Thursday, March 31, 2016

Road Trips

The first time that TigerBlog Jr. came along with his father to a Princeton athletic event was in 2000, when he tagged along to a football game at Lafayette. He was three at the time.

The most recent time TBJ went along with his dad to a game? It was last week. He's almost 19.

When TigerBlog first saw the schedule for Princeton's men's lacrosse season, he figured that last weekend would be one of the more convenient ones for him. Princeton at Yale Saturday at 1. Bryant at Sacred Heart Friday night at 7.

What could be easier?

TigerBlog would go watch TBJ and the Pioneers play Friday night and then see Princeton at Yale Saturday. Sacred Heart and Yale are about 10 miles apart, if that.

This was before there was a norovirus outbreak that hit more than half of the men's lacrosse team at Bryant, which caused the Bulldogs to have to postpone three games. In fact, Bryant hasn't played since March 12.

As a result, Bryant will have to play seven games in 24 days starting this weekend. Included in that will be a 17-day stretch in which the team will play five Northeast Conference games.

With no game Friday night, the Sacred Heart players were given the weekend off. TBJ took the train home Thursday night and took it back to school Sunday night.

In between, though, he drove back and forth with his father Saturday to see Princeton play Yale. It wasn't just to see the game. No, he was actually hired by Yale to do statcrew for that game and for the women's game between Yale and Columbia that followed.

At some point when he was really, really young, TigerBlog Jr. expressed an interest in learning statcrew, which is the in-game statistical program that every college team uses for basically every team sport. It takes a little while to figure it out, and it can be a bit stressful even to experienced stat people, since games can move very quickly.

He picked it up fairly easily, and he's been basically doing it his whole life. At first TB was a bit wary letting him actually enter stats - you know, because he was like seven years old or so at the time - but he's always done very well with it. 

Because Yale was shorthanded in its stat crew due to the NCAA hockey tournament, the staff at Yale athletic communications reached out to TBJ to see if he was available - and to the compliance office to make sure it was okay. Both answers were "yes," so TBJ made the trip.

It was like old times.

The game itself saw Princeton fall 11-10 to Yale. Because of Denver's loss to Penn State, there are only two unbeaten teams in Division I men's lacrosse - Yale and Brown.

The Bulldogs vaulted to No. 1 in the polls with its record and win over Princeton. Brown is third this week, behind Yale and Notre Dame and ahead of Denver. The Bears then made their own claim to being No. 1 by pasting No. 6 Villanova 19-8 Tuesday.

When Yale moved into the No. 1 spot in the rankings, it became the first Ivy school to do so since Princeton in 2009, by the way.

The Princeton-Yale game continued a few incredible streaks. The game was the seventh regular-season game between Princeton and Yale since Chris Bates has been the Tiger head coach - and all seven have been one-goal games.

Beyond that, it was the third time in 16 games - two regular season games and the 2015 Ivy tournament final - that Princeton and Yale have played not only a one-goal game but also a one-game goal that ended 11-10.

In all Chris Bates has coached against Yale 10 times. There have been eight one-goal games.

So if Yale is No. 1, where is Princeton?

Well, this weekend they're in Providence, to take on the Bears. It's part of a really tough stretch of the season for Princeton.

Actually, the entire season has been a rough stretch. Every team Princeton has played since its opener against NJIT has been ranked this year. Up after Brown will be Stony Brook, who is ranked 12th.
On the other hand, with each week comes another great chance to get a big win to turn the season around. Princeton came very close to doing just that last week in New Haven.

Princeton's men are away for the second game in a row.

The women's team played its fourth straight game away from home last night, when the Tigers took on Loyola. Game No. 5 of that stretch will be Sunday, when Princeton is at Delaware.

After that, Sherrerd Field gets pretty busy.

Between the Princeton women and men, there will be seven home games in 11 days, beginning with a doubleheader next Saturday (that's the 9th). It begins with the men's game against Stony Brook and continues with Princeton-Yale women.

Right now there are two unbeaten teams in Ivy women's lacrosse: Cornell at 3-0 and Princeton at 2-0. The Big Red will be at Sherrerd Field as part of another doubleheader, this one on April 16, with the women at noon at the men against Dartmouth at 3.

For this weekend, though, it's back on the road for both.

TigerBlog Jr. won't be making the trip to Brown. Sacred Heart is back after its week off.

It was great having him at the game last week though.

It was like old times. Some of the best times TB has ever had.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Big Rock

Okay, so here's the story of the Big Rock.

It starts with Ron, the official car mechanic of the Office of Athletic Communications. A long time ago, TigerBlog bought a Toyota Sienna minivan in New Jersey but needed to have it inspected in Pennsylvania, even though it was brand new.

The dealer said that if TB took the minivan to a specific shop in Pennsylvania, then it would be free. So off TB went, and so a relationship with Ron was launched.

Since then, TigerBlog has referred basically everyone in the OAC to Ron, as well as others in the athletic department. In all, more than 10 others have taken their cars to Ron through the years.

When TigerBlog was there a few weeks ago, Ron started telling him about a big shiny rock, one that he'd found while dirt-biking in the Mohave Desert. He said it was very heavy, very dense and very cold. It was also magnetic.

Ron began to wonder if the rock might actually be a meteorite and asked TB if he knew anyone at Princeton who knew anything about geology. TigerBlog's source for all things geology is John McPhee, who has written extensively on the subject through the years.

Ron gave TB the big rock and asked him to get it checked by someone. TigerBlog was happy to help.

And Ron was definitely right about the big rock. It was really heavy, way heavier than it looked. And it was very cold. And there was a magnet on it, proving that it was in fact magnetic. Could this have traveled to Earth from millions of miles away and crashed into the Mojave?

When TB took it to Mr. McPhee, he and Princeton athletics video dude John Bullis, who was intrigued by the big rock, got a lesson in geology that was pretty interesting.

They also got an appointment with geology professor Adam Maloof.

Unfortunately, in about an instant, Professor Maloof could tell it wasn't a meteorite. That was disappointing.

If it wasn't from outer space, though, what was it? For conclusive evidence, Maloof tracked down a colleague, and he said in about one-one thousandth of a second that it was magnetite.

What is magnetite? According to Wikipedia: Magnetite is a mineral and one of the three common naturally-occurring oxides of iron.

How old is it? Millions and millions of years. How was it formed? At one point is was probably the size of a car or larger, but it was either beaten down by the desert winds or pushed out through the ground by some volcanic pressure.

Then it just sat on the Mojave floor until Ron rode by on his motorbike.

Ron was bummed that it wasn't a meteor. It's still a cool rock though.

And it was a fascinating few hours learning about geology. It's a subject in which TB and Bullis had little background, and both of them were hanging on every word for both Professor Maloof and Mr. McPhee. By the end, TigerBlog wanted to go back in time and change his major from American history to geology.

The bigger piece of the story is that Professor Maloof is a former college baseball player Carleton College in Minnesota. That was before he got his Ph.D. from Harvard.

He's been teaching at Princeton since 2006. And he's also a Faculty Fellow for the baseball team.

Maloof traveled with Princeton to LSU a year ago, and he was on the trip to Louisville this year, TB believes.

The baseball team has its home opener today, when it takes on Seton Hall on Clarke Field at 3:30. After that is this weekend's Ivy League openers, at home, with two games against Dartmouth Saturday and Harvard Sunday.

Both of those weekend doubleheaders begin at noon. There is no admission charge for regular season baseball games at Princeton.

The baseball team is 16 games into this season, without having played at home. That's how it works in the Northeast.

Princeton is also one win away from tying last year's total. The 2016 Tigers stand at 6-10 before today's game, one year removed from 7-32.

Ivy League baseball is very competitive. A year ago, Columbia went 34-17 and came within one game of reaching the NCAA tournament's Super Regional.

The way Ivy baseball works, teams play two games against each team from the other division and then four against each team from its own division. At the end, the two division winners meet.

Softball works the same way.

Princeton, who swept Colgate last weekend in its home opener, also hosts Dartmouth and Harvard this weekend, except the games are Friday and Saturday.

As of right now, no Ivy League baseball team has an above .500 record. On the women's side, only two teams - Dartmouth and Penn - are above .500.

But that's mostly a function of having to play teams who have a huge head start because of the weather, in terms of practice and playing games. At this point, wins and losses don't matter, not until the first pitches this weekend.

Clarke Field is a great place to watch baseball. Class of 1895 Field is a quaint place to watch softball. TigerBlog likes to stand beyond the outfield fence at softball.

There will be nine games on those fields between today and Sunday. Make sure you get out and watch.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Head Coach Meg Griffith

TigerBlog's championship game prediction of North Carolina and Oklahoma is still a possibility, and what about that Geno Auriemma-Dan Shaughnessy feud?

Those will have to wait a few minutes. And the story about the Big Rock will have to wait until tomorrow.


Meg Griffith is leaving Princeton.

Meg has been a part of the women's basketball program for six years, first as Director of Operations for two years and then the last four as an assistant coach. In her six years, Princeton went to five NCAA tournaments and one WNIT.

The team's record in that time has been 145-33, including 78-6 in the Ivy League.

You don't achieve that kind of success without a great network in place. Princeton women's basketball has had that.

It starts at the top, obviously, with head coach Courtney Banghart. TigerBlog would say that after her nine years at Princeton, Banghart ranks either first or second all-time in a listing of the all-time best Ivy League women's basketball coaches.

Now Meg is getting her chance to get somewhere on that list.

It was announced yesterday afternoon that Columbia has hired Meg Griffith to be its new women's basketball coach. TigerBlog couldn't be more happy for Meg, who as a Columbia grad in returning to her alma mater.

