Friday, May 13, 2016

Weekend Watch

If you're like TigerBlog, then you think this is one of the three best sporting weekends of the year.

You know. The first round of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament. Four games tomorrow. Four game Sunday. All on TV.

The other two?

The first two rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and of course Memorial Day weekend, which is the semifinals and finals of the men's lacrosse tournament in Division I and the Division II and Division III finals.

Okay, every four years you can throw the World Cup in there too.

By the way, odds are good you don't think like TigerBlog and that you like things like the Super Bowl or NBA playoffs or something.

As for the 2016 NCAA men's lacrosse tournament, Princeton is not in it. TigerBlog, as always, is optimistic for next year.

This year's event? It's completely wide open.

TigerBlog's predictions for sporting events are usually awful. And this year's field is too unpredictable anyway.

At various times this year, TigerBlog has thought five teams had a legitimate chance to win it all: Denver, Notre Dame, Maryland, Brown and Yale. Interestingly, they ended up as the top five seeds, so TB has some clue as to what he's talking about.

To show you how completely nuts it is this year, TigerBlog could still see any of those five teams as the champion on Memorial Day in Philadelphia - or knocked out this weekend. Maybe not any of those five knocked out, but it wouldn't be shocking if even three of them lost in the opening round.

The most consistent team this year has probably been Maryland. The team best built for a championship run is probably Brown, with the face-off man (Will Gural), goalie (Jack Kelly) and superstar (Dylan Molloy), as well as an outstanding, deep, veteran supporting cast and a somewhat unique style of play.

Then again, there's the defending champ, Denver. The Pioneers can score with anyone and win face-offs with anyone. Their goalie (Alex Ready) is a freshman, which could be an issue. The last team to win a national championship with a freshman goalie is, TB believes, Syracuse, in 2008, with John Galloway.

Bill Tierney, who has won seven NCAA titles, has never done so with a freshman goalie.

With how this season has gone, what happens next is anyone's guess. And here is TigerBlog's:

He'll go with Syracuse (playing well, solidified goalie position, great face-off guy), Brown, Denver and  North Carolina for the Final Four. He'll go Denver-Brown on Memorial Day. He'll take Denver to repeat.

The women's tournament starts today.

Maryland, the two-time defending champ, is unbeaten and the heavy favorite to make it three straight.

Interestingly, Princeton is the last team to win three straight NCAA men's lacrosse championships, having done so in 1996, 1997 and 1998. On the women's side, dynasties have been more common. Maryland was in the middle of a seven-year run while Princeton was winning its three straight, and Northwestern added a run of five straight in the last decade.

If the women's tournament goes according to seed, then the Final Four would be Maryland vs. Syracuse and Florida vs. North Carolina. TigerBlog would say that it's much more likely that those four all make it to Talen Energy Stadium (it's the one in Chester, home of the Philadelphia Union, formerly called PPL Park) than it is that the top four men's seeds all get through.

Princeton's road to being a party buster for the Final Four would involve beating Maryland in the Final Four. The quarterfinal might be a week away, but it might as well be 100 years from now for the Tigers, who need to be fairly focused on the immediate future.

Princeton opens the tournament today at 4 at Cornell against Atlantic 10 champ UMass, who comes into the tournament with a rather gaudy18-1 record, with a lone loss to Boston College. Put another way, UMass hasn't lost since March 2.

Should Princeton get past that game, looming in the second round would be the winner of Cornell-Canisius.

If ever two teams wanted to play each other, it is Princeton and Cornell. Princeton would love to get back at Cornell for knocking the Tigers out of the Ivy League tournament last week. Cornell would love to get another shot at Princeton for beating the Big Red during the regular season and costing Cornell a share of the Ivy League championship, which instead went to Princeton and Penn.

Princeton and Cornell have split one-goal games. They'd love to see each other again. To make that happen, they need to win today.

The games can be seen on the Ivy League Digital Network. NCAA tournament rules require that such videostreams be free, so you don't need an ILDN subscription to watch.

There's other postseason play this weekend for Princeton teams.

The baseball teams hosts the Ivy League championship series against Yale tomorrow and Sunday, hopefully with cooperating weather. You will need an ILDN subscription for those games.

The women's tennis team plays Georgia Tech in the opening round of the NCAA tournament today at the University of South Carolina. .

There's also the Ivy League championships in rowing this weekend as well.

And, as TB said, the eight NCAA tournament men's lacrosse games. He'd like to watch all 16 or so hours, but he'll probably tear himself away to check out the baseball.

He'll definitely be watching the women's game today.

A year from now? Hopefully he'll be busy with the Princeton men at this time of 2017.

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