Friday, May 22, 2015

Thoughts On All-America And Final Four No. 21

When TigerBlog updates the men's lacrosse record book, he's going to put down that Kip Orban was a 2015 first-team All-America.

He was, right? He was first-team All-America. Had to be.

After all, he led all Division I midfielders in goals with 45. No other middie in Division I had more than 40.

He did this on a team that was ranked in the top 15 most of the year and would be all accounts have been the next team in the NCAA tournament. For that matter, Princeton would have been in had Johns Hopkins not won the Big Ten tournament - instead, the Blue Jays did, and now they're in the Final Four.

Orban also had a .413 shooting percentage, an incredible number for a player who almost never took a shot anywhere near the goal. His 45 goals were the Princeton single-season record for a middie - nine more than Josh Sims, who had the next-best season, with 36 in 2000.

Oh, and as his coach said, every opponent who played Princeton started out knowing it had to stop Orban and fellow senior Mike MacDonald. TigerBlog will get to him in a minute. 

So yeah, Orban was first-team All-America. At least in TigerBlog's book he was.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase Feech Lamana to Paulie Walnuts in a classic moment of "The Sopranos," TigerBlog's book doesn't mean, well, anything in this case.

When TigerBlog first saw the list, he figured Orban and MacDonald weren't going to be as high up as he wanted them to be. And he was right.

Orban was a second-team All-America, which is still a great accomplishment, especially for a player who flew so far under the radar his first three years.

Of course, Orban deserved to be first-team. TigerBlog gets that it's not just about numbers, but hey, Orban's were so off the charts that in this case they speak for themselves.

There were four first-team All-America midfielders: Chad Tutton of North Carolina, Myles Jones of Duke, Connor Buczek of Cornell and Sergio Perkovic of Notre Dame. TigerBlog will say that Orban should have been picked before any of them except Jones, whose ability to feed really sets him apart.

More Orban numbers: His 45 goals are 9.5 more than the average of the four first-team picks, who had 35.5 per man. And his shooting percentage is .107 better than the that of Tutton, the best of the first-teamers.

As for MacDonald, TigerBlog will say that this is a very, very strong year on attack. MacDonald set the Princeton single-season record for points with 78, beating out Hall-of-Famers and first-team All-Americas to do so. He is also fifth in Division I in points per game and sixth in goals per game.

Should he have been first-team? A case could be made.

MacDonald ended up as an honorable mention All-America. There were 13 attackmen who earned first-, second- or third-team honors, and there were 12 more who earned honorable mention.

The honorable mention group is really, really impressive, which shows you what a strong year it was at the position. Honestly, TigerBlog isn't sure what order he would have put them all in, but it seems to him that breaking the Princeton record for points in a season at least warrants third-team All-America.

The men's lacrosse season ends this weekend in Philadelphia with a Final Four that begins tomorrow with Denver and Notre Dame in one semifinal and Maryland and Hopkins in the other. \

TigerBlog will be there, for his 21st Final Four in the last 24 years. For the record, the three he missed were 1995, 1999 and 2003.

He'll be part of the official stats crew for this Final Four, for the 11th straight year. The Division II and III finals will be Sunday, and the DI championship game will be Monday.

It's one of his favorite weekends each year, and he's been lucky to see some of the greatest lacrosse games ever on some of these Memorial Day weekends.

This will be the 21st Final Four for TB, and the 14th that will feature a Bill Tierney-coached team. TB was there with Tierney for 10 of them with Princeton, and now Tierney has taken Denver to the big show for the fourth time in his six years there.

The Pioneers have a lot going for them as they head to Philadelphia, starting with the best face-off man in the country in freshman Trevor Baptiste. Add to that an offense that can be unstoppable, especially man up, and a very good defense anchored by a goalie who can be as good as anyone, and that's a pretty good blueprint for success.

Notre Dame, though, is the No. 1 seed. The Irish just held Albany to just 10 goals, or seven below the Danes' average. Notre Dame also has scorers of its own, including two first-team All-Americas.

Denver has never made it past the semifinals. Notre Dame has never won a championship. One of them is guaranteed to play Monday.

The other semifinal has Maryland, the top defensive team in the country, against a Johns Hopkins team that lost to Princeton in February and has six losses but is playing as well as anyone, witness its seven-game winning streak.

TigerBlog is obviously rooting for Denver (though his stats will be completely impartial, don't worry). It would be an incredible accomplishment for Tierney to win an NCAA title at a second school, especially one in the West.

Oh, and he stumbled on an interesting note this week. The record for points in a career at Princeton is 247, held by Kevin Lowe, who graduated in 1994. The record for points in a career at Denver is also 247, held by current senior Wes Berg. He needs one point this weekend to get the all-time Tierney record.

TigerBlog thinks he'll get it, and a lot more. He likes to Denver to win it all. 

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