Tuesday, March 14, 2017

More Than Just Hoops And Snow

The big story in Princeton Athletics this week is the men's lacrosse game against Rutgers, which is now going to be tomorrow night instead of tonight.

TigerBlog is kidding of course, though he will give you one thing about this game: Did you realize that Rutgers is ranked fifth this week?

Anyway, the big story this week is the men's basketball team, which is in the NCAA tournament for the 25th time.

By now you know that Princeton will be playing Notre Dame in Buffalo. It will be the game that starts off all of the madness (not the Ivy madness kind; that was this past weekend), as the Tigers and Fighting Irish tip at 12:15 Thursday. It reminds TB of 1997, when Princeton and Cal did the same thing.

If you live someplace other than the Northeast, then you're probably having better weather today than there is around here. It's supposed to be a blizzard, the biggest one by far of this winter. TigerBlog has seen predictions of as low as eight inches and as much as 24. He's hoping for zero.

As always, the news is filled with stories of people on lines in supermarkets hoping to stock up before the storm, as always. It had to be a bad day to think "hey, let me run into the store to grab one thing."

The threat of snow, other than forcing long lines at the store and the men's lacrosse game to be moved back a day, has caused endless headaches for the people who plan NCAA and NIT travel. What a nightmare that must be.

The Princeton men were fortunate to get on a charter flight to Buffalo last night. As an aside, TB is sure that the people who live in Buffalo must hate the song "Shuffle Off To Buffalo," which is from the show "42nd Street," by the way. TigerBlog saw a version of the show on Broadway a long time ago that starred Jerry Orbach, who was Detective Briscoe on Law & Order.

The men's basketball NCAA tournament is the dominant event in college athletics. The college football national championship semifinals and final are huge - and in certain parts of the country approach religious fervor - but even they don't touch the entire national fabric - sporting and otherwise - that the basketball tournament does.

TB has said this for years, but he'll repeat it here. The NCAA tournament is the only playoff system that gets worse at it goes along. The first rounds are the best part. The Sweet 16 is okay. The Final Four is usually anti-climatic.

The first round is the best, because it's just a slew of games, all day, Thursday and Friday. If one game isn't good, another one will be. And it's where the upsets happen.

There will be plenty of time to talk about men's basketball as things get going. TB will save that for the rest of the week.

First, TB wants to talk about some other Princeton teams.

There was a bus parked in the Jadwin apron when TB got to work yesterday morning. It was here to take a Princeton team to the NCAA championships as well, this time for wrestling.

Princeton's remarkable ascent among the national wrestling elite continues this week in St. Louis, where a program-record seven Tigers will take to the mats. With that large of a contingent and the quality it brings, Princeton has a legitimate chance to finish in the top 20 in the team standings.

Freshman Matthew Kolodzik is the fourth seed at 141 pounds, making him the fifth Princeton wrestler all time to be seeded in the top four. Jordan Laster, a senior, is the 16th seed at 149. Both Kolodzik and Laster won EIWA championships two weekends ago.

Princeton has had one NCAA champion in wrestling, and that was Bradley Glass in 1951. Before this year, Princeton had seven wrestlers all-time who qualified three times for the NCAAs. This year, there are three who will be there for third time: Laster, Jonathan Schleifer and Brett Harner, an All-America last year.

HERE is more information on Princeton at the NCAA wrestling championships. A lot more.

The Princeton men's hockey team, in the words of Pete Carril, gave a good account of itself this past weekend at the ECAC quarterfinals at Union. Princeton dropped Game 1 and then fell behind in Game 2 2-0, a script familiar from last weekend's opening round series at Hobey Baker Rink against Colgate.

This time, like against the Raiders, Princeton tied it and took a 3-2 lead - only to see Union score in the last 30 seconds to tie it and then win it on a real rarity, a penalty shot in OT.

Princeton's season ends at 15-16-3. Princeton won 15 games the last three years combined, with a record of 15-72-6.

The 2016-17 Princeton men's hockey season was a special one. If you want to throw the 0-6-1 start into that above record, Princeton went from 15-78-7 to 15-10-2 in a span of a few months.

That's remarkable. It's not just that they did that. It's how they did it. They played fast. They were exciting. They had an army of young players. They beat ranked teams. They beat highly ranked teams. They came from behind.

In the end, Princeton was probably disappointed about how it ended, especially coming so close to forcing a Game 3. But that should be fade, and what the Tigers should be left with is a pretty good feeling about just what they did this year - and where the program is headed.

There was also the NCAA track and field indoor championships this weekend, in which Princeton's Allison Harris was ninth in the pole vault and Adam Kelly was 10th in the weight throw, earning both All-America honors.

The NCAA fencing regionals were also this past weekend. Princeton will hear today how many of its athletes qualified for the NCAA championships, which will be next weekend.

And the Princeton women's basketball team will be continuing its remarkable postseason streak, which now will reach its eighth straight year. And, adding to the experience, Princeton will get to to play at Jadwin Gym again, as it hosts Villanova in the first round of the WNIT Friday night.

If you're counting, that's six NCAA tournaments and two WNITs in the last eight years for Princeton women's basketball.

So it's more than just men's basketball, even if it's the NCAA tournament.

As TB said, there will be plenty of time for that the rest of the week.

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