A quick glance at the Columbia women's basketball record book indicates that Meg is the sixth leading scorer in program history with 1,061 career points. Her name is all over that record book actually, including the program record for assists in a season with 148.

The new head coach graduated in 2007 and then played in Finland and the Netherlands before starting her career here. In addition to the success she had with the women's basketball team, she also dominated lunchtime basketball, and TigerBlog has never seen anyone who can make a treadmill say "uncle" the way Meg can.

Columbia is getting a great addition to its athletic department. As word of Meg's departure began to spread yesterday, the response was fairly universal. Thrilled for her. Sad that she'll be leaving here.

That's how TigerBlog feels. No matter what the situation, no matter what time of year, no matter the score of the last game, TigerBlog can never remember a time when Meg wasn't upbeat, smiling, happy, laughing. She would always ask about TigerBlog Jr. and Miss TigerBlog, and TB assumes that Meg was like that with everybody else here. It's just how she is. 

Her challenge is a big one. Columbia has finished last in Ivy League women's basketball four of the last five years.

It'll be fun to see her bring her team into Jadwin next winter. TigerBlog wishes her the very best - except when she's playing Princeton, of course.

Meanwhile, back at the NCAA tournament, there's the question of whether UConn's women are bad for the sport because of the extent to which the Huskies simply dominate the field. That was the point that Shaughnessy, the Boston Globe writer, tried to make. Auriemma, the Huskies' coach, didn't quite like it.

You've probably read about it.

TigerBlog's take is that both of their positions are correct, if such a thing is possible. Auriemma doesn't have to apologize for how ridiculously good his team is, but it is sort of dull to know that UConn can just roll through everyone year after year.

It's no fun actually. Now, it's up to everyone else to catch UConn, not up to UConn to come back to the pack. But hey, until that happens, there's not a lot of drama to women's college basketball.

As for the men's tournament, TigerBlog had it UNC over Oklahoma in the final, and that's still a possibility. The Final Four, to be held in Houston, will feature Oklahoma against Villanova and North Carolina against Syracuse.

TigerBlog has read a few stories about how the North Carolina-Syracuse matchup is a nightmare for the NCAA, what with Syracuse having had its issues with the NCAA in the last two years and North Carolina in the middle (or near the end perhaps) of a four-year investigation of academic fraud.

Oh, and the fact that Syracuse has come all the way through to the Final Four as a 10 seed has nothing to do with whether or not the Orange belonged in the tournament in the first place. Outcome doesn't determine whether or not the selection was correct.

Remember the Tippy Martinez story?

TigerBlog didn't watch much of the basketball this weekend. He watched lacrosse of course. And Gilmore Girls. One of these days he'll get to episode 153 of that show.

He'll have to miss the Final Four games in basketball too. That's okay.

As he said before, the tournament decreases in excitement with each passing week. It's an odd phenomenon. And TB isn't the biggest college basketball fan anymore.

He just roots for his teams. There's a short list of them, one that got a little bigger yesterday, when he added Columbia's women to it.

Good luck Meggie. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

An All-American Weekend, Or Is That All-America?

TigerBlog has to admit something embarrassing about his brother.

Until last week, BrotherBlog had never been to a Bruce Springsteen concert.

Yes, it's true. A kid from the Jersey Shore, and he had never seen The Boss. How was that even possible?

TigerBlog - and BrotherBlog - went to high school about five miles from where Springsteen did. TB's high school in the late ’70s/early ’80s was prime Boss country.

TigerBlog has been to a bunch of Springsteen concerts, the first of which was in 1981, at the Meadowlands Arena. Springsteen played 29 songs that night, and here is the setlist:
1    Born to run
2    Prove it all night
3    Out in the street
4    Darkness
5    Independence day
6    Johnny Bye Bye
7    Two hearts
8    Who'll stop the rain
9    Promised land
10    This Land is your Land
11    The River
12    Badlands
13    Thunder road
14    You can look
15    Cadillac ranch
16    Sherry darling
17    Jole Blon
18    Hungry heart
19    Wreck on the Highway
20    Follow that dream
21    Racing in the street
22    Ramrod
23    Rosalita
24    I'm a rocker
25    Jungleland
26    Jersey girl
27    I don't wanna go home
28    Detroit medley
29    Rocking all over the world

Uh, yeah that's a great concert.

BrotherBlog went to see Springsteen at the Key Arena in Seattle last week. Here is the setlist from that show:

Meet Me in the City
The Ties That Bind
Sherry Darling
Jackson Cage
Two Hearts
Independence Day
Hungry Heart
Out in the Street
Crush On You
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
I Wanna Marry You
The River
Point Blank
Cadillac Ranch
I'm a Rocker
Fade Away
Stolen Car
The Price You Pay
Drive All Night
Wreck on the Highway
I'm Goin' Down
She's the One
Adam Raised a Cain
Because the Night
Tougher Than the Rest
The Rising
Thunder Road
* * *
Bobby Jean (with Eddie Vedder)
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out

Uh, yeah, that's a great concert too.

Springsteen, by the way, is 66 years old and still rocking like that. 

Springsteen, as TigerBlog has said before, is the greatest of all time in concert. He's the best there's ever been and the best that ever will be.

Don't argue with TigerBlog on this. And especially don't argue with Princeton water polo coach Luis Nicolao, who's a bigger Bruce fan than TB.

Nicolao's women's team was in California for spring break, and it now finds itself in the middle of a three-week break in their schedule. The Tigers don't play again until April 9, in Ann Arbor, where they'll take on Michigan, Indiana and of course Harvard.

The lull in the schedule doesn't mean there wasn't news for Princeton women's water polo this weekend. Ashleigh Johnson, who has taken the year off from school, helped the U.S. national team qualify for the coming Summer Olympics, where the Americans will be the favorite to win the gold medal.

Is Ashleigh Johnson the Bruce Springsteen in the history of Princeton women's athletics? It's quite possible.

As for current Princeton athletes, this weekend marked the end of the winter season, and it did it in an All-America fashion.

Oh, and this is for Princeton wrestling coach Chris Ayres, who called out TigerBlog in an email about the use of the term "All-America" as opposed to "All-American." Here it is: "All-America" is a noun; "All-American" is a adjective.

As it relates to Ayres' team, Brett Harner is an All-America. Chris Ayres is the All-American boy.

Princeton added quite a few All-Americas this weekend as winter came to a close.

In the pool, Princeton actually had its All-Americas Thursday, when En-Wei Hu Van Wright, Sandy Bole, Julian Mackrel and Alex Lewis finished 13th nationally in the 200 free relay. Princeton almost added another All-America relay, but the 400 free relay team came up one second short.

Princeton finished third nationally at the NCAA fencing championships this weekend, behind Columbia and Ohio State. For the Tiger program, that's six straight years of finishing in the top four nationally.

The fencing championships are a co-ed events. Teams can qualify a maximum of 12 fencers, which Princeton did, and points are awarded based on number of bouts won.

Princeton came out of the weekend with 161 teams wins. The top four fencers in each weapon qualify for the individual playoffs, and Princeton advanced three - women's epee Charlene Liu, women's saber Gracie Stone and men's saber Edward Chin.

In all, Princeton had eight of its 12 fencers earn All-America honors - four women and four men.

And so that's the end of the winter.

Princeton heads into the heart of spring with nine Ivy League championships in 2015-16: women's cross country, women's soccer, women's volleyball, field hockey, men's swimming and diving, men's fencing, women's fencing, men's indoor track and field and women's hockey.

This coming weekend marks the opening of Ivy League softball and baseball, and the baseball team plays home Wednesday for the first time (against Seton Hall) before hosting Harvard and Dartmouth.

And with the baseball home opener, TigerBlog can finally get around the story of the big rock.

It can wait until tomorrow. Or maybe Wednesday. But definitely soon.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Spring Weekend

TigerBlog got a little dressed up yesterday.

Black dress pants. Black dress shoes. Nice button down shirt.

Okay, no jacket, no tie. Still, it wasn't the usual uniform - khakis, Princeton Athletics shirt, official Princeton issue sneakers.

The occasion? It was the University's annual Service Recognition luncheon in Jadwin Gym, and TigerBlog was there to support his guys Craig Sachson and Andrew Borders, who were being honored for working at Princeton for 15 years and 10 years.

Craig was one of the rare ones there, TigerBlog assumes, in that he has not worked 15 consecutive years at Princeton. He was an intern for two years and then worked for two years at Cornell before coming back to Princeton for 13-plus more and counting.

The luncheon honors people whose service time ends in a zero or five, beginning with 10 years. There was one person honored for working at Princeton for 50 years, and the top 53 people honored have worked at Princeton for a combined 2,000 years.

Those 53 were called onto the stage to be greeted by University president Chris Eisgruber as their job titles were read. TigerBlog couldn't help but marvel about how many different people work here and how wildly varied their jobs are.

TigerBlog sat a table with Sachson, Borders, Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux and three women from the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. Sadly, none of the three said that they regularly attend Princeton athletic events.

They did talk about how technology has evolved at Princeton through the years and wondered where technology will be in another 20 years or so. It's a great question. If TigerBlog had the answer, much like if Rocky's turtles Cuff and Link could sing and dance, he wouldn't have to be doing this.

The technology discussion got TigerBlog to thinking about things that haven't evolved through the years, and he came up with two things: braces, and the SATs.

TigerBlog wore braces when he was a high school sophomore and junior. Miss TigerBlog recently got her braces off. They basically haven't changed at through the years, something that surprises TB a bit. He figured there'd be a laser or a pill or something that would zap people's teeth into a perfectly straight line.

And the SATs? MTB just took those a few weeks ago, and it still takes about eight weeks to get your scores back. TB doesn't get that at all. Shouldn't it be about a day or two?

