Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Big Games On Sherrerd Field

The Princeton men's lacrosse team is in an odd spot as it heads into the final weekend of the regular season.

The Tigers can win and not reach the Ivy League tournament. The Tigers can lose and still reach the Ivy League tournament.

As Princeton heads into its regular-season finale Saturday against Cornell on Sherrerd Field (1 face-off), its reality is that it cannot get into the Ivy tournament at all if Dartmouth does not defeat Brown. The Big Green, who have lost 22 straight Ivy games, did push Penn to overtime a week ago.

If Dartmouth beats Brown, then Princeton is in the Ivy tournament with a win over Cornell or a Harvard loss to Yale. Simple, right?

Well, no. There are all kinds of possibilities, including three-way and four-way ties at 3-3, and Princeton is on the short end of the tiebreakers for most of those situations.

Basically, it comes down to the fact that Princeton doesn't hold the tiebreaker with Penn or Brown, because of losses earlier in the season. Princeton would have the tiebreaker with Harvard in a head-to-head situation after last week's win, but then Princeton and Harvard could only end up in a three-way tie and Brown would get to 3-3 with a win over Dartmouth and Penn is already 3-3 and on and on and on. It gives TB a headache. The bottom line is that Dartmouth has to win.

Yale is locked in at No. 1. Cornell is locked in at No. 2. Dartmouth will not be in the tournament.

That leaves Princeton in a battle with Penn, Brown and Harvard for the last two spots.

The Ivy League men's coaches voted to add a few layers to the tiebreaking procedures from years past, with the goal to eliminate ever having to rely on a random draw. You can read the tiebreakers HERE.

Princeton would have benefited greatly from a slight change in the order of those tiebreakers, at least for this year. If the goal-differential tiebreaker had been inserted before, instead of after, the one about how teams did against the team at the top of the standings and then on down, then Princeton would be in great shape.

Oh well. Even if Dartmouth doesn't come up with a win, TigerBlog is still in favor of tiebreakers that don't include random draws. There should never be one of those.

Meanwhile, the women's side is a bit different.

Princeton hosts Penn tonight (7) on Sherrerd Field. The Tigers know they will be in the Ivy tournament next weekend regardless of what happens tonight, or what happens Saturday at Columbia.

What Princeton doesn't know is where the Ivy tournament will be. And whether or not they'll win a championship this year.

The Ivy women's tournament will either be at Princeton, Penn or Dartmouth. Right now, Penn is 5-0, followed by 5-1 Dartmouth and 4-1 Princeton. Should Princeton win out and Penn and Dartmouth win Saturday (Penn is at Yale, Dartmouth is at Brown), then there'd be a three-way tie for the championship.

Where would the tournament be in that case?

Well, it would be an unbreakable tie, since the teams would all be 1-1 against each other and then unbeaten against everyone else, and, like last year when it was Princeton with Penn and Cornell, it would come down to goal differential between those three.

Penn has already beaten Dartmouth 13-11. Dartmouth has already beaten Princeton 15-12. The math is somewhat obvious at that point. Princeton needs to win by at least five tonight to take the lead head-to-head on goal differential.

Right? Maybe it's not obvious. Anyway, TB is pretty sure that's the case. Dartmouth is plus-1 (beat Princeton by three,  lost to Penn by two). Princeton is currently minus-3. Penn is plus-2. Princeton, TB is pretty sure, would lose the tiebreaker to Dartmouth with a win over Penn that puts the Tigers even with the Big Green, because they lost the game to them earlier this season.

On the other hand, if Penn wins tonight, then it clinches at least a share of the title and would be the host team for the tournament. Princeton would then be locked into the third seed and would definitely play Dartmouth in the Ivy semifinals, no matter what happened Saturday.

By the way, if you're wondering when the last time there was a year in Ivy women's lacrosse where one of either Princeton, Penn or Dartmouth didn't win at least a share of the title, it was 1992. In fact, Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth have combined to win 15 Ivy titles in the last 10 years.

Princeton, also by the way, has won the most Ivy League championships of any women's lacrosse team with 13.

Anyway, there are two huge games this week on Sherrerd Field, tonight against Penn for the women and Saturday against Cornell for the men.

Will there be others beyond that on that field?

You'll have a better sense after tonight's game.

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