Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Crazy World Of Ivy Men's Lacrosse

The weekly men's lacrosse rankings are fairly interesting.

Princeton is ranked sixth by both the USILA coaches' poll and the Inside Lacrosse media poll. That's fair enough. 

If you look a bit closer, Princeton is ranked directly behind Georgetown, Rutgers and Penn. What do those there teams have in common? Princeton beat all three of them.

On the other hand, Princeton is ranked two spots ahead of Yale. That's the same Yale team that just defeated Princeton 14-12 last weekend in New Haven.

Has that ever happened in rankings history before?

There are four Ivy teams in the top eight, with Cornell at No. 7, just ahead of Yale. It's not that easy to rank these teams when Yale has beaten Princeton who beat Penn who beat Cornell who beat Yale.

Again, has this ever happened before? 

Where would TigerBlog rank Princeton? He wouldn't give it any thought at all, since it doesn't really matter at this point, not with the way the Ivy League is playing. All Princeton can do is worry about the challenge in front of it, which this week means a trip to Brown.

There are all kinds of interesting things going on in the world of Ivy League men's lacrosse this year. Of the seven teams, five are currently ranked in the top 10, with Harvard at No. 10. Brown has been ranked (and will be again if it wins this weekend). Dartmouth has been receiving votes.

That's not bad for a league that had exactly three USILA preseason All-Americans. Not per team. Total. And none of them were from Princeton. 

By contrast, Georgetown had six by itself. Maryland had five. Notre Dame had four. Rutgers, Loyola, Virginia and Duke all had three, tying the Ivy League all by themselves.

Inside Lacrosse will be releasing its midseason All-American team tomorrow. TB is guessing there will be more than three Ivy players on it.

Granted, it was hard to know what was going to be happening in Ivy League men's lacrosse after missing last year. So why is Ivy League men's lacrosse so strong this year?

It's easy to say the reason is that each team is playing with players from five classes, after so many players took the year off last year. TB doesn't buy that, because even with those players back, it's still a league in which nearly half of the players had never played in a game before and nearly three-quarters had played in five games or fewer.

Also, you have to factor in that every league team lost more than a year of skill development and team building, or at least the parts that come with playing a season. 

All seven teams have been recruiting well, obviously, since the talent level across the board is tremendous. Beyond that, they all owe a debt a gratitude to every upperclassman who helped keep the teams' cultures going and who kept the team connections strong.

The result has been a great first half of the season for the league. Five in the top 10? That's unprecedented.

What happens from here will be even crazier. Of those five teams in the top 10, at least one and possibly up to three will not be participating in the Ivy League tournament in May. Every game is huge.

To date there have been six Ivy League men's lacrosse games. The home team is 6-0 in those games. There have been three one-goal games and a two-goal game. 

For Princeton, the task now is the one in Providence (game time is noon, by the way, having been changed from 1). Who were the three players who led Princeton with two goals each the last time the Tigers beat Brown at Brown? Mike MacDonald, Alex Capretta and Hunter deButts. That was in 2012.

Brown is unranked after a loss to UMass last weekend, but the Bears are what they always are: tough-minded, fast-paced, deep and athletic. 

The last three Princeton games have seen a total of 304 shots. Hmmm. That seems like an average of more than 100 per game. 

TB wishes he had a way to look up if that's the most ever for Princeton over a three-game stretch. 

No matter, it's not that big of a stretch to think that it'll stretch out to at least 400 over four games. In the meantime, you also have Penn at Yale and Cornell at Dartmouth (Harvard hosts Colgate). 

It's just another wild weekend in Ivy League men's lacrosse, which in 2022, is what it is every weekend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Guest TigerBlog From Gary Walters

As TigerBlog has always said, the floor here is open to anyone who wants to take advantage of it.

Today, the floor belongs to none other than Ford Family Director of Athletics Emeritus Gary Walters, whose long career at Princeton includes time as a player on the 1965 men's basketball NCAA Final Four team and an assistant coach under Pete Carril and a 20-year tenure as the AD. Walters also went to Reading High School in Pennsylvania, where he was a player for and student of Carril's as well.

