Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holiday Hoops

TigerBlog was driving on I-95 yesterday when a woman in a station wagon moved from the right lane into the left lane, directly in front of him.

TB isn't sure why she changed lanes, especially since she was going fairly slowly. TB wasn't exactly speeding, though he was interested in going at the actual speed limit, something he couldn't do because of the woman and the station wagon.

Though TB was pretty displeased with her, he wasn't tailgating or honking his horn or flashing his lights or anything. After a short time, the woman moved back into the left lane, allowing TB to pass.

And what happened when he drove by her? Right, she gave him the finger.

TigerBlog's reaction was to laugh. And to wave.

C'mon lady, it's the holidays. And you were in the wrong.

Anyway, in the spirit of the holidays, TigerBlog forgives her.

For many years, the week between Christmas and New Year's for TigerBlog usually meant a trip to a men's basketball holiday tournament. Actually, it usually meant one tournament before Christmas and another one during this week.

As for the week between Christmas and New Year's, in 1994, that meant the UNO Christmas Tournament in New Orleans. It was there that Pete Carril had this exchange with a local reporter, after his team's triple-overtime win over Texas A&M (James Mastaglio and Chris Doyal played all 55 minutes) set up a championship game matchup with the home team:

Carril: They have some big guys.
Reporter: Your team has some big guys too.
Carril: Yeah, but I didn't go down to the docks to get them.

In 1995 - 19 years ago right now, for that matter - TigerBlog was in Green Bay for the Pepsi Oneida Nation Classic. A year later, he was in El Paso. The next year was a little closer to home, at Madison Square Garden.

His trip in 1998 was the best of all of them, to the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. Princeton won the tournament, defeating Florida State, Texas and UNC Charlotte on consecutive nights - with consecutive days on Waikiki Beach.

The next year was a trip to Cincinnati, but just for a single game against Xavier. Then it was back to the Garden for the Holiday Festival again.

Most of the tournaments that used to exist back then appear to be gone these days, in favor of expanded conference schedules or tournaments before Thanksgiving or whatever other factors came into play.

Still, TB loved going to those events. Princeton played some great games in those tournaments, and TB got to see parts of the country that he might otherwise never have had a reason to go to, except for the basketball games.

The list above doesn't even include tournaments from before Christmas in places like Iowa State, Michigan State, Fresno State, Ball State, Marquette and others.

The women's basketball team is playing in a tournament this week, one that didn't require a plane trip. The Tigers are at Fordham's Holiday Classic, which began yesterday with a 64-51 win over Hartford and concludes today with the championship game against the home team.

The final - this afternoon at 3:30 -  figures to be a pretty good one. Fordham is 8-4 and the winner of four straight. A year ago, Fordham went 25-8, won the Atlantic 10 title and reached the NCAA tournament; the year before that the Rams were 26-9 and played in the WNIT.

Princeton? The Tigers come in at 14-0, the best start in Ivy League women's basketball history.

The teams have one common opponent, Delaware. Fordham beat the Blue Hens by five; Princeton beat the Blue Hens by 28.

Don't be fooled by that, though. This game will be a close one, TB figures.

Both teams defend very well, holding their opponents to essentially the same numbers - 51 points per game, 34% shooting.

The Tigers average nearly 20 points per game more than Fordham - 77 for Princeton, 59 for Fordham. Still, the Rams are a team used to winning.

So is Princeton.

The Tigers look to go to 15-0. They are closing in on the national Top 25, though interestingly, they are the third-highest ranked team in the state of New Jersey, behind Rutgers and Seton Hall.

It's the final women's basketball game of 2014. And it should be a good one.

It's not in Honolulu, but hey, not every game can be.

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