerBlog comes along during the NCAA basketball tournament.

This year's winner is the Burger King commercial with Chris Webber.

The commercial would be a lot better if Webber had been sitting down, rather than standing up. Though the annoying other guy in the commercial needs to be obscured by Webber to set up the premise, that part could have been worked out, TB supposes.

Instead, here is what the Burger King people came up with. A guy goes into a sports bar carrying a bag with two Burger King sandwiches in it. As he tries to see over the crowd to catch a game on TV, he sees someone in front of him with a Chris Webber Michigan jersey on. Thinking that it's just another guy in a Chris Webber jersey, he gives him the air quotation marks. When Webber turns around, annoying other guy realizes it's the real Chris Webber and starts to scream. Somehow, out of all this, Webber asks him for one of his Burger King sandwiches.

Okay, two things. First, it's one thing if the person in front of you is short and wearing a basketball jersey. Here, though, the guy in front of you is 6-10. Does it dawn on you that it might actually be Chris Webber?

Then, once he sees who it is, he starts to scream in fear. What is he afraid of? What does he think Chris Webber is going to do, beat him up?

Anyway, TB saw that commercial a thousand times this weekend, and he hated it every time.

The end of Princeton's basketball season came Monday night, very late, in Fresno, where the Tigers lost to Fresno State 72-56 in the quarterfinals of the CBI to finish up at 21-9. Broken down a little bit further, Princeton was 8-6 in the Ivy League and 13-3 outside of it.

Extra credit is given to those who know that the semifinals in the CBI will have Illinois State at Siena and Old Dominion at Fresno State.

Harvard's run in the NCAA basketball tournament ended Saturday, when the Crimson put up a good fight against Michigan State before falling. The Penn women lost in the NCAAs, and Princeton and Harvard lost in the WNIT.

There are still two Ivy League teams who are playing, and in fact they will be playing each other tonight, when Yale travels to Columbia for the quarterfinal round of the CIT.

Harvard was making its third straight NCAA tournament appearance, which marks the sixth time in the last 25 years that an Ivy League team has made at least three straight trips to the NCAAs.

In order, there was: Princeton from 1989-92 (actually, that's the only one that's been more than three straight), Penn from 1993-95, Princeton from 1996-98, Penn from 2005-07, Cornell from 2008-10 and now Harvard from 2012-present.

It makes TB wonder which of those runs was the best.

He started out by eliminating Princeton's 1989-92 and Penn's 2005-07 teams, because, with apologies, he thinks the other ones from those schools were better. Once he did so, that left four three-year stretches.

So which one is the best?

Well, his first question is how much validation does a team get for NCAA wins? He's not sure what the answer is.

Penn won one game between 1993-95. Princeton's 1996-98 teams and Harvard's 2012-14 teams won two games each.  Cornell's 2008-10 teams also won two games, though the Big Red did it in the same tournament. As a result, Cornell did something that the other three didn't by reaching the Sweet 16.

So how big a deal is all that? Does it push Cornell over the top?

Princeton in 1998 and Harvard this year both lost to Michigan State. In Princeton's case, that Michigan State team featured four players who would go on to be starters for the Spartans when they won the NCAA title two years later, and three went on to play in the NBA - Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and Charlie Bell.

For that matter, Princeton lost in 1996 to Mississippi State in the second round, and that MSU ended up in Final Four.

This year's NCAA tournament hasn't played out, but Michigan State seems to be a very underrated four seed again, just like in 1998, when Princeton was the five. Maybe the Spartans will lose to No. 1 Virginia in the next round, or maybe they'll roll to the Final Four.

What does any of this mean? Not all that much, TB thinks. Instead, he'll go with the eye test.

Ironically, TB would put the Cornell team fourth of this group, even if it's the one that reached the Sweet 16. No offense, but someone has to be fourth, as great as these teams all were.

He would put the current Harvard team third. He'd put Princeton's 1996-98 team second. And he'd put Penn from 1993-95 first.

Forget NCAA tournament wins for a second. Looking at Ivy League records, here's how those four teams stack up:

1. Penn 42-0 (three perfect seasons)
2. Princeton 40-2 (two perfect seasons)
3. Cornell 38-4 (one perfect season)
4. Harvard 36-6 (no perfect seasons)

The Penn teams from 1993-95 had three players who would reach the NBA - Jerome Allen, Matt Maloney and Ira Bowman. That's extraordinary for an Ivy school.

And watching them play, TB never thought they had a chance to lose. Ever. And they didn't. They were untouchable, a team with absolutely no weakness anywhere and with explosiveness everywhere.

TB has always thought it a shame that the 1993-95 Penn team never got a chance to play the 1998 Princeton team, which reached the national Top 10. As loyal as he is to his employer over his alma mater, he has to admit that he thinks those Penn teams were a shade better.

Those Penn teams won one NCAA game (against probably the weakest opponent any of the Ivy teams had to play, Nebraska in 1993), while the other three all won two. If how far a team went in the NCAA tournament is the defining mark, then Cornell has to go to No. 1, with its Sweet 16 run.

TB isn't looking at the NCAA tournament as main determination of who was the best. You can if you want, and TB respects that.

Either way, those four teams were great, dominant Ivy League teams.

In whatever order you put them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

10 For 10

As untouchable Princeton records go, TigerBlog figured that one that had endured since 1951 might be up there.

Oh sure, nobody is ever going to match what Bill Bradley did here. Or at least probably won't. Bradley scored 58 points in one game. He scored 2,503 points in his career. Nobody has come close to touching those since.

Ian Hummer is second all-time in scoring in men's basketball at Princeton with 1,625 points, which means the next closest scorer to Bradley only got 65% of the way to where Bradley is. That's pretty wild. No other player at Princeton has scored more than 39 points in a game, which is only 67% of the way to Bradley's record.

Still, there are other records across other sports that have stood for longer, which makes them seem just as hard to reach. TB isn't sure what the oldest record at Princeton is.

He thought it might be something from swimming and diving, but it turns out that the only school record that predates 2006 is a diving record by William Heinz in 1975.

In track and field, the oldest record is Augie Wolf's discus record from 1982, unless you count archived records, which presumably are in events that aren't contested anymore. In that case, J.R. Pappas' 9.6 100-yard dash in 1927 is pretty old, even though it was tied by four other runners, in 1942, 1948, 1955 and 1970.

There are all kinds of old football records. The longest interception return in school history, for instance, was by Talbot Pendleton back in 1911 against Rutgers. How old is that record? Hobey Baker played in that game.

The longest field goal in school history dates 29 years before Talbot's big return, when James Haxall kicked one (or drop-kicked one, more accurately) 65 yards against Yale.

By comparison, 1951 isn't all that long ago. Still, the 1951 men's lacrosse season predates Bradley's Princeton career by more than a decade, and in fact in the spring of 1951, Dick Kazmaier had not yet started the senior season that would 1) earn him the Heisman Trophy and 2) give him records that can still be found.

Back on April 11, 1951, William Griffith scored 10 goals in a game. That's a lot of goals.

Since then, Princeton has had Hall of Fame offensive players who have played here, and none of them scored 10. In fact, only four times between Griffith in 1951 and last Saturday did a Princeton player score as many as eight goals in a game: Alva Weaver against Rutgers in 1953, Wick Sollers against FDU-Madison in 1976, Jesse Hubbard vs. Hobart in 1996 and B.J. Prager also against Hobart in 2001. Those eight goals were only 80% of the way to the record.

Until last Saturday, that is, when Jake Froccaro scored 10 against Yale.

It only took 839 games and 63 years from when Griffith scored his 10 against Rutgers for his record to be equaled.

TigerBlog has always thought that single-game records should be easier to break, since it just takes one really hot day to do it. Griffith, though, put up a number that nobody came all that close to for so long that TB began to think this one was also untouchable.

For that matter, he's always been amazed that Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak record has lasted since 1941, since it only takes 57 games to break.