As TigerBlog walked away from the luncheon yesterday, he peeked up through a divider there to dress the building up at the basketball stands. As he did, he couldn't help but think about how quickly the basketball season at Princeton had come and gone.

This weekend marks the end of the winter, with the NCAA swimming and diving championships and the NCAA fencing championships. Princeton's women opened the four-day fencing competition in Massachusetts in third place, behind Columbia and St. John's.

Freshman Charlene Liu led all fencers in the epee division, and Gracie Stone was second in the saber. From Andrew's story: he top four fencers from each weapon after the round-robin bouts finish Friday will have the chance to fence for the individual NCAA title. Semifinal bouts will start with épée, then foil and saber, followed by final bouts in those weapons. All the semifinal and final bouts will be broadcast on

As for the swimming, the Princeton men started out by doing something that hadn't been done in four years. From Craig's story: The quartet of En-Wei Hu-Van Wright, Sandy Bole, Julian Mackrel and Alex Lewis made Princeton history in Atlanta Thursday during Day 2 of the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships. After qualifying for the consolation final during the preliminary session, the Tigers jumped up three spots to finish 13th in a time of 1:18.02 and earn All-America Honorable Mention.

The heart of the spring season is still ahead, but this is the first actual spring weekend.

There have been almost no home events at Princeton for the last two weekends, and the home schedule this weekend isn't what it's going to be in the next few weeks. Still, there are some nice events.

The two-time defending Ivy champion women's tennis team begins its league schedule by hosting Penn tomorrow. The match is scheduled to be played outdoors, at the Lenz Center, beginning at 1.

The softball team has its home opener, with a doubleheader against Colgate, beginning at 2. Princeton spent last week in California on its spring trip.

Tomorrow is also the first home weekend for rowing, with women's open and lightweights and men's heavyweights at home. You want rowing previews? Craig has you covered:

men's lightweight
men's heavyweight
women's open
women's lightweight

There are also several teams on the road, including both lacrosse teams and the baseball team.

TigerBlog will be in New Haven for the men's lacrosse game at Yale, who is ranked third nationally. Princeton and Yale have played nine times since Chris Bates became head coach, and seven of those - including all six regular-season games - have been decided by one goal. A year ago, Princeton and Yale split 11-10 games, with a Princeton win in the regular season and a Yale win in the Ivy tournament final.

The women's lacrosse team will be on the road - again - this time at Harvard. The Tigers will be playing the third of five straight games away from home.

Princeton is unbeaten in the Ivy League, as are Harvard, Cornell and Penn.

The baseball team is in Annapolis to take on Navy. The Tigers play home Wednesday against Seton Hall and then next weekend at home against Dartmouth and Harvard.

And that's your weekend. The last of winter. A lot of spring. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Let's Go Huskies

When TigerBlog was in Denver a few weeks ago, he watched some of the St. Cloud State vs. Minnesota-Duluth men's hockey game on television.

St. Cloud State lost. In fact, St. Cloud lost twice that weekend, 4-1 on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday.

As it turns out, the Huskies were 0-2-0 that weekend and 31-6-1 the rest of the year. Perhaps TigerBlog was bad luck for them.

TB didn't realize how good SCS was until it came time to fill out his Office of Athletic Communications hockey tournament bracket. As was the case with the basketball office pool, there is no money to join and no prize to the winner, which makes it completely NCAA compliant.

Anyway, as a way of trying to make it up to the Huskies, TigerBlog has picked them to go all the way. If seedings hold out, then it'll be No. 1 Quinnipiac against No. 2 St. Cloud State in the championship game.

Minnesota-Duluth, by the way, is also in the tournament. The unseeded Bulldogs open the tournament against fourth-seeded, Providence, who is also the defending NCAA champion.

The NCAA men's hockey tournament starts tomorrow, with 16 teams. By the end of the weekend, there will be four left, and then the Frozen Four will be held in two weeks, in Tampa. TigerBlog assumes the reason for taking next weekend off is to avoid going head-to-head with the basketball Final Four.

The women's tournament is already over, and Minnesota won for the second straight year and seventh time overall. The Gophers beat Boston College 3-1 in the championship game. BC's record heading into the game? How about 40-0.

There was a bit of controversy after the women's game, as Minnesota was given the usual celebratory hats, except they had the men's NCAA Frozen Four logo on the back. Both logos look the same, since the NCAA has now standardized championship logos, so the only difference between the men's and women's logos are the words "men's" and "women's" and the location of the tournaments.

TigerBlog would like to think this is just an error - everybody makes them - and that it could just as easily have happened to the men's hats as the women's. He'd hate to think the NCAA is paying closer attention to the men's hats than the women's. That can't possibly be the case, not in 2016, right?

Minnesota started its run to the championship by defeating Princeton in the first round of the tournament 6-2. The Tigers had won the Ivy League championship and then earned an at-large bid into the NCAA field, which has eight teams for the women.

It was a great season for the Tigers, who were an exciting team to watch at Baker Rink this winter. The 2015-16 season ended against the team that would win it all, on their ice, in front of a huge crowd.

Weren't able to get out to Minnesota? Want to feel like you were part of the trip?

The watch THIS VIDEO. It's the sights and sounds of Princeton's NCAA trip.

Meanwhile, back at the men, Quinnipiac heads into the NCAA tournament with a record of 29-3-7. The Bobcats were 2-0-0 against Princeton, but they were vastly different games.

The Tigers hosted Quinnipiac on Dec. 29 and fell 6-0 in a game that was 4-0 after eight minutes and 5-0 after the first period. It was no contest.

The teams then played the next night in Connecticut, and it certainly seemed after 10 seconds that it was going to be more of the same, as that's how long it took the Bobcats to score. Given the way the night before had gone, the quality of the opponent and the venue, it would have been easy for the Tigers to roll over.

Instead, Princeton scored the next three. Quinnipiac would score three times in a second period that saw Princeton get outshot 22-2, but Colton Phinney made 39 saves to keep it at 4-3. That's how it would end, but Princeton could take some pride from the way it stood up, especially after being outscored 7-0 in the first 60:10 of the two games.

Anyway, that's the NCAA hockey tournament.

As for the men's basketball tournament, TigerBlog is way, way down near the bottom of the office pool. He's come to the conclusion that he's not a very good prognosticator.

On the other hand, he does have both of his teams left for the championship game, which he picked as North Carolina over Oklahoma. TB has a lot of faith in OU's Buddy Hield, who put up 36 in the second round win over VCU.

As for the rest of his Final Four, TigerBlog can't remember it.

The NCAA tournament is an interesting event. To TigerBlog, it gets worse with each successive round. Maybe it's because it's really hard to match the excitement of the first round, with its requisite upsets, and the second round, where you get to see if those who pulled upsets can do it again.

In other words, you get Yale and Middle Tennessee State as the darlings of the first weekend. And the oh-so-close-how-did-they-let-that-get-away Northern Iowa.

Now? You're left with all the familiar names.

Even your two longest shots on the board are 11th-seeded Gonzaga and 10th-seeded Syracuse. Those aren't exactly Cinderella teams.

The first weekend of the tournament is always great, with 48 games in four days, which greatly increases the chances of seeing something exciting.

This weekend is all the usual suspects. So is next weekend. It can't possibly measure up.

Besides, it's lacrosse season, right?

Did you see how Air Force beat Duke the other night?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Guest TigerBlog - "Hey Coach"

If you saw the documentary "When The Game Ends," then you were moved by the story of Chuck Dibilio, who suffered a stroke that ended a seemingly limitless football career but who has come back to Princeton and will now earn his degree this year.

The movie was the work of John Bullis, whose day job (and night job and weekend job) is creating video and assisting in the videostreaming efforts here in the Department of Athletics. 

Bullis earned a degree in film making from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he also played on the hockey team. In addition to his work here, John has stayed close to the ice, including playing lunchtime hockey at Baker Rink. And, this past winter, coaching the club hockey team to the league championship, with an overtime win over the College of New Jersey in the final.

TigerBlog offered John the floor for a guest blog, in which he talks about his role with the team, his experience as a head coach and the emotion of winning it all.

Today's guest TigerBlog, from John Bullis:

On a recent Sunday morning, second-seeded Princeton and crosstown rival first-seeded TCNJ, faced off with the CSCHC championship on the line. It was our third matchup of the season between them, having split the previous two.

And those loyal Princeton parents, a few alumni, Debbie and Nick Macy who were in attendance were in for a wild ride. Before that, though, I want to take a second to establish who Debbie and Nick Macy are to the program.

Steve Macy, Princeton’s previous club hockey coach, passed away in May 2014, succumbing to cancer. Debbie, his wife, and Nick, his son, supported Steve as the head coach of the club team for 15 years. Steve was with the program since its inception, driving up from Philly for late night practices and games - all strictly on a volunteering basis.

Before I explain the feelings and emotions obtained from my first year as head coach of Princeton’s club hockey team and winning the first league championship since 2005, I should establish some background on our program.

“We have who we need” is the quote around here. While some of the other teams in our league pay substantially hefty fees to play, we are blessed with having Baker Rink as our home on campus and have insanely low fees. To put into perspective, other teams in our league hold try-outs during preseason where 40-65 players may attend and the coaches make cuts. These teams carry travel players and have healthy scratches taking game notes while they watch. Through talking with some other head coaches in the league, I learned that those kids may have paid up to $2,500 per year to play or take notes, however you see it. Yes, they have cool team track suits, nice jerseys, team managers,  but fear not. Princeton club hockey “has who we need,” and we pay 1/10th of what they do.

