Monday, July 2, 2018

America's Top 40

If you're in TigerBlog's age range, then the words "America's Top 40" trigger not just the name Casey Kasem but also his unmistakable voice.

Each Saturday beginning in 1970, Casey Kasem would count down the top 40 songs of that particular week, and he would do so in his endlessly upbeat, happy style. If you go to the right station at the right time these days, you can hear an encore of a random week - and try to guess what songs might be in the top two or three as he gets close.

TigerBlog was always a big fan.

TB stumbled on a different version of "Americas Top 40" yesterday. It's a top 40 that goes like this:
* the SEC - 12 schools
* the Big Ten, Pac 12 and ACC - eight schools each
* the Big 12 - three schools

That's eight times three, plus 12 and three. That adds up to 39.

Princeton, then, was 40.

The final standings of the Learfield Directors' Cup were announced after the conclusion of the College World Series. Princeton came in 40th, making it the only non-Power Five conference school in this "America's Top 40."

TigerBlog will get back to that in a second. First, there's the College World Series.

TigerBlog has never been to a CWS, and he doubts he ever will go. He has of course been to a lot of lacrosse Final Fours, and he'll stick with those.

He did, however, watch more of this year's College World Series than he would have guessed he was going to when it started. If you watched it, then you saw the amazing end of Game 2 of the championship series between Oregon State and Arkansas.

TigerBlog likes the format, with two groups of four teams and then the two winners to decide the championship in a best-of-three playoff. One thing he loves about the lacrosse Final Four is that the weather isn't going to mess with it the way it can with the CWS, and that was the case this year, when rain pushed back Day 1 of the final.

Arkansas won Game 1 behind pitcher Blaine Knight, whose record is a fairly impressive 14-0. The Razorbacks, who have never won a national championship in baseball, then led 3-2 in the top of the ninth of Game 2, with two outs and a runner on third.

You probably saw what happened next. TigerBlog was watching. He'd watched most of the game, actually.

There was a pop-up near the stands on the first base side, and it looked all the world like Arkansas had won. Only the ball fell. And then there was a single to tie it. And then a home run to win it.

Arkansas wasn't just one strike away. It had the ball in the air with plenty of room to catch it and let it get away. It's one of the most excruciating near-misses that TB has ever seen.

The next night was all Oregon State. TigerBlog flipped between that game and the game between the Major League Lacrosse all-stars and the U.S. National team for the upcoming World Championships.

Sophomore Kevin Abel, who was incredible in the game and who retired the final 20 he faced, did a bunch of things that no Major League pitcher would ever be allowed to do these days in OSU's 5-0 win, including:
* throw a complete game
* throw 125 pitches
* pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning

Anyway, congratulations to Oregon State, and to TigerBlog's colleague in the marketing office, Macall Martin, who came to Princeton from Oregon State not that long ago.

Even with the baseball championship, Oregon State still finished 20 spots behind Princeton in the Directors' Cup. This was the 25th year of the competition, and Stanford won for the 24th straight time.

The Directors' Cup attempts to measure the best overall athletic program in the country by awarding points based on NCAA tournament participation and success. Princeton has been the highest finishing Ivy League school 22 times in 25 years.

Princeton has been in the top 50 22 times and has never finished below 63. The best finish the program had was 21st in the 2001-02 academic year, and the Tigers have had an average finish of 38.9.

It's a testament to Princeton's commitment to competitive excellence as an equal partner to it's other core mission, defined as Education Through Athletics.

It's wildly impressive to be able to compete with the schools that Princeton does in the Directors' Cup. Think about it. All of the schools in the top 40 with Princeton have gigantic athletic budgets and are at the forefront of the college athletics arms race.

For Princeton, it's a different path to the success, but one that gets there nonetheless.

This year, it has one again yielded a well-earned spot in America's Top 40.

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