TigerBlog has seen some great days by Princeton scorers, most recently the seven-goal game that Mike MacDonald had against Cornell last year in the Ivy League semifinals. He long ago figured out that 10 was the school record, and he long ago began to think that nobody would ever get that many again.

And then Froccaro did it Saturday. And did it, to a certain extent, in a way that seemed somewhat effortless, like something he could do every game.

As Froccaro's day unfolded and he scored more and more, TB began to expect him to get to 10, rather than feel shocked by the extraordinary game that Froccaro was having.

And it was extraordinary.

Consider that Froccaro is one of the best midfielders in the Ivy League and was the league Rookie of the Year last year. He is one of the top scoring middies, for that matter, in Division I.

Prior to Saturday, his career high was three goals, something he'd done four times. And something that is pretty reasonable for a middie. And then against Yale, he beat that in both the first half, scoring six, and in the second half, with four more.

His 10-goal game was the fifth since the Ivy League was formed in 1956, the 15th in Division I since official records began to be kept in 1971 and the first in Division I since 2008, when Stony Brook's Jordan McBride did it.

Froccaro scored in every possible way, with rockets from the outside, ankle-breaking moves to free himself up, finishes off great feeds from MacDonald and Tom Schreiber on the crease, a perfectly placed change up to the far side of the net.

TB's favorite was Froccaro's eighth, with two Yale defenders on him, unable to do a thing to stop him.

Froccaro took "only" 18 shots to get his 10 goals, which means that while he was a volume business, he was operating efficiently at the same time.

It was an incredibly impressive performance, though unfortunately one that came in a loss, 16-15, as Yale scored with 38 seconds to go to win it. Afterwards, Froccaro was more upset at the loss than pleased with his record-tying day.

Froccaro had a 16-point week, after having three goals and three assists in the win over Villanova last Tuesday night. Next up is another road Ivy game, at Brown. What will Froccaro do for an encore?

TB is pretty sure he won't get 10 more. TB is pretty sure that nobody will. Maybe he will see it again. Maybe it won't happen for 63 more years, which would mean during the 2077 season, which TB assumes he will miss.

He saw Froccaro's 10 last Saturday though. It was an extraordinary day for the sophomore, who was on from the start. TB asked him afterwards if he sensed that something was different before the game started, and Froccaro said no.

But it was different. That's for sure. Different, and history-making, by Jake Froccaro.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Weekend's Worth Of Hoops

The Wichita State-Kentucky game reached the two-minute mark, and as it did, TigerBlog thought to himself this: minimum 15 minutes and at least three trips to the monitor.

As it turned out, he was one minute and one monitor trip over.

When Iowa State-North Carolina got to the two-minute mark, TB had the same thought - 15 more minutes, three more stoppages for the monitor. This time, the last two minutes breezed along in a lightning-quick 11 minutes, and again only had to have two monitor moments.

Of course, the refs took the monitor spotlight to a whole new level in the Iowa State-UNC game, which actually ended during a replay review. No game should ever end like that, by the way. And Roy Williams, the UNC coach, did handle the situation with great class.

The NCAA tournament showed all of the things that made it great in its first weekend, with its upsets, a Cinderella or two, wall-to-wall coverage for four straight days and most importantly some simply amazing games.

And it also showed the two biggest problems with college basketball games: 1) the overuse of replay and 2) the nightmarish end-game situations that drag on and on, turning two minutes into 11 or 15.

Okay, TB gets that it's important to get the timing right and figure out who knocked the ball out and all of that, especially at the end of games. But stopping the Wichita State-Kentucky game dead in its tracks in the first half to spend nearly three minutes deciding if the shot clock should have 28 or 30 seconds on it during one possession? It's laughably ridiculous.

Most of these reviews simply destroy the tempo of the game, adding additional timeouts to a sport that needs way fewer, not more.

How about this for a rule: if the refs go to the monitor, the players must stay on the court and cannot speak to their coaches? And how about a replay ref who can check things quickly, rather than having the on-court officials huddle around the monitor and then put their arms around each other while they talk about it.

Again, TB doesn't think the refs are ego-maniacs, but he also firmly believes that ego does fuel how many trips the refs make to the monitor. It's human nature. It makes them the center of attention.

Oh, and is anyone a worse basketball prognosticator than TigerBlog? His pick of Kansas to win it all - fueled by his belief that Andrew Wiggins would carry his team - didn't come true. And he had Kansas over Creighton in the final. Yikes. That's awful. In the last two years now, his four championship game picks have won a combined three games.

The two best games of the tournament so far have been Mercer's win over Duke, largely because of the fact that it was Duke's losing to the Atlantic Sun champ, and Wichita State-Kentucky, which was one of the best games the tournament has had in recent years.

Mercer couldn't follow its first-round win up with a trip to the Sweet 16 like Florida-Gulf Coast, out of the same league, did a year ago. Still, this was a great story. Mercer started five seniors, all of whom had to stew for a whole year after the whole Dunk City thing exploded last year, even after Mercer had won the regular season championship.

And then it was Duke who lost, who was actually almost run off the court by Mercer over the final five minutes or so. The Bears had two great plays during the game-sealing run - the one-handed pass off the dribble for the basket and and-one and then the length of the court inbounds pass.

And so Duke was done. TigerBlog got a lot of texts when it ended; none of them expressed genuine sorrow at what happened.

Then there was Kentucky's 78-76 win over Wichita State. This was an epic, two teams with a lot to prove who were both on top of their games.

Wichita State came in at 35-0 and No. 1 seed, and all that meant was a Sunday meeting with a Kentucky team that was the preseason No. 1 and a team that some thought might roll undefeated.

Instead, the Wildcats were an eight seed after an inconsistent year, and yet they were still dripping with talent. And it was all on display yesterday.

When it ended, Wichita State was 35-1 and couldn't match last year's trip to the Final Four. Still, with more people watching the Shockers yesterday than did all year combined - TB's supposes this - it was hard not to be impressed. It was just one of those moments where the finality of it all is so clear - Kentucky advances; Wichita State gets no second chance.

Princeton's women's basketball team gets no second chance in the WNIT either, as the Tigers fell 75-74 at Seton Hall Sunday.

Michelle Miller had a great performance, putting up 34 points, the fourth-best total in school history. She also shot an amazing 8 for 9 from three-point range.

The game was a close, back-and-forth one, and Princeton went up 74-72 with 28 seconds left, only to have Seton Hall get a three-point play with 10 seconds left for the winning points.

The loss ends Princeton's season at 21-9, and it didn't come in the tournament that the Tigers would have preferred. Still, after four straight NCAA trips, a win in the WNIT in round one over VCU and a great game at Seton Hall wasn't a bad way for the year to end, especially with almost everyone back for next year.

The men are still playing, as they are in California to play at Fresno State in the second round of the CBI. For the men, it's been a postseason on the road, first to New Orleans to take on Tulane and now in Fresno.

This one could be a good one too. Princeton has won nine of its last 11; Fresno has won 10 of its last 13.

At this time of year, each game is potentially the end of the season, whoever you are, whatever your record. There are no second chances in college basketball.

What there are are too many timeouts,  and way too many replays.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Underway At The NCAAs

The defending champ got off to a solid start on Day 1 of this year's NCAA event, even if there is a long, long way to go and repeating won't be easy.

TigerBlog is talking about fencing, of course. Not basketball.

Since you brought it up, though, Day 1 of the NCAA basketball tournament was pretty good, if not rivetingly great. And there's a reason for that.

Time was that wins by an 11 and two 12s on the first day of the tournament, as well as a third 12 who lost by only three, would have been epic. In 2014, it's happened so many times before and the gap between the seeds has narrowed so much that it's hardly shocking anymore.

In fact, the No. 12 beats the No. 5 so many times of late that all pre-tournament discussion is about which No. 12 seeds will win, not IF one can win.

Still, some of the games were great. The best one was 11th-seeded Dayton's win over Ohio State, which had a pair of big-time clutch shots in the final 15 seconds, first by Ohio State's Aaron Craft and then the winner by Dee Sanford of Dayton.