Our team is comprised of a core group of players who are dedicated to one another. Our practice schedule mixed in with the varsity teams, intramurals and other club sports only allows us to practice twice a week, at 9:30 at night. Numbers for those practices consists of those core 10-12 players. However, in recent we have averaged 1 practice a week with an average of 6-8 players. I get phone calls or texts, one hour before practice saying, “Hey coach, this project is killing me and I need to finish it,” or “I’m so behind on work, I’d really appreciate if I could skip practice.”

I understand the student-athlete lifestyle, but nothing in the realm of how they deal with the rigors of Princeton. I respond with “Take care of what you have to do and try to go to Stephens for a jog or bike ride, see you next practice.” Not because I don’t want to deal with what they do, but because I feel its necessary in keeping the atmosphere balanced between winning and fun. I’ve discovered that is not an easy task to do in life, let alone as a coach.

I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far, but with credit to how awesome my players are. It is not a thankless position, because they are vocal towards my assistant coach, Colin McCollough and me.

Comments like, “thanks for just being here” or “thanks for being so understanding” don’t go unheard. Besides all the mushy stuff you get from coaching, I’m teaching them higher level systems that allowed us to put together a 10-3-1 record in regular season play with two and half forward lines and sometimes three defensemen.

Back to the championship game, where we had just over three forward lines and five defensemen, it was not all easy sailing through this one. TCNJ would score, then we would score. The entire game was a ping-pong match going back in forth in the favor of TCNJ. As the clock wound down to five minutes in the third period, freshman Drew Bennett took off on a fast break. He dished a pass to Kelly on the back door, who willed it past the netminder, cancelling a one-goal deficit for the fourth time in the game. Regulation came to an end, sending the game into a sudden death overtime period. In between ice cuts, I told them “They literally just handed us the game on a silver platter and we capitalized on their mistake, now it’s our time to finish it. That goal is what we needed. They’re broken and we're not because we have more heart, passion and want than they do. This is it, lets go finish it and bring home the cup”.

That’s exactly what we did.

We were given the chance we needed and we translated that into stealing the trophy right out of their hands. TCNJ applied heavy pressure, matched their top players, but junior Graham Turk smothered rebounds and made enormous saves. Then, six minutes in, Bennett picked up a pass breaking along the wing. He carried the puck wide into the zone. After getting denied on the initial shot attempt, he got his stick on the puck to jam it over the goal line, emptying the Tigers’ bench as the team piled on Bennett in celebration. As I looked into the stands to see our fans and parents cheering, I saw Debbie and Nick Macy. I walked over to the glass and demanded they come down to be in our team celebration photos. Had it not been for their love of the game and their support of our late great coach Steve Macy, we wouldn’t have been able to share that championship experience together. Senior club president and captain Matt Kelly accepted the championship trophy and the league sportsmanship award (given to the team with the fewest penalty minutes). Drew Bennett was awarded the playoff MVP honor, having tallied 4 goals and 2 assists in two games.

For my last closing thoughts I say, words cannot explain how happy I am for the players on my team. I’m happy to be looked up to, to be trusted in my knowledge of the game and happy that I have have all the players buy into the system. However, nothing can compare to being seen by players on campus and hearing two words “Hey coach!”

Not sure if I’ll ever get to used to it, but it does have a nice ring to it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Postseason Wonderland

A week that started with snow on the first day of spring and will feature temperatures in the 70s on the third day of spring seems like a good time to do a little wrapping up of the winter.

Hopefully that means the weather too. Not just Princeton Athletics.

The winter has actually extended into the spring, with seven men's swimmers set to compete at the NCAA championships this weekend in Atlanta and 12 fencers ready for head to Brandeis University this weekend for their own NCAA championships.

The fencing championships are a co-ed event, and Princeton has qualified the maximum number of fencers. The other teams to do so are Columbia, Notre Dame and St. John's.

In other fencing news, Katharine Holmes, who will return to Princeton as a senior next year, has qualified for the Summer Olympics. Holmes will compete in the team epee and individual epee events in Rio.

The men's swimming and diving and fencing teams will bring to nine the number of Princeton teams who will have reached postseason competition this winter. That's a lot.

You can read about each individual team HERE.

The wrestling championships were held in Madison Square Garden this past weekend, and Princeton had four wrestlers who competed. Brett Harner, a junior, finished eighth at the 197-pound class, earning All-America honors in the process.

How special was Harner's March?

First he became Princeton's first EIWA individual champion in 13 years when he won his weight class in Jadwin Gym no less. Then he followed that by becoming Princeton wrestling's ninth-ever All-America.

The last Princeton All-America was Greg Parker, who was an NCAA runner-up as a junior in 2002 and an eighth-place finisher as a senior in 2003.

Prior to Parker, it had been 17 years since the previous All-America, Dave Crisanti in 1986. In other words, it's Harner and Parker in the last 30 years.

TigerBlog has said this before, but the job that Chris Ayres and his staff - Sean Gray, Joe Dubuque, Nick Heflin - have done with Princeton wrestling is insane. They have taken a team that could barely fill a lineup and turned into one of the up-and-coming powers in college wrestling.

It's not going to take 30 more years to produce two more All-Americas, TigerBlog is pretty sure.

Actually, Harner reached the quarterfinals, where he lost to eventual champion J'Den Cox of Missouri. Cox had actually beaten Heflin in the NCAA finals two years ago.

TigerBlog's experience has been that the minute the season ends one year, there's an immediate yearning from coaches to get started on the next one. Like the next day.

As time goes on, that initial feeling fades away into the reality that next year is just that, next year. But coaches have that immediate sense of wanting to get going.

TB has seen it enough to know it's more than just one or two coaches. Maybe not all of them. Maybe some need a little time to decompress. But the competitive spirit never goes away. 

TigerBlog hasn't talked to Mitch Henderson about this. If he had to guess, TB would say that Mitch is ready for next year right now.

His team went 22-7 this year, giving Henderson a career record of 96-53. Win No. 4 next year will be win No. 100 of his career. Quick - how many Princeton men's basketball coaches have reached 100 career wins?

Hint - TigerBlog has only heard of three of them and met two of them.

Before the answer, keep in mind that Henderson had only one senior on his team this year, Mike Washington Jr., who for the season played 61 minutes. Contrast that with the women's team, whose great senior class played 3,594 minutes this year.

Also, Princeton returns Hans Brase, a starter and one of the best players on the team who missed all of the 2015-16 season after tearing his ACL in the preseason.

For Henderson, the challenge is to reintegrate Brase into a team that played with a pretty strong rotation and with great chemistry. It's a good challenge to have.

The 2016-17 men's basketball team will be deep and will be fun to watch. That's a pretty good combination. It's enough to be excited about already, even if it's barely into springtime.

Oh, and the Princeton coaches with at least 100 wins?

Pete Carril - 514
Cappy Cappon - 250
Albert Wittmer (1923-32) - 115
Butch van Breda Kolff - 103
Frederick Leuhring (1912-20) - 100

In other words, with a 19-win season, Mitch Henderson would move into third place all-time in wins at Princeton.

Is it time to get started yet? 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Off The Bounce

For those who couldn't get enough of the cool-sounding but completely nonsensical phrase "score the basketball," TigerBlog offers up what appears to be the 2.0 version of that.

And it is? "Off the bounce."

You couldn't watch 10 minutes of the NCAA basketball tournament without hearing an announcer use the term "off the bounce." Someone said it first. It sounded good. TB supposes it sounds cooler than "off the dribble," so everyone else went with it.

What's next year's? That's anyone's best guess. Maybe TB should come up with one and see if he can get it to spread. He'll work on it. Are there royalties for this?

Perhaps not surprisingly, TigerBlog watched more lacrosse than basketball this weekend. There was one game live, one game online and two games on TV. And the two TV games went overtime, so that was even a little more than just four games.

Still, he did see enough of the NCAA basketball tournament to hear "off the bounce" about 50 times.

He did see enough to see Northern Iowa give away a 12-point lead in 38 seconds and then lose in two overtimes. How in the world was that possible? 

The NCAA men's tournament goes from having 68 ecstatic teams one Sunday night and knocks that group down to 16 one Sunday later. If you're not doing the math, that means that 52 teams have already been eliminated.

One of them is Yale, who beat Baylor and then lost to Duke. Any time the Ivy League champion wins a game in the NCAA tournament it is a tremendous accomplishment. 

From 1981 through 1994, the only wins in the NCAA men's tournament by Ivy teams were in 1983 and 1984, when Princeton beat North Carolina A&T, Oklahoma State and San Diego - with two of those wins in the play-in round before the tournament went to 64 teams.

From 1986-88, the Ivy League teams in the NCAA's lost their first-round games by a combined 120 points. That's 40.0 points on average.

The next year was the year that Princeton, seeded 16th, lost to No. 1 Georgetown 50-49 in the game that has been credited with having saved March Madness. HERE is a Providence Journal story from last week that catches you up.

That game was the start of a four-year stretch that saw Princeton lost by one, four, two and eight - a total of 15 points in four games (Georgetown, Arkansas, Villanova, Syracuse). Penn finally broke through in 1994, beating a Nebraska team that is probably the weakest first-round opponent any Ivy team has had in the last few decades (and that Penn team was one of the best Ivy teams of that time).

Yale's win over Baylor gave the Ivies seven NCAA wins since then. Princeton has two (UCLA and UNLV, if you forgot), Cornell has two, Harvard has two and now Yale has one.

The victory by the Bulldogs will be the second most-remembered story from Ivy League basketball in 2016.

The most remembered will be that the Princeton women got into the tournament. It was the first time in history that the Ivy League had two bids to an NCAA tournament, men or women, and that achievement is something that not that long ago seemed impossible, especially on the women's side.

Princeton played West Virginia Friday at Ohio State.

TigerBlog watched that game on TV. He thought the volleyball lines were pretty distracting, and he wondered if the players were ever fooled into thinking they were closer to the sideline than they really were.

