Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Early Baskets

TigerBlog is a big fan of most things that take him back to when he was a kid.

You know. Like M&Ms (which, by the way, he hasn't had in a long time). And Yoo-hoo. And Bugs Bunny. And "The Odd Couple." Stuff like that.

Speaking of "The Odd Couple," TB's friend Digger texted him "Happy November 13th" the other day. He does that every year. Why? Because that was the day that, in the opening credits of the show, "Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence" as it showed the exterior of the building where Felix then went to live with Oscar, a building that was either on 72nd Street or 74th Street near Central Park West.

Anyway, you can add to that list something from TigerBlog's Monday night.

Back when he had a bedtime, his parents used to let him stay up a little later on Monday night's in the fall so that he could watch the opening kickoff of "Monday Night Football." This was back when the kickoff was at 9.

Eventually, he was old enough where he could stay up until halftime, when he could watch as Howard Cosell narrated the highlights of the games from the day before. Back then, there was no other way to see those highlights, something that is impossible to believe these days.

On special occasions, there'd be a game that would start late or a big game that was going to run late. Then he would receive special permission to stay up late to watch.

He'd make certain bargains, of course. For instance, he'd take a nap earlier, so that he could stay up late and not be tired for school the next day.

As he thinks back to this, he senses his parents probably laughed at him at the time. Sure, take a nap. And then stay up until midnight.

Invariably, TB would attempt to take a nap, either successfully or unsuccessfully. Then he'd fall asleep long before the game ended, or likely before it ever started.

Anyway, that's where he was Monday night. Well into his 50s and with nearly 20 years experience as a parent himself, he was back to being a kid, hoping to stay up to see the Princeton-BYU men's basketball game that tipped at 10 on ESPN2.

One channel down, the Giants were playing the Bengals in the Monday Night Football game.

So that was TB's challenge. Watch the Giants. Stay up for Princeton.

Should he nap before he tried all this? Did he have any chance to make it to midnight? Would he be tired for school, er, work if he did?

Somewhere MotherBlog was laughing at him.

As it turned out, TigerBlog lasted until halftime. Next thing he knew, it was after 3.

Oh well. He's not the only one, he assumes, he couldn't make it to the end.

The basketball season is young at Princeton so far, with three games total, two by the women and one by the men. What is known from those results?

Let's start with the women.

Here's what TigerBlog knows: Bella Alarie is really, really good.

The freshman scored 24 points and had eight rebounds in her first game, Friday night's 70-62 loss to Rider. She came back with eight points and five rebounds Sunday in a 56-45 loss to George Washington, giving her 32 and 13 in two games.

Alarie, the daughter of former NBA player Mark Alarie, stands 6-4 but plays more like a guard. She can handle the ball. She can drive - and get there really quickly. She can hit three-pointers (she's already matched Niveen Rasheed's entire freshman three-pointers made total with four). She's very smooth around the basket.

At the same time, she's 6-4. That makes her (tied with teammate Jackie Reyneke) the tallest player ever to play for Courtney Banghart at Princeton. And, with her athleticism, she can do 6-4 things, like alter shots, close out quickly on the perimeter and rebound.

Yes, it's only been two games. No, that's not too soon to say that Alarie is well worth coming to Jadwin to see. She is just a different kind of player. That much is obvious.

The start of the 2016-17 season for Princeton's women was supposed to be difficult. Keep in mind how much the team graduated from a year ago. Do names like Alex Wheatley, Michelle Miller and Annie Tarakchian ring a bell?

TigerBlog saw Wheatley before the game Friday night, and she said it was "weird" not be playing anymore.

It actually reminded TigerBlog of the start of the 1998-99 men's season. Princeton had graduated the bulk of its team - including current head coach Mitch Henderson - from the epic run that saw the Tigers win three straight Ivy titles and in 1998 move into the national Top 10. The next season started with talent in new roles, and a dynamic freshman named Chris Young. It took a little while, but Princeton went on another big run, with two NCAAs and three NITs in the next six years.

Courtney Banghart, Milena Flores and the Tigers will figure it out. You don't go to six NCAAs in seven years without knowing what you're doing. And TigerBlog will guarantee that Bella Alarie doesn't leave to play Major League Baseball.

As for the men, that was a tough task, going out to BYU to play a really good and really experienced team. Of course, Princeton has a really good and really experienced team as well, and hopes are high for the Tigers for this season.

What does TigerBlog know about this game? Other that it was a struggle to stay awake?

Well, Devin Cannady is really, really good. There's nothing he does on a basketball court that fails to inspire confidence. It's a great quality to have.

TigerBlog saw this stat: Princeton was 9 for 12 from the foul line and BYU was 30 for 41. That's a huge difference.

On the other hand, BYU was pounding the ball inside and Princeton was putting up 35 three-pointers. Of those 35 threes, only 10 went in. There will be a night when 20 of them go in. On that night, Princeton can beat anyone.

Princeton also has the benefit of depth and experience, meaning any one of really eight or nine players can step up on any given night.

The game Monday night might not have ended the way Princeton wanted. Again, though, there's no reason for a dip in the optimism. 

Next up for the women is Dayton here Saturday at noon, before the football game. Next up for the men is a trip to Lehigh Sunday.

It's really early in the basketball season.

Both teams have already shown that they will be entertaining to see for nearly 60 more games.

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