North Dakota State's win over Oklahoma was another great moment. The 12th-seeded Bison forced overtime with a late three-pointer and then pulled away for an 80-75 win.

One of the best parts of the tournament, far better than the Final Four, is the idea that teams from small conferences can beat teams from big conferences. During the season, the power conference teams have every advantage - their home court (Oklahoma would never play at North Dakota State unless it had a player from Fargo), their officials.

North Dakota State is having a pretty good year, what with another FCS footbal championship and now the win over Oklahoma. It was 10 days earlier, by the way, that NDSU thumped Denver and Princeton alum Joe Scott in the Horizon semifinals.

The Bison won the Summit League regular-season by two games. They then put the Summit League on the map with the win over Oklahoma. Can anyone remember who NDSU beat in the Summit final? No. The answer is IUPU-Fort Wayne. What is Ft. Wayne had won the Summit final? Hey, it would have been a 15-second highlight somewhere.

Could Ft. Wayne have won an opening round NCAA game? For starters, it would have been lower than a 12 seed, so it wouldn't have been as favorable a matchup. Did the Patriot League's American win? No offense to Mike Brennan, a TB favorite, but the Eagles lost by 40 in the first round to Wisconsin. Would regular-season champ Boston University have been a 15 seed?

The Horizon League representative was UW-Milwaukee, who went 7-9 in the league during the year, got hot and stole the tournament, earned a 15-seed and got blown out by 20 by Villanova. Wisconsin-Green Bay went 24-6 in the regular season and 14-2 in the league and probably would have been a 12 seed. How did the 12 seeds do again?

You get TB's point. If you don't, it's that conference tournaments in one-bid leagues are a dumb idea.

Harvard, the Ivy League champion, won again in the first round, defeating Cincinnati of the AAC. The Crimson win was no fluke; Harvard was in control the entire way. It shows what happens when you send your best team to the NCAA tournament.

As for the rest of the Ivy League, it's been a pretty good week.

Of the 16 Ivy League basketball teams, eight made it to the postseason. Harvard men and Penn women to the NCAA tournament, Princeton and Harvard women to the WNIT, Princeton men to the CBI and Columbia, Yale and Brown men to the CIT.

Of those eight teams, seven have already played - and six have won. The only loss was by Brown to Holy Cross 68-65 in the CIT opener. Everyone else has won, including the Princeton men and women.

The Tiger women, playing without a senior as Kristen Helmstetter and Nicole Hung were out with injuries, defeated a very good VCU team 94-76, advancing to Sunday's second round at Seton Hall. It was the first postseason game played at Jadwin Gym since the men's 2010 CBI against Duquesne and before that when the men defeated Georgetown in the 1999 NIT in a game where only five players played for the Tigers.

It was also the second postseason win for Princeton's women, who went 1-2 in the National Women's Invitational Tournament in Texas in an event that wasn't one-and-done.

While the Princeton women will be driving up the turnpike, the men will be flying to California to take on Fresno Monday night.

While Ohio State was losing to Dayton, it was also serving as the host school for the NCAA fencing championships. Princeton, the defending champion, is in first place after Day 1 of the four-day event, though repeating is hardly a guarantee.

The NCAA fencing championships are co-ed, something that TB doesn't quite understand.

The women complete their turn today, with the last two rounds for the team competition and then the individual national championships, which feature the top four in each of the three weapons. The men will then have the same schedule tomorrow and Sunday.

The NCAA champ will be the team that has the most combined points.

Princeton has the top women's program in the country and needs to have a solid lead after today for the team to win the combined team championship. The men are strong, but not the top team.

In the meantime, it's also the rest of the opening round for the basketball tournament.

There's one more No. 12 seed in action, Stephen F. Austin, who plays Virginia Commonwealth. SF Austin hasn't lost since November and is 31-2.

Good think for the Southland it didn't slip up in the conference tournament.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Opening Rounds

As predictions go, you can't do much worse than TigerBlog did with the NCAA men's basketball tournament last year.

The NCAA tournament is a strange animal in many ways. More than any other event that TB can think of, the tournament's excitement wanes as it moves on.

It starts with the massive buildup to the selection show, which now basically goes all season. Then, once the pairings are announced, the excitement peaks for the games today and tomorrow. After that, the thrill slowly fades, as the later rounds go along.

Even the Final Four doesn't have the level of interest of the first round.

If you're even a casual fan of college basketball, then you have to love today and tomorrow. Wall to wall games, from midday until late into the night, all of them on TV.

One game doesn't grab you? There's another one on. And all in search for that one game that is going to be the one that makes the tournament, like last year, when at this exact moment, nobody had ever seen Floria-Gulf Coast play.

Princeton, by the way, did as much as anyone to make today what it has become, with the near-miss against Georgetown 25 years ago this week and then the win over UCLA in 1996.

One of the draws of the opening round is, well, the draw, or more specifically the bracket.

The second the pairings are announced, anyone with a forum - TV, radio, Twitter - immediately starts making predictions, of all kinds. This one in the Final Four. This 12 over that 5. The other one wins its all.

And then everyone else fills out a bracket. Hey, getting it 100% right can win you $1 billion this year.

Every office has a pool. Everybody takes a shot at it, going through line-by-line, making snap decisions about teams they've never seen play.

The OAC has its own office pool each year. Someone wins, everybody else loses. Typical.

In this pool, no money or prize is at stake. It can't be. If you work anywhere near college athletics, you know the rules. DO NOT BET ON SPORTS. Even something as simple as a $5 NCAA tournament pool.

The message is crystal clear and communicated to everyone every year, multiple times. There's no way to miss it.

And so the OAC pool is just for fun.

TigerBlog didn't win it last year. He did the two years before it, but that's mostly luck.

Last year? TB had a prediction over Georgetown over Gonzaga in the championship game. It didn't quite work out.

Not after Florida-Gulf Coast took out the Hoyas in the first round and Gonzaga went out in the second round. Had TB's prediction come true, Georgetown and Gonzaga would have been a combined 11-1 in the tournament. Instead, they were 1-2.

This year? TB has Kansas over Creighton in the final, which means he's hoping Joel Embiid will be back in time for the key games later on. TB also has Kentucky over Wichita State in the second round. He'll be rooting hard for the Shockers, but he thinks Kentucky may be able to put something together here.

Wichita State is 34-0, and to get to 40-0, or even 38-0, it's going to have be earned. The committee did no favors for the No. 1 seed, with a region that includes Kentucky, probably Louisville and then probably Michigan or Duke. That is not going to be easy.

Princeton is not in the NCAA tournament this year, but the Tigers are still playing in the postseason. After holding off Tulane 56-55 in the first round of the CBI last night in New Orleans, Princeton will now play at Fresno State Monday in the second round.

The biggest winner in Round 1 was T.J. Bray, who finished the regular season with 995 points. Given a new opportunity, Bray scored 12 points last night in New Orleans, putting him over the 1,000-point mark for his career.

The other big winner for Princeton was Clay Wilson, who continued his late-season surge with 11 points, including three big second-half three-pointers.

And so now it's on to Fresno. TigerBlog was there with the Tigers in 1995, when current head coach Mitch Henderson had a big night shooting three-pointers as Princeton won the Coors Light Classic.

This time, it's in the postseason.

As TB said Monday, it's not the tournament everyone shoots for when the season begins. That tournament has its best days today and tomorrow.

But come Monday, all but 16 of those teams will be gone, and Princeton will still be playing.

There's certainly something to be said forthat.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In The Criminal Justice System ...

TigerBlog has been watching "Law & Order" reruns lately.

It's one of his favorite shows of all time. It's a great concept - half the show is about "the police who investigate crimes" and the other half is about the "district attorneys who prosecute the offenders."

It's a rare show that endured for 20 years and had several complete turnovers in its cast and yet managed to survive and thrive. TB can't think of another show that was able to accomplish anything close to that level of upheaval and still maintained its high level of quality. Most shows that have to replace even one key character often disintegrate.