In the end, WVU was too much for the Tigers, who fell 74-65. Penn, the league champ, lost 65-53 to Washington Saturday.

The loss to West Virginia ended the careers of the five members of Princeton's Class of 2016. Those five are: Amanda Berntsen, Michelle Miller, Annie Tarakchian, Alex Wheatley and Taylor Williams.

Those five finish their Princeton careers with 4,605 points. That's an extraordinary number of points.

And points aren't everything they've been about. They have so many accomplishments that to list them all would be silly.

Not as silly as "score the basketball" or "off the bounce," now that TB thinks about, so he'll go ahead and list them:

* two Ivy titles
* three NCAA tournaments
* four postseasons
* two postseason wins, including the first NCAA win in program history
* a 97-23 record, including 50-6 in the Ivy League
* a national ranking of 13, the highest in Ivy women's history
* a 30-0 regular season and 31-1 overall record, both the best in Ivy men's or women's history
* more than 20 Ivy League Player of the Week honors

Their graduation will certainly make next season interesting. Princeton will return exactly one player who has ever started a game, and that is Vanessa Smith.

Certainly there is a big challenge ahead for Courtney Banghart and her staff. At the same time, she's been here before, especially after graduating Lauren Edwards, Devona Allgood and especially Niveen Rasheed - and others - in a two-year span.

It didn't take the Tigers long to be back, did it? Yes, Penn is the prohibitive favorite for next year, with basically every player on the roster back.

But TigerBlog won't count Princeton out quite yet. He'll never count Courtney Banghart out.

Still, that's months away.

For now, it's time to look back at the recently concluded Ivy League basketball season, and marvel once again at a remarkable senior class, one that put together such an amazing four years at Princeton - and ended it doing something that had never been done before.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Tournament Thoughts

TigerBlog was filling out his NCAA tournament bracket yesterday for the Office of Athletic Communications pool when something rather startling dawned on him.

He's not a college basketball fan.

Oh, and the pool? It's for no money, with no entry fee and no prize to the winner, strictly for fun, completely NCAA-compliant, low-calorie, fat-free.

As for college basketball, TigerBlog is an Ivy League fan, men's and women's. And the other teams coached by Princeton people, like Georgetown, Holy Cross, American, Richmond.

Denver used to be on the list, until Joe Scott got fired. TigerBlog understands that's the business, but Denver was awful when Joe got there and under him became very competitive in its league. Oh wait, in its three leagues, as the Pioneers bounced around basically all over the country without much stability in a four-year period. It doesn't make it easy on the head coach.

Meanwhile, back at filling out his bracket, TigerBlog realized that he didn't really know much about who was good and how wasn't. For that matter, excluding Yale, he can probably name fewer than 20 players in the entire NCAA tournament.

That doesn't mean he didn't watch games yesterday, or that he won't pay attention now that the tournament has started. It's just that he didn't watch much during the regular season, or during the conference tournaments.

Why? Because, he supposes, there are just so many games on all the time, starting in November. It's great, but it's also over the top.

And lacrosse season starts earlier and earlier. It takes up more of TigerBlog's time in February, which is prime basketball time.

Added together, and other than Ivy League games and Georgetown, TigerBlog didn't watch more than 100 or so minutes of college basketball all year.

He watched a lot yesterday. He had just started watching the first game, Duke-UNC Wilmington, when he asked his colleague Andrew Borders what he thought of Yale's chances against Baylor. Beware, Andrew said.

His direct quote: "Makai Mason is a gamer."

And boy was he right. Mason went out and put up 31 points to lead Yale to its 79-75 win over Baylor. The win was the Ivy League's third first-round win in four years.

If you're wondering if Mason's 31 points are the Ivy record for an NCAA game, they aren't. Nope, that record belongs to Princeton's Bill Bradley, who scored 58 against Wichita State in the 1965 third-place game.

The Yale win was another 12 seed beats 5 seed game. They seem to happen at least once a year.

In this tournament, it's already happened twice, as Arkansas-Little Rock knocked off Purdue in two overtimes. TigerBlog, as an aside, thinks overtime in basketball should be three minutes, not five.

Yale's win brings up for TigerBlog something he always wonders. As a Princeton fan, do you root for Yale to win in the NCAAs because it's good for the league? Or do you always root against the league rivals, regardless?

The person at Yale TigerBlog is most happy for is Tim Bennett, the men's basketball contact for Yale's athletic communications office. Timmer is a former Princeton OAC intern from a long, long time ago, and he waited 25 years as the men's basketball contact at Yale to get to the NCAA tournament. 

Up next for Yale is Duke tomorrow in the second round.

Today, it's the turn of the Princeton women, who will take the court at noon against West Virginia in the opening round of the women's tournament. The game, being played at Ohio State, can be seen on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.

Princeton is the 11 seed. WVU is the No. 6 seed and the 23rd-ranked team in  the country.

The Princeton women actually added to the Ivy League's NCAA win column a year ago, when they defeated Wisconsin-Green Bay in the opening round. It was the first NCAA win in program history and the second by an Ivy League school.

This year's team has already made history, regardless of what happens in Ohio today. The Tigers earned an at-large bid to the tournament, making this the first multi-bid season in Ivy men's or women's history. It says a lot about the program that it was held in such high regard.

The women's team pulled out of Jadwin on its way to Trenton-Mercer Airport Wednesday afternoon and then chartered to Columbus. Yesterday's agenda included practice, the press conference and some down time in advance of the game.

There's a video on that chronicles the trip through the first two days. You can see it HERE.

Finally, TigerBlog also wants to mention the other Princeton team in the NCAAs this weekend, the wrestling team.

Princeton sent four wrestlers to Madison Square Garden for the NCAA championships, one off the program record of five, from last year. Here's another video for you, this one about the wrestlers who are competing.

The Tigers got off to a good start at MSG, especially EIWA champ Brett Harner, who moved into the quarterfinals. 

In all, Princeton will have nine teams who reached postseason championships this winter. Women's squash, women's indoor track and field, women's hockey and men's basketball are all done. Women's basketball and wrestling are at it this weekend; men's swimming and diving and both fencing teams are at it next weekend.

One more link: the nine winter postseason teams.

Remember - Princeton vs. West Virginia is at noon today on ESPN2 or online.

A team that's already made huge history will look to add a little more.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Great Game With A Frustrating End

TigerBlog told you yesterday that the NIT can be very exciting.

Princeton found that out last night.

Something else the NIT can be is frustrating. Any one-and-done tournament can be. Princeton found that out last night too.

Princeton fell in its NIT opener at Virginia Tech 86-81 in overtime. It was a tremendous game, and Princeton had a great performance against an ACC team in a building where it isn't easy to come away with a win.

You know who couldn't do it this year?

Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. Miami, the No. 3 seed in the South. Both of them lost in Virginia Tech's Cassell Coliseum this season.

North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the East, did win there. By five.

And Virginia Tech basically sold out Cassell in three days for this game.

With a crowd of nearly 10,000 against them against and facing an ACC team that finished above .500 in the league, Princeton found itself down by double figures twice in the second half. And despite that, the Tigers came back.

All the way back, in fact, taking the lead three times in the final four minutes. Virginia Tech took advantage of a rough turnover late in regulation to force overtime, and from there the Hokies were able to win.

Princeton competed really hard, in a great atmosphere. It would have been great to come away with a win, but Princeton definitely showed up.

The result is the end of an outstanding season for the Tigers, who went 22-7 in 2015-16. Princeton was a team that scored a lot of points and played an exciting brand of up-tempo basketball.

And they did it with a team that didn't have a player play in the game last night who won't be back next year. There are serious pieces in place next year, when Princeton figures to have its best team in years.

It's an entire team of guys who are fun to watch, and they'll have another year of experience both as individuals and from playing together as they head into 2016-17. It's also a team with great depth, which means that you never know which player is going to be the one to stand out on any given night.

Yeah, it would have been great to play in the second round of the NIT. But other than that, there really isn't anything bad you can say about how Princeton did last night.

While we're talking Princeton basketball in the postseason, today is March 17. If you're a Princeton fan, you know what happened on this day in 1989.

Did you see the story Alonzo Mourning wrote about the Princeton-Georgetown NCAA men's basketball opening round game of 1989? If not, you can see it right HERE.

That game was 27 years ago today, by the way. It was St. Patrick's Day 1989, at the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunkin' Donuts Center). Princeton, the No. 16 seed. Georgetown, the No. 1 seed.

You know the story. Georgetown won, 50-49. The game ended with a pair of Mourning blocked shots, against Bob Scrabis and Kit Mueller, in the final six seconds.

Was either or both fouled?

In his very well-done story, Mourning says they weren't. "I'll take that up with God when I get there," Pete Carril said afterwards.

TigerBlog has talked to be both Scrabis and Mueller about both of their shots through the years since. Both are sure that their shots would have gone in had Mourning not gotten them.

Still, to this day no No. 16 has beaten a No. 1.

Bill Carmody will get a shot at doing it as his improbable Holy Cross Crusaders won last night in the First Four, defeating Southern 59-55. Their reward is a game against top-seeded Oregon.

In case you missed it, Holy Cross had not won a road game all year before winning four straight in the Patriot League tournament. And then they won the First Four game.

Carmody is one of TigerBlog's heroes. TB hasn't met too many people in his life quite like Carmody, who combines a laid-back demeanor with some of the most ultra-competitive fierceness TB has seen. 

Carmody was Carril's top assistant for that 1989 game against Georgetown, and he had just been named the soon-to-be head coach when Princeton beat UCLA in 1996. He went 14-0 in the Ivy League in his first season, and he did that again in 1998, when he beat UNLV in the opening round of the 1998 NCAAs.