Gary shares his thoughts today on a subject that will be of interest of any Princeton basketball fan, or Princeton Athletics fan for that matter:

Having grown up in blue collar Reading, Pa., where I attended Reading High School, it was my good fortune to play basketball for Coach Pete Carril - who also doubled as my senior year “Problems of American Democracy” teacher, a subject often referred to as Civics. Coach Carril was as fine a teacher in the classroom, absent the expletives, as he was on the basketball court. As a high school student-athlete, I could not have had a better mentor.

As a 10th and 11th grader, I was aware that ‘the Coach’ had been a very good player at Bethlehem HS and subsequently Lafayette College, where he had played for Coach Willem Van Breda Kolff (aka, VBK) in his senior year. He became a very close friend and protege of VBK, who himself became an admirer of Carril’s coaching.

Coach Carril was named the head coach at Reading HS in 1958. He coached at Reading for eight years and established his coaching bona fides by dominating the Central Penn Conference, employing a suffocating defense and an offense highlighted by backdoor action.

His achievements didn’t go unnoticed. In the spring of 1966 Lehigh, a college then known for its wrestling excellence and basketball irrelevance, hired Coach Carril to turn the basketball program around. And turn it around he did. The year before he assumed the reins, Lehigh was 4-17. In Carril’s first year, he led the Engineers to an 11-12 record, punctuating the season with a monumental upset of Rutgers, one of the best teams in the East. He was now on the national radar screen identifying the best young college coaches.

During the 1966-67 season, Princeton and Lehigh basketball were operating on parallel tracks. Led by VBK in my senior season, we achieved a 25-3 record, won the Ivy League, and finished ranked 5th in the nation, having lost in OT to UNC in the Eastern Regional — a team we had previously beaten in Chapel Hill.

When we returned to Princeton, very disappointed by our loss to UNC, I had to focus my attention on completing my senior thesis. However, in mid-April I received a call from Coach Carril asking me if I would like to become his Freshman/Assistant Coach upon graduating. Needless to say I was honored and accepted the job immediately. On the same call, he subsequently asked if I would be willing to play some pick-up basketball with his Lehigh players. I readily agreed and suggested that he invite Chris Thomforde ’69 too. Coach jumped at that idea and as fate would have it, our trip to Lehigh would soon play a major role in Coach Carril’s future.

Coach drove Chris and me up to Bethlehem and then back the next day to Princeton. The shared time we had in the car enabled Chris and the Coach to exchange thoughts, opinions and stories, thus enabling them to bond. We all had a great experience that would subsequently prove to be important.

Approximately a week or two later, the players on the team were asked to assemble at Dillon Gym for an important meeting. Much to our surprise and disappointment, Coach VBK told us he had accepted Jack Kent Cooke’s offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers. As a soon to be graduated senior, I felt badly for the returning players, all of whom were recruited by VBK. Having said that, however, I still had some skin in the game.

Not surprisingly, VBK and I shared the same thought about who his successor should be - Coach Carril of course. But we had to overcome a major obstacle: VBK and Director of Athletics, Ken Fairman ‘34, had a very strained relationship. Notwithstanding the fact that Coach Carril had impeccable coaching bona fides, Mr. Fairman didn’t want another basketball coach with VBK’s temperament, compounded by the fact that Carril was a VBK protege.

A day or two after the VBK-to-the-Lakers announcement, I received a call from Mr. Fairman, who asked me to come to his office to discuss the coaching acumen and character of Carril. Understanding that Mr. Fairman’s potential anti-VBK bias could extend to Carril, his protégé, I made one of the smartest decisions ever in my life: I recommended that Fairman include Chris Thomforde, in the meeting. Chris was the center on the team, was a very smart player, had an impeccable reputation on campus and had spent substantial personal time with Carril on our visit to Lehigh. I could give testimony to Carril’s coaching, and Chris could share his evaluation of Carril’s character. Fortunately, Mr. Fairman took my advice and invited Chris.