TB likes to DVR the show, which is running regularly these days on WE TV. TB also doesn't get the idea of programming three episodes of "Law & Order" in the late afternoon and early evening on a network that otherwise appears to be devoted to targeting a strictly women's audience, with shows like "Marriage Boot Camp," "Mary, Mary" and returns of "Will & Grace" and "Roseanne," as well as skin care infomercials with Vivica Fox and Cindy Crawford.

And in between all of that is "Law & Order," three times a day.

This week, We has been advertising the coming season premiere of "Joan and Melissa," which TB would only watch if he was given a $100 bill for every minute he could stand it.

WE has also been advertising that this week is "Sopranos meets Law & Order" week. Now that is right in TB's wheelhouse.

Edie Falco has appeared as a public defender. It's easy to pick out Carmela Soprano. Junior appears as a judge. Christopher is a defendant in one episode who comes back as a detective later in the series. Big Pussy is a defendant more than once.

Anyone can see them.

But can you also find Father Intintola as a police offer who gets ripped into by Lennie Briscoe in a brief scene, after the murder weapon is found in a drain that the soon-to-be spiritual adviser/creepy stalker of Carmela didn't want to search (though it turned out not to be his fault)?

Or, for that matter, that Profaci - who was a pretty good character who didn't get a big enough role, in TB's mind - was played by the same guy who would play Gigi on "The Sopranos." On a series where many characters had unfortunate endings, nobody had it worse than Gigi - and let's just leave it at that.

Every now and then, there will be a Princeton reference on "Law & Order." In fact, one honor student-turned-bad was referred to as having had a chance to play soccer at Princeton, something that Jim Barlow was never able to confirm.

TB can't think of any Princeton references on "The Sopranos," though Meadow did go to Columbia.

Meanwhile, back at Princeton Athletics, spring break continues for a few more days, which means that several spring teams are spread out around the country.

There are six Princeton teams (technically one is a winter team) who will be competing today, and here are their opponents - Miami, USC, Duke, Tulane, Barton College, Mt. Olive, Pacific.

Actually, here's a fun game. Match the team with the opponent, as Princeton will have events in women's lacrosse, men's basketball, softball, baseball, men's volleyball and women's tennis today. The men's volleyball team has two opponents.

Anyway, it's a pretty interesting mix of opponents.

Let's start with the women's lacrosse game at USC, a program in its second year. Last year, Princeton defeated USC 18-13 on Sherrerd Field as USC went 8-10 in its first season. This time around, USC is 3-2 this year, with a win over Columbia in its most recent game.

It wasn't that long ago that the idea of being able to go to California to find Division I women's lacrosse opponents was unthinkable. Now? The Princeton women are playing two California teams on the spring trip, with a game Saturday against San Diego State. Now in Year 3, San Diego State started out 5-10 in 2012, then went 8-8 last year and now is off to a 6-1 start.

San Diego State has two players from New Jersey on its roster. USC has 11 players from New Jersey on its roster.

Princeton? One New Jersey player.

The baseball team will take on Duke in North Carolina. The softball team takes on a different group of Tigers, the ones from Pacific, in California. The women's tennis team is in Florida to take on Miami.

The basketball team is in New Orleans to take on Tulane in the first round of the CBI.

And the men's volleyball team is also in North Carolina, to take on Mt. Olive and Barton.

Those would be your matching game answers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Consolation Prizes

TigerBlog has a friend who used to live in Spokane. She hated it. Said it was a dreadfully dull place hundreds of miles from anything.

And the weather was awful.

From what she said at least, it's hardly the destination anyone would choose over, say, New Orleans. Of course, sometimes circumstance overrides just the destination.

The college basketball postseason is one of those time.

Harvard finds itself in Spokane today after chartering from Boston last night in advance of Thursday's NCAA tournament opener against Cincinnati. Harvard, the Ivy champ, is the 12 seed in the East, going against the fifth-seeded Bearcats, with the fourth-seeded Michigan State Spartans the likely opponent in the next round should the Crimson advance.

Princeton? It gets a trip to New Orleans, to take on Tulane tomorrow night in the first round of the CBI.

As consolation prizes go, it's not a bad one. And it completes a one-season double of playing in America's two most notorious party cities - Las Vegas and New Orleans.

TigerBlog has been to New Orleans twice, both times because Princeton was playing basketball there. The first was for a tournament between Christmas and New Year's of 1994, when the Tigers defeated Texas A&M 71-66 in three overtimes (James Mastaglio and Chris Doyal played all 55 minutes; current Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson "only" played 40) and then lost to New Orleans 50-43 the next night when the team was running on fumes - and when the refs sent the home team to the foul line 32 times and the visitors just once. 

In between, Pete Carril uttered one of his best lines ever. When asked about his team's matchup for the final, he said that he was concerned because of how big UNO was. When the reporter countered that Princeton also had some tall players, Carril responded without flinching: "yeah, but I didn't go down to the docks to get them."

The other time TB was there was for the 2001 NCAA tournament, when future All-Pro defensive lineman Julius Peppers was the dominant force in North Carolina's win over the Tigers. In fact, it was the second time in four years that a future NFL star knocked Princeton out of the NCAA basketball tournament, after Tony Gonzalez had been the difference maker for Cal in 1997.

If you've never been to New Orleans, it's certainly worth going to see. There's something for everyone - great food, jazz, nightlife, Bourbon Street, a great sense of ownership of the city by its citizens.

Princeton will head there today and take on Tulane tomorrow in the CBI. The winner of that game will play the winner of UTEP-Fresno State in the second round.

For the Tigers, the obvious storyline of the postseason is the opportunity for T.J. Bray to reach 1,000 career points. Bray needed 23 heading into the season finale against Penn to get there and came up with 18, leaving him five away from the milestone.

Were it not for the CBI, that's where Bray would have ended his career five points short, which wouldn't have been much fun. On the other hand, there was Bill Carmody's line from the time that Villanova and UConn agreed to allow a UConn women's basketball player to score an uncontested layup after she had torn her ACL earlier to give her a school record and then allowed a Villanova player to do likewise, making it 2-2 essentially to start the game. "Al Kaline," Carmody said when asked about it, "had 399 career home runs. What's the big deal?"

So the men get to the Big Easy. The women don't get to go anywhere, which is just fine with them.

Princeton's women drew a home game for the WNIT. The Tigers will host VCU Thursday on Carril Court at Jadwin Gym.

Like the men, the reward of the postseason for the women is a nice prize for an outstanding season. And it provides the opportunity to get back on the court after last week's disappointing game against Penn for the Ivy championship.

The Quakers ended Princeton's four-year run in the NCAA tournament, and they will play Texas at College Park, also as a 12 seed.

Like the men, the women aren't playing in the preferred tournament, but that doesn't mean there's no value or excitement to it.

For all the great NCAA tournament experiences that TB has had with the men's basketball team, the 1999 NIT was a great run, with wins over Georgetown (where five players went all 40 minutes) and North Carolina State before a quarterfinal loss at Xavier.

Perhaps the women can put together something like that. If nothing else, getting the chance to do so means the season will not have ended with the Penn game.

And next year? The goal is to get back to the NCAA tournament, for the men and women.

In the meantime, there's a trip to New Orleans for the men and an additional home game for the women.

To be playing beyond the regular season is always good, even if it isn't in the big tournament.

As consolation prizes go, both Princeton teams have gotten a good one.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Silver Anniversary

TigerBlog knows exactly where he was 25 years ago today, and it wasn't the arena that was then known as the Providence Civic Center, where Princeton lost to Georgetown 50-49 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Nope, TigerBlog was on a first date with a young woman named Shelley. He listened to the first half of the basketball game on his way to pick her up, and he was astonished that the Tigers were even in the game, not to mention up 29-21 at the break.

And then it was date time, which meant he couldn't watch the game on TV or listen on the radio anymore.

