Friday, May 18, 2018

It's Always A Good Time To Talk About Lacrosse

You know TigerBlog. He'll talk about lacrosse any time you want.

And hey, why not now? There are no Princeton athletic events this weekend. Nobody plays.

There are still the NCAA track and field regionals and championships and the rowing national championships to come. Princeton had 27 athletes qualify for the track regionals, including a Princeton-record 21 male athletes.

The regionals aren't until next weekend

When was the last time Princeton had an event-free weekend? It was the weekend of Jan. 20-21, in the middle of first semester exams.

Before that? It was Aug. 18-19.

Yeah, weekends without athletic events a rarity around here.

Of course, TigerBlog would prefer to still be playing, perhaps like Ivy League rivals Cornell and Yale are doing, in this weekend's NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals. The same is true of the Princeton women's team, who had an unfortunate matchup with Boston College in the second round of last weekend's NCAA tournament.

TB and Chris Sailer talked about that and a lot more on the third episode of "The Chris Sailer Show." You can hear it HERE.

This weekend is the quarterfinals for both men and women. The best game of all of them could be one between a four seed and a five seed, as Stony Brook takes on Boston College. Those two are only 40-1 between them, and Stony Brook, the fifth seed, is the consensus No. 1 team in the country.

A week ago, TigerBlog gave you his Final Four predictions on the men's side of Denver, Johns Hopkins, Yale and Maryland, and all four won. TB will stand by them, but honestly it wouldn't shock him if all four won or all four lost.

The easiest guide to rooting for the remaining eight teams is this: Root for Bill Tierney. That would be Denver.

Tierney, you already know, won six NCAA championships here at Princeton and then went to Denver and won another. Princeton had never been to the NCAA tournament before Tierney's arrival; he went to 18 in 22 years here. Denver had been to one NCAA tournament prior to Tierney's arrival there and that game was a loss; he has been to the NCAA's all nine of his seasons with the Pioneers.

It's possible that TigerBlog has mentioned once or maybe even twice that he considers himself a Bill Tierney fan. That part notwithstanding, can anyone name another coach who has done what Tierney has done, which is to take over two programs that were not in the national conversation at all at the time and then win NCAA championships with both?

The men's side might not have a team matchup quite like the women's one, but it does have what might be the most fascinating individual matchup TigerBlog can ever remember. It'll be the one between Denver face-off man Trevor Baptiste and Albany face-off man TD Ierlan.

No face-off man in college lacrosse history has ever won more face-offs than Baptiste, who has won 1,143 face-offs in his career. He's taken 1,592, which means he's won nearly 72 percent.

He has pretty much singlehandedly tilted the field in Denver's favor. When you watch Denver play, you see the other team get mentally demoralized as Denver scores and gets the ball back, and scores and gets the ball back.

Who could possibly match up with him? Well, Baptiste - a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist for the second straight year - is actually second in Division I right now in winning percentage. Ierlan is first.

Ierlan has won a ridiculous 83.4 percent of his face-offs. Baptist has "only" won 76.5 percent of his.

The sports world loves to talk about head-to-head individual matchups in team games, as if one player can go against a player on another team with no other factors in the game. This is particularly absurd when it comes to starting pitchers and starting quarterbacks.

TigerBlog can't think of anything quite like this Baptiste-Ierlan matchup. They will go head to head, and while other factors, such as wing play, will help determine who wins the face-offs, they are as close a direct matchup of the two best at what they do as you'll find anywhere in a team sport.

Also, it's very likely that the winning team will be the one whose face-off man wins more than the other.

TB can't think of anything else that can compare to this.

He'll also stay with his Final Four picks from a week ago. As he said then, he'll be shocked if all four win. Really every game is a toss up.

Oh, and one last Princeton note heading into the weekend. Justin Guterding of Duke is second in Division I in points per game.

He needs 17 in his team's game against Johns Hopkins to catch Michael Sowers of Princeton for first.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please keep up the great work TB. Always love reading your blog, especially when the subject is lacrosse.