He was also the Princeton head man in the 1999 NIT, when the Tigers defeated Georgetown and N.C. State before losing to Xavier. And the next year, when Princeton lost at Penn State.

As Princeton played Virginia Tech last night, the ESPNU announcers mentioned the 1999 Princeton-Georgetown game as the game where Princeton played only five players the entire way.

That was in the first half, when Princeton had started to fall behind after starting out up 9-0. But the game had a long way to go from then.

It turned out to be a great NIT game, although one with a frustrating end for Princeton. And this time of year in college basketball, there's a harsh finality to that last loss.

You can bet that the Tigers are ready to go for 2016-17 already. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

NIT Time

TigerBlog is going to go out on a limb and say that he valued the following three TV events from Sunday in a different order than most of the American sporting public.

1) the NCAA men's basketball Selection Show
2) the NIT men's basketball Selection Show
3) the Denver-Notre Dame men's lacrosse game

The NCAA Selection Show used to be one of the highlights of the tournament. Now? CBS took it from an exciting, fast-paced 30-minute presentation to whatever it put out there Sunday night.

TigerBlog didn't watch one second of it. He was watching Denver-Notre Dame, which, as an aside, would make for a nice rematch on Memorial Day after the Pioneers defeated the Irish 9-8 in OT.

After that, he tried to sneak one episode of "Gilmore Girls" in before the NIT show. Luckily, he didn't have to wait long on the bracket, as Princeton was one of the first schools called.

Princeton, as a reward for its 22-6 season, earned a sixth-seed in the NIT and will play at Virginia Tech tobight at 8. You can see the game on ESPNU.

TigerBlog was hoping for a home game in the NIT. Everything he'd read in advance suggested that Princeton had a great shot at a four seed, which would have meant a game at Jadwin.

Instead, it was off to Blacksburg.

TigerBlog didn't think Princeton would get an NCAA tournament at-large bid. When he saw some of the teams who did, though, he was a bit annoyed that Princeton hadn't at least been in the conversation.

Why not Princeton? Why not Monmouth? Why not St. Bonaventure? Why Syracuse? Why Tulsa?

Really, why Syracuse? Gary had it right.

That's Gary Walters, by the way. When he was the chair of the selection committee, he kept Syracuse out.

Anyway, TigerBlog knows the answers as to the whys and why nots. He just doesn't like them.

What is a team like Princeton or Monmouth supposed to do? They can't get major conference teams to come to their buildings.

Anyway, back at the NCAA Selection Show, it used to be great because there was no other way to find out who was in and who was out. The teams didn't know. Nobody knew.

Now, you can see it online as quickly as it's announced. Actually quicker, since someone hacked the draw and put it on Twitter. The NCAA is investigating.

In this case, CBS got what it deserved, with the leaked draw and the endless mocking its show has gotten basically everywhere since.

The network turned a half-hour show into a two-hour nightmare. At least that's what TB read.

He saw the NIT show. The host started out mocking CBS, saying that he was pretty sure the draw hadn't been hacked and that he promised the show would be 30 minutes.

And so there is the game tonight, Princeton at Virginia Tech.

TigerBlog has seen Princeton play in three NITs.

The Tigers played a great game at Louisville in 2002, losing 66-65 after Ed Persia had put the Tigers ahead with 10 seconds left, only to see the Cardinals answer. Ahmed El-Nokali, one of the steadiest players that TigerBlog has seen at Princeton, almost won it at the buzzer with a shot from about 35 feet that was from right in front of where TB was sitting in Freedom Hall and looked dead-center perfect the whole way.

El-Nokali, by the way, would have made a great basketball broadcaster, sort of like Noah Savage.

The 2000 Tigers played in the NIT at Penn State, and that wasn't a great game. Princeton lost 55-41 in what would be Bill Carmody's final game as Tiger head coach on a night that saw the Tigers shoot 1 for 17 from three-point range. And no, TigerBlog doesn't need to look that up.

The other NIT was in 1999.

This was a great run for the Tigers, who beat Georgetown at home in a game in which only five players appeared. The five? Ahmed, Mason Rocca, Brian Earl, Gabe Lewullis, Chris Young. TigerBlog wonders if that's the most recent time that a college basketball used only five players in a game.

The box score looks cool.

After that game, Princeton then played at North Carolina State, defeating the Wolfpack in the last game in the old Reynolds Coliseum. The run ended in the quarterfinals, when Princeton lost a big lead to Xavier.

TigerBlog wasn't around for the NIT appearance before that one. That was in 1975, when the entire tournament was still played in Madison Square Garden.

That year, Princeton defeated Holy Cross, South Carolina, Oregon and Providence to win the tournament. It was one of the signature accomplishments of Pete Carril's Princeton career.

The other NIT appearance? Princeton beat Indiana and lost to Niagara in 1972.

Added all up and Princeton is 6-4 all-time in NIT games, with one championship and one quarterfinal appearance.

The NIT is not the NCAA tournament, where the experience itself is overwhelming, even if you lose in the first round. What the NIT is is an opportunity to extend your season against quality opponents, and if you can get on a run, it becomes a very exciting tournament.

TigerBlog thought all of the NIT games he went to were fun, even the one at Penn State. 

Princeton and Va. Tech have never met before. The Hokies are 19-14 overall, including 10-8 in the ACC. Both teams like to score points, and with little time to prepare, it could be an exciting one.

The NCAA is the goal.

The NIT isn't a bad consolation prize.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Making History

It's not easy to do something in the Ivy League that's never been done before.

Not when you're at schools whose athletic histories date back to the mid 1800s, which was basically the beginning of intercollegiate athletics in this country.

Surely everything that could be done had been done before, right? Or, if it hadn't been done, it wasn't going to get done.

Getting into the NCAA basketball tournament as the second team in the league?

Forever that was just a pipe dream in the Ivy League. No matter who the Ivy runner up was, there was never, ever a second bid, in any year, ever, for men or for women.

TigerBlog has been in so many conversations for the last few decades about that very subject. Would the day ever come?

Well, to be honest, most of those conversations happened before the force of nature that is Courtney Banghart came to Princeton as its women's basketball coach. Since then, nothing has seemed to be impossible.

A 30-0 season? No problem. Single digit seeds in the NCAA tournament? No problem.

But an at-large bid?

The Princeton women walked off of Carril Court last Tuesday after falling 62-60 to Penn in the winner-take-all Ivy regular season finale. While the Quakers knew they'd be headed to the NCAA tournament, the Tigers had to wait and see.

Oh, they knew they'd be playing again. They may have hoped it was in the NCAA tournament, but they probably figured it would be in the WNIT.

But there was a chance, right? The resume was strong. The RPI was good. The Tigers were right there for the history-making at-large spot.

For some reason, TigerBlog thought before the selections were announced last night that Princeton would be in the NCAAs. He thought it would be partly because of what happened with the men's draw, where the Princeton-type teams didn't get in. You know, like Monmouth.

He also thought it would be justice after last year's eighth seed, which basically the entire college basketball world thought was an insult to the 30-0 record.

You know, a little human nature would take over. 

Actually, TB isn't sure he really believed either of those. Maybe he was just hoping it would come true for the Tigers.

Then a funny thing happened when the selections were revealed. TigerBlog was right. 

The Princeton women found out last night that they in fact made history, grabbing a second spot for the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers will play West Virginia Friday at noon at Ohio State, and they will head into the tournament as an 11 seed.

TigerBlog was at the men's lacrosse game last night, trying to do stats while also keeping an eye on the Selection Show. He really didn't see much of the pairings, except for some reason when he looked up and saw Penn was a 10 seed, taking on Washington at the University of Maryland.

When TB saw that, he thought Princeton a real chance. If Penn had been an 11 or 12, then no, he wouldn't have thought that Princeton would be in. But a 10 for the Quakers? With very little to separate the two Ivy teams, TB thought Princeton was in.

And they were.

What's the significance?

Well, it says that Princeton is a program very much on the national radar. And it says that Courtney Banghart is a very well-respected coach.

It's more than that though.

TigerBlog said last week that the loser of the Princeton-Penn women's game could make the claim to being the best runner-up in league history. It didn't seem like the kind of label anyone would want, but in the end, there's something, well, cool about being the first Ivy team to get a second bid.

In fact, in years to come, the 2016 season will be thought of mostly for the fact that Princeton was the team that got the second bid to the NCAA tournament.

Now that the two teams are in the NCAA tournament, their rivalry can continue. Penn knows that Princeton's history-making achievement will be long remembered, and they'd like to do some damage in the tournament to get the attention back to the league champ. And to match what Princeton did a year ago, which means winning an NCAA game.

Princeton? They want to keep it going. Take advantage of their chance. You know, win again. 

As for the opponents, West Virginia is 24-9 after reaching the Big 12 semifinals. Washington is 22-10, including 11-7 in the Pac 12.

Princeton and West Virginia have never met. Penn and Washington have never met.

TigerBlog has seen teams gather for NCAA Selection Shows a million times at Princeton. Well, not a million, but a lot.

There has never been a time where a basketball team that wasn't the league champ thought it had a realistic chance to get an at-large bid. TigerBlog thought the 1999 men's basketball team had a chance, but no.

But the 2016 women's team? Yes. They're the ones who finally broke through.

They're the ones who made history.

Princeton women's basketball. An at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. It's just another first for the Tigers under Courtney Banghart. 

A huge one at that.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Princeton 43, UCLA 41 - The 20th Anniversary

It was twenty years ago tonight, in a building that no longer exists, while some of the maddest that March has ever seen played out around him.

TigerBlog was along the sideline, near where it met the baseline, opposite the Princeton bench. He was kneeling. Andrea Joyce, the venerable broadcaster who was the CBS sideline reporter that night, was kneeling next to him.