This was 1989, the year before TB started covering Princeton basketball. Back then he was just a Penn alum who covered high school sports in the general Princeton area, which meant he had no connection to the Tigers. He'd never even met Pete Carril at that point.

For that matter, he hadn't met Chuck Yrigoyen and Dave Brody, who were doing the game on the radio. Little did he realize then that a year later he'd start doing games with Brody as well and that Yrigoyen would become a good friend for the last 25 years as well. 

Still, he couldn't help but pull for the Tigers. Georgetown was his least favorite team, because he hadn't met John Thompson yet either. Now, 25 years later, Georgetown is his favorite team, other than Princeton.

Anyway, there was no internet, no score app on his smartphone, which didn't exist either. There was no Twitter. Nothing. No way to find out the score of the game, other than to put the radio on the sports update at 15 minutes after the hour, while trying to focus on his date as well.

That's how he found out that Princeton had come so close and just fallen short.

And Shelley? It wasn't meant to be, though he saw her for nearly a year. She was a really good tennis player, TB remembers, and he beat her once. Years later, a mutual friend told him that Shelley had told her that she had let him win, something that still bothers him to this day. Did she or didn't she?

And now a quarter-century has passed since that first date.

That was 25 years ago today. Princeton-Georgetown. The game that saved March Madness.

At least that's what the current issue of Sports Illustrated says, in a huge article written by Sean Gregory and Alex Wolff. Of course, they're both Princeton alums, and Gregory is a former basketball player.

Still, there's no denying that the premise is correct. Princeton and Carril did in fact save March Madness in those wild 40 minutes.

As for Gregory, his nickname is "Bones," which was short for "skin and bones," as TB recalls. He's a tall, lanky lefty shooter who didn't get much playing time in his career, though he did knock down a pressure three in a game against Penn one year.

Since graduation, he's worked his way to the top of his profession, covering sports for Time magazine. He is one of TB's favorite writers, and not just because he's one of TB's favorite Princeton basketball players.

One of TB's favorite stories about Gregory is from the 1996 season, when Jason Osier left the basketball team to concentrate on lacrosse. Osier would return to the basketball team the following year, by the way, and he would play basketball and lacrosse on the same day.

When Osier left the team, he was getting consistent minutes off the bench. Mark Eckel, who was covering Princeton basketball then for the Trenton Times, asked Carril what he was going to do without Osier, and it led to this actual exchange:

Carril: "We may have to try some different things. We may have to use Bones."
Eckel: "What's Bones?"

Eckel covered the Princeton-Georgetown game as well. Harvey Yavener chose instead to go with Trenton State College to the Division III Final Four in Ohio that weekend, which sent Eckel to Providence.

And why? Because Princeton didn't have a chance, that's why.

Of course Princeton was going to get blown out. Georgetown was the No. 1 team in the country, a dominant, intimidating, physical group that was going to wipe the Tigers out.

Princeton was lucky to be in the tournament at all. The Tigers barely won the Ivy League, defeating Harvard on the final night of the regular season to get into the NCAA tournament. Before Princeton got into the league, it lost by seven to Delaware, a team that would go 6-8 in the East Coast Conference.

There was a huge portion of the country who thought the Ivy champ shouldn't have that luxury. After all, the previous three Ivy champs - Brown in 1986, Penn in 1987 and Cornell in 1988 - lost their NCAA games by a total of 120 points, or an average of 40 per game.

The talk was of taking away automatic bids to the tournament for the lower leagues. Also, the game was televised on ESPN, because CBS didn't value the opening round of the tournament enough to put it on.

And that all changed in those wild 40 minutes.

Princeton started quickly and never went away. In fact, the Tigers led by 10 early in the second half. Were it not for Alonzo Mourning, Georgetown never would have come close to winning.

Ultimately, the game came down to two blocked shots by Mourning in the final 10 seconds, one against Bob Scrabis and then again against Kit Mueller as time expired. It's possible that Mueller was fouled on his shot, leading Carril to very famously say "I'll take that up with God when I get there."

When the whistle didn't blow, the game ended with Georgetown up 50-49. The Tigers lost, though Carril also famously referred to the game as one of his biggest wins on the night he racked up his 500th at Princeton, leading TB to remind him that technically Princeton had lost.

Still, even in defeat, the Tigers accomplished a lot. A whole lot.

First, CBS went out and paid $1 billion for the rights to the entire tournament. The idea of taking automatic bids away from small conferences disappeared forever, while the term "Cinderella" became a staple of the NCAA tournament vernacular and one of the most appealing parts of the entire event. In many ways, a big first-round upset by a high double digit seed is bigger than the Final Four itself.

To this day, no No. 16 seed has defeated a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The 15th-seed has won a few times, most recently a year ago, when Florida Gulf Coast knocked off Georgetown. But no No. 16 has. Most haven't come close. But that doesn't mean people don't love to watch and see and hope. 

As for Princeton, it wasn't quite the start of the spread of the Princeton offense, something that would happen for real after the 1998 team went 27-2 and reached the national top 10. But the Georgetown game did vault Princeton and Carril into the national spotlight.

TigerBlog began to cover the team in the 1989-90 season, and everywhere the Tigers went, they drew huge crowds, all of whom wanted to see how they had done it. TB likened them at the time in some ways to the Harlem Globetrotters.

And, as the story in SI says, there was a racial element to it all, with the predominantly white Princeton team and the all-black Georgetown team.

But Jerry Doyle, who played a huge role in the game, summed it up perfectly when he said at the end of the story that it was really just about a bunch of guys who loved to play basketball and who loved to play together.

There have been so many great nights in Princeton Athletic history, going all the way back to when it began in 1864. There have been few nights to compare with the one from 25 years ago today.

That was the night that Princeton almost beat Georgetown. It was a magical performance, a game that nobody will ever forget.

It was truly the game that saved March Madness.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Break

TigerBlog can't remember what he did on spring break when he was in college.

Not in the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" way.  Not in the "wow that was so wild" way. You know, not like the guys in "The Hangover."

As an aside, TigerBlog thought "The Hangover" was hilarious. Every now and then a movie has a way of separating itself from the gaggle of others that get churned out, even if there was no real reason to expect that it would.

That was what happened with "The Hangover," which had a really smart script and a really strong ensemble cast, enough to overcome a premise that has been done a billions times. The result was a very, very funny movie.

The key person in the movie is Zach Galifianakis, who plays Alan, the soon-to-be-brother-in-law of the Doug, whose bachelor party is being held in Las Vegas. The bride sort of guilts Doug and his two best friends into bringing Alan along with them, despite the fact that he's a bit socially awkward, to put it mildly.

Had Galifianakis - or the script - overdone Alan's social shortcomings a little more, it would have vaulted over the line into ridiculousness. Instead, it went just far enough to make him the perfect foil for the other three.

Ken Jeong, who plays the rather bizarre main bad guy, accomplishes the same thing, making his character another great one.

Most movies that fail to be funny and become tedious do so because either the characters are too caricaturish or because the movie gets away from being funny at the end because it's trying to wrap up its story. "The Hangover" doesn't fall into those traps.

Neither, by the way, does "Superbad," which also has the right character who, if it had been pushed a little further, would have ruined the movie. TB is talking about McLovin of course.

TigerBlog can't say whether "The Hangover II" or "The Hangover III" were funny, because he didn't see them. His sense is that they're nothing like the original, though he could be wrong.

Meanwhile, back at spring break for TB, he cannot remember at all what he did. He thinks that he spent his last two working at the newspaper, and he has no idea what he did for the first two.

He does know that he went to Florida once during winter break, but that wasn't to party on the beach or anything. On that occasion, he went to visit his Aunt Franny and Uncle Maurice, the latter who would become the 5-foot, 1-inch mayor of South Palm Beach, which, unlike its more famous neighbor slightly the west, is a town of 3,000 retirees.

Midterms end today at Princeton University, which means that next week is spring break.

And that helps to explain why, of the next 63 events on the Princeton Athletics calendar, only two are at home.

