Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Honorable Gavin McBride

TigerBlog will give you the stats of two men's lacrosse players. You tell him who had a better season.


Player A - 15 games, 53 goals, 19 assists, 72 points, 128 shots
Player B - 14 games, 51 goals, 15 assists, 66 points, 123 shots

Player B had one fewer game, so give him one more game at the pace he's had for himself, and Player B gets to this:
15 games, 55 goals, 16 assists, 71 points, 132 shots

In other words, these are two very, very similar seasons, right?

Who is Player A?

That would be Princeton's Jesse Hubbard in 1996. And what did that season get for Hubbard? Back in 1996, Hubbard was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection, the Ivy League Player of the Year and a first-team All-America.

The 53 goals he scored that year remain, by the way, the school single season record.

So who would be Player B? Who would have put up numbers that are very, very similar to Hubbard's best season (and numbers that definitely eclipse Hubbard's other seasons)?

Keep in mind that Jesse Hubbard was TigerBlog's pick as the No. 1 Princeton men's lacrosse player in TB's first 25 years with the program. Keep in mind that any objective ranking would put Hubbard among the 50 greatest college lacrosse players of all time. He's a member of the USILA Hall of Fame.

So yeah, who is Player B?

Gavin McBride, this year.

And what did McBride's season get for him? Honorable mention All-Ivy League.

Want some other information about McBride's season?

Well, how about some of these numbers:

* he leads Division I in goals scored and goals scored per game
* he has played 14 games this season and has five or more goals in six of them
* in his six Ivy League games, he had these goal totals: five, five, five, two, seven, five
* his 29 goals in six conference games is one off the all-time league record, held by another Hall-of-Fame and legendary player, Cornell's Mike French, in 1974 ... that's nineteen-seventy-four, or 43 years ago ... think of all the great players who played in the Ivy League the last 43 years who never came close to that number

So how did McBride end up as an honorable mention selection?

Well, the first thing you have to know is that this is an incredibly deep year for Ivy League attackmen.

It was already going to be that way anyway, with the return of the reigning Tewaaraton Trophy winner (Brown's Dylan Molloy) and another Tewaaraton finalist (Yale's Ben Reeves).

That was an Ivy League first. 

Add to that last year's co-Rookie of the Year (Penn's Simon Mathias) and a second-team All-Ivy returnee from a year ago (Harvard's Morgan Cheek), and the field is even deeper.

And then there were the two incoming freshmen, Princeton's Michael Sowers and Cornell's Jeff Teat. They were supposed to make massive impacts on the league - and they did.

And there you have the six players who were first- and second-team on attack, ahead of McBride. First-team, for the record, was Sowers, Molloy and Reeves (who also was the Player of the Year).

Obviously none of the six has more goals than McBride. Three of them have more points (Sowers, Teat, Cheek).

For some reason, certain players just fly under the radar in terms of individual recognition. TigerBlog, though, has never seen a player get less individual recognition relative to his contributions than Gavin McBride.

There are a few reasons why. First, he had no goals or assists as a freshman, so he didn't build a reputation from Day 1. Second, he's played with offensive superstars like Mike MacDonald, Kip Orban, Ryan Ambler and now Sowers. Third, much of the attention for Princeton lacrosse has gone to his fellow senior Zach Currier.

The fourth - and most important - actually plays off the second. TB thinks McBride is penalized because he plays with Sowers. There is precedent for this, and actually it goes back to last year in the Ivy League.

This is actually the second straight year that the leading goal-scorer in the country was only an honorable mention All-Ivy selection. A year ago, it was Kylor Bellistri of Brown, who may have been undervalued because he played alongside Molloy. 

It's all combined to make McBride the most underrated player in Division I, especially this year.

A year ago, McBride was the Ivy League player with the most goals who didn't make any of the All-Ivy teams. Last year, his 26 goals did not get him first- or second-team or even honorable mention. The same is true, by the way, of the year before that, when his 24 goals didn't earn him anything.

Beyond the All-Ivy teams, McBride was named Ivy Player of the Week only once this season, despite his six games of at least five goals. Ironically, the Ivy Player of the Week after McBride's seven-goal game against Harvard was Molloy.

Not every player could handle the personal slights as gracefully as McBride. TB is sure it must bother him on some level, but it doesn't slow him down. TB has absolutely no doubt that McBride would never have traded a spot in the Ivy tournament - which begins tomorrow for the second-seeded Tigers against third-seeded Brown at 3:30 at Yale - for first-team All-Ivy.

Ask him if he'd rather be first-team All-America or have Princeton in the NCAA tournament, and he wouldn't even flinch before saying the NCAA tournament.

Hey, it's possible all of this bothers TigerBlog more than it bothers McBride.

It's not a knock on any of the six attackmen who were voted ahead of him. Nor is it a knock on the coaches who did the voting.

It's more a statement on Gavin McBride's career.

McBride has the fourth-longest streak in Division I in consecutive games with at least one goal - 22 - and the 10th longest in consecutive games with at least one point - 42. That shows a remarkable consistency.

Of course, consistency is having one goal, two goals, two goals, one goal, five goals, one goal, two goals and so on. His brand of consistency this year has been to have five as many times as he doesn't.

That's absurd stuff.

Should McBride get two goals against Brown, he'd tie Hubbard's single-season program record. Even if he doesn't, consider all of the great players who have played at Princeton. Think of all the All-Americas, NCAA champs, all-time greats.

Only two have gotten to 50 goals in a season. Jesse Hubbard and Gavin McBride.

Only 12 players have reached 100 goals at Princeton. The list is dominated by players who were three- and four-time first- or second-team selections.

And now Gavin McBride.

Maybe he's not a first-team All-Ivy pick. Maybe he's not a second-team pick.

What he is is an all-time great Princeton men's lacrosse player. And he's had an all-time great season, whatever label you want to assign to it.

He's also one of the main reasons the team is still playing into May this season.

Ultimately, that's all that really matters, right?

Not completely. Maybe it's explainable as to how he ended up as just an honorable mention selection.

Still, it does feel like he got shortchanged here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

TB, sometimes your column is great because of your thoughtful prose, sometimes it's good because of your light-hearted stream of consciousness. Today's column was excellent because it combined insightful analysis, data-driven comparisons and historical context that you are quite literally the only writer who could supply. More of these pieces, please.

As old Billy said, for the men's lacrosse team, this season was the best of times and the worst of times. On the one hand, it was a brilliant rebound from last year's disarray and disappointment. On the other hand, it would be disingenuous to say that the regular season did not end in underachievement.

Princeton had more first-team all-Ivy players and more overall honorees than any other team. With a chance to clinch a co-championship in the regular season finale, Princeton gave up more goals to Cornell than the Big Red had scored all-season. Of course a lot of that had to do with Jeff Teat's superb play of but, with the rings right there for the taking, we could not rise to the occasion to keep him under control.

As far as the pending game with Brown is concerned, for playoff rematches, I like to look at which team's defense has improved since the first contest. On that dimension, we should be concerned. We're not getting better; we're getting worse. Moreover, the 11 goals Brown scored against us over a month ago were the Bears' second lowest output of the season. It's reasonable to expect some regression back up to the mean for Brown.

We had the pieces to win a regular season championship and we have the pieces to win the tournament. It's still a totally open-ended question whether this season will be remembered for the fine rebound from last year or for the underachievement relative to our potential.

One of life's greatest burdens is the regret of underachievement relative to potential. May our guys not have to feel that burden after this weekend.