Gabe Lewullis had just made his famous layup. The score was Princeton 43, UCLA 41.

TigerBlog's job was to get Pete Carril for CBS if Princeton held on. He and Joyce were stationed opposite Princeton's bench, in case he made a beeline for the lockerroom.

The place was the mammoth RCA Dome. Somewhere, TigerBlog supposes, his former colleague Vinnie DiCarlo still has the "This is not a public entrance to the RCA Dome" sign that he smuggled out of Indianapolis.

There was somewhere between 3.9 and 1.2 seconds left in the game. The officials were looking at replays, trying to figure that part out. And trying to figure out where the ball should be.

That was March 14, 1996.

Today is 20 years to the day later, and TigerBlog still remembers exactly what he was thinking. And so he told Andrea Joyce.

"If they take this away from us," TB said to Joyce, "that's really going to suck."

And he remembers what she said back to him. First she laughed. Then she said this: "not tonight. You'll be fine."

Even typing the words now, TigerBlog is chuckling.

Andrea Joyce was right though. You already knew that.

UCLA got the ball in to Toby Bailey. UCLA was the defending NCAA champ; Toby Bailey was one of the heroes of that 1995 title run.

Now he was trying to get the Bruins to overtime in the first round. UCLA was the fourth seed. Princeton was the 13th seed.

Pete Carril had announced his retirement five days earlier, after Princeton's 63-56 overtime win over Penn in the Ivy League playoff game. Had Princeton not won that game, it wouldn't have been anywhere near Indianapolis the following week.

Between the refs' reviews and the timeouts that were called, it took about seven minutes from the time Lewullis made his layup until play resumed. That was a long time to be kneeling down.

Actually, TB wasn't kneeling that whole time. His attention was diverted for a minute by an unforgettable face from his past, a man named Brian Linky. TigerBlog had grown up with Linky, whose family moved away after middle school.

During those seven minutes, here came Linky. He came down from behind the basket that UCLA would be shooting at, through the Mississippi State bench, who had stayed - along with everyone else in the building - to see what would happen in the Princeton-UCLA game.

The game didn't start out like it was going to be historic for anything other than Carril's last game. No, UCLA ran out to a 7-0 lead and looked unbeatable doing so.

But Princeton didn't fold. Nor did the Tigers play a perfect game. Instead, what they did was make UCLA play a completely imperfect game, hung around enough, took advantage of one huge break and then executed in a major way in the final few minutes to get the epic win.

It was 41-34 UCLA when the Bruins went for the knockout, but Ed O'Bannon left a layup short of a fastbreak. A long Sydney Johnson three made it a four-point game. A Steve Goodrich reverse layup off a nice pass from Chris Doyal, and then Mitch Henderson started another break with a steal that ended when Johnson tied it.

Then there was the intentional foul by Johnson on Cameron Dollar, who missed two foul shots, and a miss in the lane from Kris Johnson, rebound by Goodrich, Princeton ball, shot clock off.

And that ended with the impeccable center-forward play, Johnson to Goodrich to Lewullis - after Lewullis had cut along the baseline once to fake out O'Bannon and then the second time to actually get the pass.

Then came the delay.

Oh, and Linky. That's right.

Linky came down to the court through the Mississippi State band, holding a small instamatic camera. He handed it to the security guard while he yelled "take my picture with that guy," as he gestured to TigerBlog.

Now it was finally time. UCLA was going to inbound the ball. TigerBlog and Joyce were on the opposite side of the court, at the other end.

And now it was 20 years later. Mitch Henderson is no longer a sophomore on that team. Now he is the Princeton head coach.

Pete Carril? He'd had a long second career as an NBA assistant coach. Now he's retired, a common fixture in Jadwin Gym, where the court bears his name.

They are sitting together in Mitch's office. On the flatscreen above them is a replay of the UCLA game.

As they watch, Princeton's video staff of Cody Chruscial and John Bullis are filming them and their reactions. TigerBlog stands in the background.

He figures that in the last 20 years, he's watched the last five minutes more than Carril or Henderson. It certainly comes across that way as he watches them, watching themselves.

The most impressive parts are when they're silent. Why is that? It's not because their comment aren't good. They're actually great.

It's just that when they're silent, it's because they're awed by what they're seeing.

Why wouldn't they be? What they accomplished, along with the rest of the Tigers, was awesome.

TigerBlog considers himself a student of history. The UCLA game ranks very, very close to the top of the list of the greatest moments in Princeton Athletic history.

Maybe the 1965 Final Four in men's basketball tops it. On the other hand, after the close calls that Pete Carril had in the NCAA tournament from 1989-92 without actually winning one (four losses, 15 point total), the significance of having his career stamped with this win cannot be overstated.

There are other moments, of course, that warrant consideration. But the combination of the win and doing it in Carril's last season? A case can be certainly be made for this one.

Anyway, TigerBlog has been rambling a bit. He figures it took you about as long to get to this point as it took the game to resume.

Inbounds to Bailey. Airball.

And right at that moment, an AP photographer snapped the perfect picture, Henderson, leaping in the air, arms exulting in triumph, historic triumph, a triumph that has endured.

Princeton 43, UCLA 41.

Twenty years ago today.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The 15-Mile Loop

TigerBlog took his workout outside yesterday morning.
Instead of riding the exercise bike on D level, TB got on a real bike and set out to do John McPhee's 15-mile loop around town. Mr. McPhee, who rides indoors in the winter with TigerBlog, has been doing this for years, decades actually.

The two started in the Jadwin Gym parking lot and returned a little more than 90 minutes later. The ride went 15 miles and took TigerBlog through parts of Princeton in which he had never before been, as shocking as that was to him.

He even learned a thing or two.

For instance, did you know there used to be a trolley line from Princeton to Trenton? Mr. McPhee - the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, longtime Princeton writing instructor and Faculty Fellow for the men's lacrosse team - used to ride with his mother on that trolley to go shopping for clothes in Trenton when he was a boy.

Today, there's a path behind the Hun School where the trolley line used to be.

It was a fascinating ride. And a tough one. There are more hills than you think along the way.

Oh, and there are a few times where TB and McPhee had to cross some busy streets, like the Princeton Pike and Route 206. And Route 27 on the way back.

In the end it was a way better workout than just riding downstairs. And hey, it was the right day for it.

Even though it's just the second week of March, the temperature in Princeton has touched 70 each of the last two days. When TB was riding yesterday morning, it was already into the 60s.

A little over a week ago, the Princeton area had sleet, then rain, then more sleet, then snow. By the time it was over, there were 12 inches of snow on the ground here. It was worse in Washington, D.C., where so much snow fell that before the Princeton-Maryland men's lacrosse game down there, whole portions of the stadium couldn't be cleared and were closed.

Maryland is at Princeton tomorrow. The forecast? Sunny and 66.

With a forecast like that, TigerBlog ordered a lot of programs for the game. You better make sure you're there to get one. TigerBlog would hate to think he wasted the money.

As midterms end and spring break starts here, most of the spring teams are on the road. The only home game this weekend, for that matter, is that men's lacrosse game.

There's another home game Monday night, at 7, against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are unbeaten and ranked in the Top 20 heading into their huge game tonight against another Top 20 team, Stony Brook.

Princeton will begin its home Ivy League season next Saturday, when it hosts Penn. Other than those three men's lacrosse games, there are no other home events until the men's volleyball team is home with NJIT on the 22nd.

There is more to the men's lacrosse game tomorrow than just good weather. The Terps were the NCAA runner-up a year ago, when they lost to Denver, and even though they are 2-2 on the young season, they are still a team that could be playing well into May again.

Princeton finds itself with quite a run to finish up this regular season. After already playing two ranked teams, Princeton has 10 remaining regular season games. Of those 10 games, three are against teams currently in the Top 10, three more are against teams ranked 11-20 and two more are against teams receiving votes.

Every game will be a challenge, which makes every game an opportunity.

This weekend won't see any other teams at home, but that doesn't mean there aren't huge events. The women's lacrosse team is at Notre Dame in a matchup of two Top 10 teams. It's also the opener of a doubleheader that concludes with No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Denver on the men's side.

There are also postseason competitions, including the NCAA fencing regionals at Lafayette.

Cecilia Barowski is at the NCAA indoor track and field indoor championships in Birmingham, where she will be running in the 800 meters. The event is being held at Samford University. TigerBlog was there once; they have great landscaping.

Barowski runs tonight at 8:35 in Heat 1 of 2. The top three in each heat, plus the next two fastest times, advance to tomorrow's final, at 6:40.

The women's hockey team is on its way to Minnesota to play in its second NCAA tournament. The Tigers' season was so good that even a quarterfinal loss to St. Lawrence in the ECAC playoffs wasn't enough to keep them out of the field of eight teams.

Their assignment? The defending NCAA champion Gophers, who are 32-4-1.

You can see the video of the game tomorrow at 5 (Eastern, 4 if you're actually going to the game in Minnesota) for free by clicking HERE.

Lastly, the big story in Ivy League sports yesterday was the addition of the men's and women's basketball tournaments. Princeton could have used both this year, as they finished second in both races.

The women still have a reasonable chance at being the first Ivy team ever to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. If not, they will definitely be playing in the WNIT.

The men hope to be getting into the NIT as well.

Actually, either could be a playing at home if they are in their respective NITs. If not, then it's only lacrosse here for awhile.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

When 12-2 Is A Little Short

The Princeton men's basketball team defeated Penn 72-71 Tuesday night to finish its regular season at 22-6 overall and 12-2 in the Ivy League.

The Princeton women's team lost in a heart-breaker in the first game of the doubleheader, falling 62-60 to Penn in the winner-take-all women's game. That left Princeton at 23-5 overall, 12-2 in the Ivy League.