Both of those home events are tomorrow, when there is a lacrosse doubleheader on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium, beginning at noon with the women's game against Virginia and continuing at 3 when the men take on Penn in the Ivy opener for both.

Other than that, it's all road games all the time for the next 10 days.

Some of the trips are short ones, like the next men's lacrosse game, which is Tuesday at Villanova, or the men's volleyball team's trip to Rutgers-Newark. Most of the teams are going fairly far away, including men's volleyball, which heads to North Carolina after playing in New Jersey.

The baseball team will hope that the weather cooperates during its trip to North Carolina. The softball team will hope for the same as it heads to California.

It appears the softball team has less to worry about.

The men's tennis team will also be in California. So will women's lacrosse, after the Virginia game. The women's tennis team will be in South Florida.

For spring teams, this is always a hugely important week, on many levels. The winter is ending - yesterday's 20 degree weather might actually have been the last time it'll be below freezing this winter, which would be a great thing - and Ivy League competition is about to begin.

The week for spring break offers a chance to get away as a team, to play good competition (hopefully in good weather), relax without classes and focus on being completely ready when the conference games begin.

For one team that's traveling this week, the league opener is actually six months away.

The women's soccer team leaves today for a trip to France. The NCAA permits teams to make one foreign trip every four years, and the women's soccer team is fortunate enough to be able to go now.

As with all foreign trips, there will be sightseeing, culture, a chance to meet the locals, some service opportunities and of course game competition.

For the women's soccer players - and all the athletes who will competing, there will be indelible memories of how they spent their spring breaks.

As opposed to TigerBlog.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Marching Towards Madness

TigerBlog went to to help make his anti-conference tournament case when he was greeted by the unexpected sight of Jamie Zaninovich and his son Max on the front page.

The older Zaninovich is the commissioner of the West Coast Conference. The story on was focused on his side venture, as a member of the Division I men's basketball committee.

As you can imagine, this is a fairly busy time of year for Zaninovich. He's currently in Indianapolis with the rest of the committee, in advance of the announcement of the men's basketball field of 68 Sunday.

Jamie is in his third year on the committee. He does a great job of communicating his travels and thoughts during the season on Twitter, something that adds a nice flavor to what it's like to have a piece of the responsibility for such an overwhelming large and popular event

Before Jamie was the commissioner of the WCC, he was a senior associate AD at Princeton. He's also a Stanford grad.

Zaninovich was clearly a basketball guy back then. He was also clearly destined for something beyond Princeton, and it wasn't surprising when he left to become a conference commissioner.

He's something of a natural for the basketball committee.

The story on follows Jamie for a day during the WCC tournament, as he's watching games in person for his day job and five other games at the same time - four on his laptop and one on his phone. Of course, it's a labor of love for him; otherwise, why do it?

One thing that TB learned from the story was that Jamie's father recently passed away, and TB sends his condolences.

After reading the story about an old friend, TigerBlog went back to looking up the results of completed men's conference tournaments to date, which means most of the one-bid conferences.

If TB did it right, there have been 12 completed tournaments and another that has its championship game set.

So far, five No. 1 seeds won the tournament, three of whom defeated the No. 2 seed, with one win over the No. 3 and one over the No. 4.

Of the other seven, the No. 1 seed lost in the final five times, three times to the No. 2 seed. The other winners were the a four and a three. There was also a three seed over a five seed and a five seed over a three seed. The remaining championship game was will be the four seed against the two seed.

In other words, in 12 conference tournaments, the one seed is 3-3 in the final against the two seed, 1-1 against the three and the four. In only five of the 12 conferences will the top seed represent the league in the NCAA tournament.

So what does all of this mean?

Well, it depends on what you value. If you want the excitement of the league championship game, then the conference tournament works well.

If, like TigerBlog, you 1) value the regular season and 2) want to give your league the best chance to win the NCAA tournament, then the way the Ivy League - and only the Ivy League - does it is best.

Every other league has a tournament, and TigerBlog has heard so many times that the Ivy League is missing out by not having one. Really? As Marvin Bressler used to say, "there's no idea so bad that it's not worth copying."

What is the point of a regular season that results in a less than 50% chance that the team that proved itself best over the course of two months represents that league in the biggest event? And who has a better chance of getting a win in the NCAA, league-champion Robert Morris or had-to-win-the-league-tourament-to-get-back-to-.500 Mt. St. Mary's?

At least this year had, what seems at least, more 1 vs. 2 games than previous years. If there has to be a playoff to determine the league's representative, TB would be okay with a 1 vs. 2 championship game. Or, even better, 3 at 2 one day and the winner at 1 the next, giving the one-seed a big advantage.

One of the 1 vs. 2 games was the Patriot League final between American and Boston University. TB was rooting hard for American in this one.

Why? Because the Eagles are coached by Mike Brennan, whose staff includes assistant coach Scott Greenman. Both are Princeton alums, former guards with the Tigers. Both Brennan and Greenman are also alums of John Thompson's staff at Georgetown.

Brennan moved into the starting lineup as a freshman, when George Leftwich was injured late in the season. Brennan, from Elizabeth High, scored nine points in the 1991 NCAA tournament loss to Villanova at the Carrier Dome, a loss that still annoys TB all these years later.

Brennan went on to become one of Pete Carril's all-time favorite players. Carril was on CBS the year after Brennan graduated, essentially to talk about his own career, and he famously started telling Pat O'Brien about how his team wasn't going to be any good because he'd lost his point guard.

TB saw basically every game Brennan played at Princeton, and he can't remember a time when he said more than three words after a game. Brennan would be an assistant coach at Princeton at one point, before going to Georgetown, and he even coached the Tiger jayvees with fewer than 20 people watching at Jadwin.

Now, in his first year at American, he's headed to the NCAA tournament. Winner of the Patriot League, as the No. 2 seed of course.

In this case, TB is okay with it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Falling A Little Short

TigerBlog was watching the women's basketball game against Penn yesterday.

Along with the co-worker who was sitting next to TB, they were the only two people sitting in section B9 in Jadwin. Late in the first half, two other fans came in, looked at their tickets, and walked two-thirds of the way up, to the row directly in front of where TB was sitting, where they sat down.

Here was an entire section with only two seats filled, and they sat down ran in front of the other two people. Okay, TB gets it. Their tickets for the men's game was for those two seats.

Still, the men's game was still two hours away, and the entire section was empty. It was somewhat odd, especially when the two sat down and started casually chatting and reading a newspaper, apparently oblivious to the obvious, that they could have sat anywhere until the women's game was over and instead sat directly in front of the only two people in an otherwise empty section.

It was somewhat laughable. And, since TigerBlog was hoping that Princeton would win the showdown for the Ivy League title, it was unfortunately the most entertaining part of the game.

Penn defeated Princeton 80-64 last night in the winner-take-all regular-season finale, earning the Ivy League title and NCAA tournament bid and ending Princeton's four-year run of league championships. Princeton's consolation prize will be a trip to the WNIT.

Penn took an early lead, built it double figures in the first half and then responded to every challenge Princeton could come up with in the second half, especially after the Tigers cut a 17-point deficit to 10 and then entered the key stretch, when four times Penn scored and then four times Princeton answered. Had the Tigers gotten a few stops in that period and could have gotten within eight or six or so, it might have been different.

On this night, though, it wouldn't be different. Penn played an outstanding game at both ends, led by Alyssa Baron's 23 points and Sydney Stipanovich's 19 points, nine rebounds and intimidating defensive presence.

TigerBlog wrote yesterday that even though Princeton had defeated Penn 11 straight times in women's basketball, it had the feel of the 1996 men's basketball playoff between the two schools. Back then, Penn had defeated Princeton eight straight times, which meant that, just like in the case of the women prior to yesterday, no current Princeton player had ever won a game against Penn.

But it didn't make it impossible.

TigerBlog had the same feeling in reverse before the game yesterday that he had back in 1996 before the start of the playoff game. Something just felt different. And once the game started, that feeling only got stronger. From the opening tip, Penn as in control, and Princeton never found its comfort zone.

As for the men's game, Princeton defeated Penn 70-65 to reach 20 wins and finish tied with Columbia for third place.

T.J. Bray scored 18 points, giving him 995 at the close of the regular season. Will he get another chance to reach 1,000 in one of the postseason tournaments? That remains to be seen.

And keep in mind, Bray missed four games this season, or he would have easily been past 1,000.

To their credit, the Tigers played to win the game straight up, not to get Bray the 23 points he needed to get to 1,000. Bray took 11 shots in the game, right at his 10.8 field goal attempts per game average, so clearly he wasn't forcing anything to reach the milestone.

For the end of the men's game, TB sat next to John Nolan, who had done the audio for the women's game for the Ivy League Digital Network. Nolan, by the way, is a recent Syracuse grad who has a real future in broadcasting and who is off to his second season in Ft. Wayne doing Single-A baseball.

Anyway, as it was becoming clear that Bray was going to fall short, Nolan said something profound well beyond his years: "Society's obsession with round numbers in ridiculous." In other words, why would 1,000 make Bray a better player than 995?

It doesn't. Bray is a wonderful all-around player, not just a scorer, and he's also been a tremendous leader. It would be great if he got another chance to play and reach 1,000, but if he doesn't, it won't change how great a player he's been at Princeton.

It was in fact exciting to have a winner-take-all game, even if Princeton didn't win.

Still, that doesn't mean that TigerBlog thinks that the Ivy League needs a basketball tournament to determine its NCAA tournament reps.

Nope. Penn on the women's side and Harvard on the men's side have earned the right to represent the league next week. And TB cannot for the life of him understand why one-bid leagues would want to leave their NCAA spot to the kind of chance that goes along with a conference tournament.

Just because it's exciting doesn't make it smart.

Even if it means that most years won't feature high drama at the very end to determine the automatic bid, so what? Sending the right team is most important.

Penn is the champion for 2014, rightfully so, convincingly so last night.

The Princeton women? They won four straight, something that had never happened before in the double round-robin era for Ivy women's basketball.

And just as TB had the sense before the game that something wasn't right for the Tigers, he had a different sense after the game.

Princeton will be back.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Showdown Before Sundown

TigerBlog was talking yesterday with a neighbor whose daughter plays lacrosse with Miss TigerBlog.

While practice was winding down, TB and the neighbor talked about the kinds of things that neighbors talk about. Kids. Work. How everyone has hated the weather this winter. The dog who was looking out at TB and the world from the backseat of the minivan. Music. How "Modern Family" isn't as funny this season.

That sort of thing.

Practice ended at 7:30, and TB couldn't help but notice one awesome fact as he waited in the parking lot: It was still light out.

TigerBlog, like everyone else, sprung ahead Saturday. It's one of the surest signs that spring is on the way, and this year more than most, that's a very, very comforting thought.

Depending on the time of year, it gets dark around here anywhere from 4:30 to 9, which is a fairly large range.

The first day after everyone "falls back" is the opposite of the elation of knowing that spring is on the way. No, back then, the clocks get turned back, and suddenly darkness descends around 5 or even earlier. It's depressing.

Ah, but not yesterday. Not when it was after 7 and approaching 7:30 and there was still light to be found.

Today's forecast is for a high of 61. The same applies to tomorrow.

Of course, it's not quite spring yet. For starters, Thursday's high is supposed to be 28. Two days of 61 and then back to 28? Then back to near 60 Saturday. Then the 30s and 40s next week?

Oh well. If any winter is going to go kicking and screaming, it's this one.

The final Princeton home events of the 2014 winter season will be held tonight, with a basketball doubleheader between Princeton and Penn that begins with the women's game at 5:30 - it'll still be light out -  and concludes with the men's game at 8.

Penn's men are locked into sixth place; the only question is whether or not the Quakers will have sole possession of sixth or will share it with Dartmouth.

The prize for the Princeton men is a shot at 20 wins, which is what a win would bring. A win would also put Princeton into a third-place tie with Columbia.

It was also bring a semblance of revenge for the stunning loss at the Palestra back in January, back when Princeton was 11-2. It was really the first bad bounce among several early in the league season that took Princeton from legitimate title contender with Harvard into a team that was out of it relatively early.

There's also the quest for T.J. Bray in his final game to get 23 points, which would bring with it two accomplishments: 1) he would become the first Princeton player since Brian Taylor in 1972 to lead the Ivy League in scoring and 2) would give him exactly 1,000 points for his career.

The Princeton-Penn men's basketball rivalry is one of the great ones in the history of college basketball, and the two teams have had some amazing games through the decades. Even with no championship implications, there's always going to be something special about seeing the two teams together on the court.

The Princeton and Penn meet for the 230th time. The women meet for the 76th time, and none of the first 75 had the significance that tonight's game will.

For that matter, only one other women's game - no men's basketball game - ever played in the Ivy League matches what will happen this evening at Jadwin. Princeton and Penn are tied for first place at 11-2 in the league, which makes this winner take all, and by all that would mean the Ivy League championship and the league's bid to the NCAA tournament.

The only other time a similar situation has occurred in the league was in 1995, when Dartmouth defeated Harvard for the women's championship on the last day of the season. It has never happened in men's basketball, as amazing as that is to contemplate.

As for Princeton-Penn women, the Tigers have won 11 straight over the Quakers, all of which have been by double figures, including a 31-point win at the Palestra two months ago.

You know what all that means tonight? Nothing.

Remember back to 1996? Penn had defeated Princeton eight straight times in men's basketball heading into the playoff game at Lehigh. Remember how it went that night for the team with no players who had ever beaten the other team? Right, Princeton won in overtime and then knocked off UCLA five days later.

Tonight will be the final regular season game for Penn's Alyssa Baron, who has started every gamefor four years for the Quakers. She is the school's second all-time leading scorer with 1,758 points - Diana Caramanico is first with 2,415.

Princeton? The Tigers have won four straight Ivy titles. This was the post-Niveen Rasheed year, and even with that, Princeton is on the verge of another championship.

Win and they're in. It applies to both teams, something that's a real rarity in the Ivy League and is therefore incredibly special.

TigerBlog gives the last word to Eric Dolan, the women's basketball contact for Penn athletic communications. In his notes for tonight's game, Dolan has a section on "A Penn win would ..." that lists what a win would mean, followed by "A Penn loss would ..." that has the opposite.

His final entry in the second category was this: "be less good than a win."

That made TB chuckle.

It's something that's true of every game. Tonight it's a little more true than usual.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Winner Take All

Bill Bradley scored 2,503 points in his Princeton basketball career.

Doug McDermott of Creighton went over the 3,000-point mark for his career in his team's win over Providence Saturday, making him the eighth player in Division I history to reach that milestone. If you want to know who else scored at least 3,000 points, here are the other seven: LSU’s Pete Maravich, Portland State’s Freeman Williams, La Salle’s Lionel Simmons, Mississippi Valley State’s Alphonso Ford, Texas Southern’s Harry Kelly, Saint Peter’s Keydren Clark and Bradley’s Hersey Hawkins.

When TigerBlog saw that McDermott reached 3,000 points, it got him wondering how many Bradley would have had if he had 1) played for four years, 2) had the three-point shot and 3) played in the number of games each year that current players do.

Let's start with the last one.

Bradley, like all players back then, was limited to three varsity seasons, not because he would leave early for the NBA but because freshmen were ineligible for varsity. Princeton played 25 games his sophomore year of 1962-63 and then 29 games each of his final two years, for a total of 83 games.

The game against Providence was McDermott's 140th as a Blue Jay. That would be 57 more games than Bradley played at Princeton.

In many ways, by the way, that number alone shows you the staggering expansion of college basketball over the decades.