Neither Princeton team won an Ivy League championship.

In the entire history of Ivy League men's basketball, only five times has a team gone 12-2 and not gotten at least a share of the championship. Until this year, the last time was in 2003, when Brown did so. Before that, the last time as in 1977.

As for the women, the last time a team went 12-2 and didn't get at least a share of the championship was ... never. This is the first time.

For Princeton, though, it's tough to be on the wrong side of that kind of history. Everyone remembers the great Harvard-Yale men's playoff game a year ago right? How many people remember that both of those teams went 11-3 in the league?
Hey, those are the breaks sometimes. Yale won the men's title and Penn won the women's. Both were 13-1. TigerBlog congratulates them.

The Princeton men, who should at least be in the conversation somewhere for an at-large NCAA tournament bid, hope to at least be headed to the NIT. They'll find out Sunday.

And the women? TigerBlog will get back to them shortly. First, he wants to talk about something else that he couldn't help but notice Tuesday night. 

When Annie Tarakchian's three-pointer splashed through the net, pulling Princeton within one of Penn with 2:38 left, TigerBlog, doing the game on the Ivy League Digital Network and ESPN3 with Dan Loney, remarked that he thought that in the history of Jadwin Gym, it had never been louder for a women's game.

For everything that Courtney Banghart has accomplished with the women's basketball program here, the one that gets overlooked the most is what she's done to the games themselves.

It's easy to focus on the success. Even after Penn held on in a thriller, 62-60, to win the 2016 championship, Banghart has led Princeton to five Ivy League championships, five NCAA tournaments, the first NCAA tournament win in program history, the highest national ranking ever by a women's basketball team in the league, the five highest NCAA seeds in Ivy women's basketball history, a WNIT berth and a WNIT win.

All of this came with a program that had never before played in the NCAA tournament.

By any definition, Banghart is already one of the best coaches in Ivy history. And that's not just in basketball.

As TigerBlog says, though, what she's created at Jadwin Gym that is as impressive.

Attendance at women's basketball games has skyrocketed to unprecedented heights in her tenure. She has put an exciting team on the court year after year, one that has crossed over gender lines to appeal equally to male fans and female fans.

Perhaps she's had help with that in the changing times. Women's basketball is all over television now. Maybe the world is more open to equality in athletics than ever before.

Still, it's come a long way, and Banghart has been the driving force behind it. TigerBlog sees the same faces at Princeton basketball each weekend, whether it's the men or the women at home.

Even better, it's not just the men. It's the boys. There are almost as many of them at Princeton women's basketball games as there are girls.

You'll have to believe TigerBlog on this, but it wasn't always like this. It wasn't really that long ago that the average male fan would have no interest in the women's game. Honestly, if you'd asked TigerBlog 15 years ago if he could ever envision what Princeton women's basketball has become, he would have said no way.

Hey, TigerBlog can't tell you how many times he used to hear those games described as the "girls" game. This wasn't meant to be insulting or demeaning. It was just a subtle way of saying that this game wasn't as important as a men's game, which TigerBlog has never, ever heard referred to as the "boys" game.
The game Tuesday night was one of the best Ivy women's basketball has ever seen. It was fierce and competitive and hard-fought to the end, and the crowd responded as you would think it would.

Make no mistake. This was because of Courtney Banghart.

This, TigerBlog hopes, will be as much a part of her Princeton legacy as all of the winning, whenever her Princeton career comes to a close.

As for her ninth season, there is disappointment that it didn't end in an Ivy title. Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the other team.

The two Princeton-Penn games this year were epics, and Penn won both by two points. It's a razor-thin margin, and little separates these two, but Penn is a worthy champ this year.

So where does this leave Princeton?

On the bubble.

TigerBlog has seen a bunch of NCAA tournament predictions, and it's about 50-50 as to whether or not Princeton will be included in the field.

Should Princeton get in, it would be another piece of history. No Ivy League basketball team - men's or women's - has ever gotten an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Whether or not the Tigers do make that history, their season is not over yet. The consolation prize would be a WNIT bid, and Princeton could make a nice run in that tournament.

The NCAA women's Selection Show is Monday at 7. It'll be fascinating viewing for Princeton, that's for sure.

Hey, if nothing else, maybe the committee figures it owes one to the Tigers after their 30-0 regular season a year ago merited only an eighth seed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

20 Years Ago Today

Princeton-Penn 1996 playoff game box score

Of all of the great little anecdotes TigerBlog has from his nearly 30 years at Princeton, perhaps his favorite is the one where Pete Carril was being badgered by a sportswriter after a Penn game at the Palestra.

The writer, by the way, was Brian Dohn, then of the Trentonian. TigerBlog was a big Brian Dohn fan, though he lost touch with him years ago, after Dohn left to go cover the Dodgers.

Anyway, Princeton had just lost to Penn in the final game of the regular season for its eighth straight loss to the Quakers. The outcome of that game left the teams in a tie for the league title and set up a playoff game for the NCAA bid five days later.

It also led to this exchange:

Dohn: "Do you think Penn has your number?"
Carril: "I don't believe in that."
Dohn: "But sometimes a team just has another team's number."
Carril: "Yeah, I don't believe in that."
Dohn: "Yeah, but maybe they just have your number."
Carril: "I'm telling you I don't believe in that."

At that point, another question was asked. This was from Jerry Henry, then of New Jersey Network.

Henry: "Coach, what can you do differently to beat them in the playoff game?"
Carril (looking at Dohn): "Nothing ... if they have our number."

That's a great one. So was the game itself. Princeton 63, Penn 56, in overtime.

That was 20 years ago today.

There haven't been many weeks in TigerBlog's time here to rival the one of 20 years ago. It started with the loss to Penn in the Palestra, continued with the lead up to the playoff game, included that epic night exactly 20 years ago and then culminated a few days later in Indianapolis, when Princeton beat UCLA 43-41 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The UCLA win was the 514th and final one of Carril's Princeton career. If you ask any Princeton fan about the biggest days in the history of the men's basketball program, many will start with that game.

TigerBlog has heard several of the players on that team mention that the playoff game was even more special to them. Maybe it doesn't enjoy the lasting fame of the game a few days later. Maybe its highlights aren't shown every year as a symbol of "March Madness."

None of that matters. Without the win over Penn, there would be no UCLA.

TigerBlog's memories of that night 20 years ago are vivid.

The game was played at Lehigh's Stabler Arena, and TigerBlog remembers that it was freezing outside. And packed inside.

Wait. Before he gets into that, let him go back a day earlier. To practice at Jadwin Gym.

Penn did not have Princeton's number. What Penn did have was a psyched out opponent, and Carril and his coaches knew this. By the way, that was one of the greatest coaching staffs ever assembled, with Carril, Bill Carmody (whose Holy Cross team is playing tonight in that same building in the Patriot League tournament final), Joe Scott and John Thompson.

That week of practice was different. It wasn't about X's and O's. It was about, for lack of a better term, toughness. They push? Push back. That was the message.

And that's how the game was.

The biggest strategic difference was to put freshman Gabe Lewullis into the starting lineup, after he had played 12 minutes and did not score in the game at the Palestra. Lewullis would lead Princeton with 15 points, and he would be the only player on either team to play all 45 minutes.

More than just his offense, there was the effect that Lewullis had on defense. Donald Moxley, Penn's leading scorer at the Palestra with 16 points, had none in the playoff game, shooting 0 for 14 from the field.

Princeton jumped out quickly on Penn in the playoff game and led by nine at the break. When pushed, Princeton pushed back. Toughness, on this night, was not a problem.

Penn of course did not go quietly and came all the way back to tie it on a long Ira Bowman three - when nobody picked him up - from the top of the key in the final seconds of regulation. It was a shocking turn, and it left maybe 95 percent of the people in the building convinced that Penn really did have Princeton's number, that overtime would be a formality.

It wasn't.

The two biggest plays in the OT were a Sydney Johnson three-pointer as the shot clock wound down with just under a minute to go and then a steal and two foul shots from Brian Earl.

On any other night, the game would have been the big story. Not on this night though.


While the celebration went on, TigerBlog retreated back to where the Princeton locker room was. He knew his responsibility at that moment was to get Carril and a few Princeton players to the interview room, and the celebration was starting to go on for awhile. He knew Lewullis, a graduate of nearby Allentown Central Catholic High School, would be the big story.

Until he walked in the locker room.

The only one in there was Carril. There was an entry room and then a team room off to the left. There was a blackboard to the left as you entered the team room. Carril sat on a bench, and if you didn't know the final score of the game, you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at Carril, who was showing little emotion.

TigerBlog went to stand in the back of the team room. Carril was legendary for taking a long time with the team after games, and on a night like this, TigerBlog's presence in Carril's field of vision might remind him that he had to speed it up a little.

That's when TigerBlog saw it.

Written on the board was a shocking message, written by Carril seconds before TB walked into the room.

"I'm retiring. I'm very happy. Bill Carmody is the new Princeton coach."

From where he stood, TigerBlog could see each player as he came into the room and then could see the reaction as each saw the blackboard.

Then it was off to the interview room, where Carril dropped his bombshell publicly. As TB walked with Carril, he knew what was coming, and that would be a stunned media. And a confused one, which now had to abandon the Lewullis storyline for the Carril one.

The headline the next day in the Trenton Times? "Princeton Wins, Carril Quits."

What followed was the build up to UCLA, which figured to be it, and then the shocking victory that ensured it wasn't.

Maybe the night in Lehigh faded a bit because of the UCLA win. Not maybe. Definitely.

But it was a wild night. A special night. A night when Princeton and Pete Carril made some history.

Have his number? No. Penn didn't.

Pete Carril didn't believe in that.

For good reason.

That was 20 years ago today.