Meanwhile, back at Bradley, he averaged 27.3 points per game as a sophomore, with a figure that grew to 32.3 as a junior and 30.5 as a senior. You want to say he would have averaged 25.0 as a freshman had he been able to play in 1961-62? Princeton played 23 games that season, so 23 games at 25.0 per game would have meant 575 points, which would have given Bradley 3,078.

Or you can do it this way:

Bradley averaged 30.1 per game for his career. By simply giving him 30.1 points for 57 more games, Bradley would scored an additional 1,716 points, bringing his total to 4,219.

Or do you want to give him 25 per game as a freshman, which would have dropped his career average to around 28.5. Give him that for 57 more games and he has 1,625 more points, or 4,128 for his career.

Then there's the three-point factor. Bradley scored most of his points at Princeton, TB understands, from 15 feet and in, but had the three-point shot been available, Bradley would have made his fair share of them. McDermott has made 258 for his career, but TB senses that Bradley wouldn't have gotten that many, because he didn't rely too heavily on any one shot and was the master of so many different ways to score.

Do you want to give him 150 three-pointers instead of two-pointers? That's an additional 150 points, taking him near 4,300 or 4,400. TB will go with a number somewhere around that.

Let's call it 4,342 - 4,300 points, plus Bradley's retired number of 42.

TigerBlog saw a graphic somewhere about McDermott's scoring broken down in five minute increments by half. In other words, he scored so many points from the 20:00 to 15:00 mark and then 15:00 to 20:00 and so on.

TB doesn't even remember what his best five-minute stretch was, because he was too busy wondering who in the world put that information together and how. Then again, TB always wonders who comes up with every obscure fact that he says, and how they do it.

TB did want to figure out if there has ever been another game in Ivy League basketball history like the one coming up tomorrow at 5:30 at Jadwin Gym, when Princeton and Penn meet in the women's basketball regular season finale in what is essentially a winner-take-all championship game.

Has that ever happened before?

TigerBlog went through the Ivy League year-by-year standings for both men and women, found years in which one team won by a single game and then tried to see if that team defeated the team that finished second in the last game of the regular season.

Unless he did it wrong and missed a year, TigerBlog has come up with only one other instance in women's basketball and not a single one in men's basketball. In men's basketball, the Ivy League has had a double round-robin format since 1956-57, and TB cannot find a single year where this has happened.

In women's basketball, the double round-robin began in 1982-83. The only other time this has happened, TB has found, was back in 1994-95, when Dartmouth defeated Harvard 72-48 to win the championship.

There have been all kinds of ties for championships on the men's and women's side, even thre-way ties. There have even been a lot of one-game margins of victory in the league standings, only without having the top two meet in the final game with the championship on the line.

And this brings us to tomorrow night, when a great women's basketball race comes to a close.

Princeton and Penn are 11-2, followed by Harvard at 11-3. The Crimson were in it until both Princeton and Penn swept their games this weekend against Cornell and Columbia, which means that Harvard - who went 1-3 against Princeton and Penn - will tie for second with the team that loses tomorrow.

And so we're a day removed from something that it appears has only happened once before in the Ivy League, and never for Princeton and Penn.

You might have have thought the men's teams would have had a game like this at some point during their decades of dominating Ivy League basketball, but no.

And so it will be up to the women tomorrow. It figures to be quite an event.

Winner-take-all usually is.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Endless Winter

It was at this time a week ago that the greater Princeton metropolitan area was bracing for yet another winter storm. This one was supposed to be a bad one, with 10-14 inches of snow expected Sunday into Monday.

Everywhere TigerBlog went, the weather again was dominating the conversation. How much more would there be for this endless winter, as opposed to the much more preferable Beach Boys album, "Endless Summer."

Think about the differences between the two. "Endless Summer" conjures up thoughts of the beach, the sun, warmth, fun, surfing, beautiful sunsets over gentle evening oceans - all of it.

The album by the Beach Boys was originally released in 1974 and is something of a greatest hits album. And oh are there great hits on it.

Consider some of the 21 songs: "Surfin' Safari," "Surfer Girl," "The Warmth of the Sun," "Surfin' USA," "In My Room," "I Get Around," "Don't Worry Baby," "California Girls," "You're So Good To Me," "All Summer Long" and "Good Vibrations."

TigerBlog is a huge Beach Boys fan and has always been, going back to his first two favorite bands, the Beatles and the Beach Boys. He had already memorized several Beach Boys songs before he ever head of Bruce Springsteen.

There's always been something great about the images TB gets from the Beach Boys and their music, even if it is California and not the Jersey Shore.

You can contrast that with endless winter, which features blackened snow that has seemed to be lingering forever. And this was before the foot or so that was supposed to come down Sunday night.

When TB woke up Monday, he expected to find an email from the gregarious Dan Day, who has been sending out the messages to the waiting University community of yet another snow day. TB figured it would be at least a delayed opening.

But nope. Nothing from Dan.

Then he looked out the window and saw a small coating of snow, barely covering the ground. Maybe there was an inch. It was hardly worth shoveling, though TB did. And, for about the 10th time this endless winter, he wondered if he was putting the shovel down for good.

This week was clear and cold, but no new snow showed up. Today's high is supposed to be 42 - which means you have no excuse not to come see Princeton-North Carolina men's lacrosse at 5:30 on Sherrerd Field - with the 50s expected this weekend and early next week, with a high of 57 come Tuesday.

Is winter ending? Hopefully.

Of course the 10-day forecast does list highs dropping into the 30s at the end of next week, but who knows. Maybe, just maybe, the worst of it is over.

It's very possible that this has been the worst winter that TigerBlog can remember. Maybe there were some that were worse, but he can't really remember too many of them.

It's just in time too. The winter athletic season is winding down, and the spring season has seen teams spending way too much time either stuck indoors or heading out into brutal conditions to practice.

This weekend is the last weekend of travel-partner basketball in the Ivy League. It's also the weekend that conference tournaments start to heat up.

The Ivy League has something much better.

On the men's side, Yale hosts Harvard tonight, where a win would give the Crimson the outright league title. On the other hand, a Yale win would put a ton of pressure on the Crimson tomorrow night, when they play at Brown while Yale hosts Dartmouth.

Maybe it will go to the final night, with Harvard in need a win to avoid a one-game playoff. Or Harvard will earn it on the second-place team's home court in Game 13 of 14.

Either way, a legitimate champion is being crowned.

The women's side is even more dramatic, and it could actually present Jadwin Gym with something it's never seen before.

Right now, Princeton and Penn are tied for first at 9-2, followed by 9-3 Harvard. Princeton and Penn host 6-6 Cornell and 3-9 Columbia, while Harvard is home for Yale and Brown.

Both Princeton and Penn can be kicking themselves for losing to a team near the bottom of the standings, as Penn lost at Dartmouth and Princeton lost last Saturday at Brown. Both losses were somewhat stunning, though they fall into the category of "when shots fall or don't fall."

Imagine for a minute that those had been opening round Ivy League tournament games. Would that have made any sense at all, to eliminate two teams that battled all year for a championship because of one bad night? 

As it turned out, neither team can be all that upset, since both have the one big upset. Had they both won, the situation would still be the same as it is now, other than the fact that Harvard would be mathematically eliminated were Princeton and Penn both 10-1. Harvard, in fact, is 8-0 against the rest of the league and 1-3 against Princeton and Penn.

Should Princeton and Penn sweep this weekend, then Harvard would in fact be eliminated, even if the Crimson also sweep. And should Princeton and Penn sweep, then there would be something Tuesday in Jadwin that the building has never seen in its nearly 45 years:

A winner-take-all regular season finale.

It's never happened in the building for the men or the women. There have been plenty of win-or-there-will-be-a-playoff, but there's never been winner-take-all.

Of course, there's no guarantee that there will be one Tuesday night either, when Penn is at Princeton at 5:30 for the women and 8 for the men. Hey, shots could fall and not fall again.

If it comes to it, though, Tuesday would be a huge one, an exciting one.

And, because there's no tournament, a legitimate one.