As is said, the rest is history. Chris and I were able to convince Mr. Fairman that Coach Carril would be the perfect successor to VBK. And 29 years and 514 wins later at Princeton, Coach Carril was enshrined in both the National Collegiate Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. And irony of ironies, I transitioned from being his point guard and assistant coach to becoming his boss for two years when I was appointed as Athletic Director at Princeton in 1994.

I’ll conclude with this saying from Walt Whitman, which is relevant to Coach Carril’s distinguished teaching and coaching career:

“I am the teacher of athletes,
He that by me spreads a wider breadth than
my own proves the width of my own,
He most honors my style who learns under it
to destroy the teacher.”

“Education Through Athletics”


Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Game Night

Today is the birthday of one David Rosenfeld, who did two stints in the Princeton Office of Athletic Communications and who also happens to be one of TigerBlog's best friends.

A career in college athletics isn't always easy, and it isn't always for everyone. David went from Princeton Loyola but long ago left the profession, though he still does stats for a bunch of games for the Greyhounds. 

He didn't do the stats last week for the Princeton-Loyola women's lacrosse game in Baltimore, but he and TB did get a chance to share a pizza beforehand (for the record, David had pepperoni on his half and TB had mushroom on his half). It was great to see him, as always. He was really well-liked when he worked here, and TigerBlog has always find him to maybe as much as anyone he's met to be able to see through to the root of issues and use that as a way to propose the best possible solutions. Plus he's funny.

So happy birthday David. Make it a great one.

The game that David didn't keep stats for was also a great one, if you were either a Loyola fan or an impartial observer. As a Princeton fan, TB wasn't thrilled with how it ended – 16-15 in the favor of the Greyhounds – but he can appreciate how good a game it was.

The teams were two of the last four unbeaten teams in Division I women's lacrosse. Both were ranked highly. It was an NCAA tournament-level game, to be sure, even if it clearly wasn't May, not with the cold, rain and wind that blew across the Ridley Athletic Complex.

Princeton was supposed to have a quick turnaround after that game to a game Friday night at Columbia. It was perfect for TB - head up to Columbia Friday night and then keep going to Yale for the men's game Saturday. 

Alas, that game needed to be postponed due to non-Covid health issues with the Tigers. That game is now going to be played on Wednesday April 27, and it leaves Princeton with three straight weeks of a midweek game and a Saturday game.

There is a midweek game this week – in fact it's Princeton vs. Stony Brook tonight at 7 on Sherrerd Field – though there is no game this weekend. The Tigers don't play again until they take on Brown next Saturday in Providence, and if you listen to this week's edition of the Princeton Laxcast with Chris Sailer, you'll note that TB makes a mistake by saying the next game is next Wednesday against Maryland. The actual schedule is Stony Brook tonight and then no game again until April 9 at Brown, followed by that Maryland game April 13. 

Tonight's opponent is the No. 5 team in the country, with a 6-2 record that includes losses to No. 3 Northwestern and No. 4 Syracuse. The Seawolves also have played Ivy members Dartmouth and Brown and won those games by a combined 35-6. 

If you're looking for the most simplistic pregame analysis possible, then here it is: Princeton ranks fifth in Division I in scoring offense with more than 16 goals per game, while Stony Brook is third in the country in scoring defense at 7.75 per game. 

Simple, right? 

What's been the most special thing about Princeton's offense this year is that it's not just the Kyla Sears show. Yes, Sears is Princeton's leading scorer – and the Ivy leader in goals per game and points per game – but the supporting cast has been outstanding. 

Princeton has gotten 42 goals and 17 assists between Sophie Whiteway, Ellie Mueller, Nina Montes and McKenzie Blake, none of whom had played in a game prior to this year. Kate Mulham had six career goals prior to this year; she has 10 goals and six assists. Grace Taukus and Kari Buonanno, who showed their potential in the shortened 2022 season, have combined for 32 goals and eight assists.

Add that all together, and that's how Princeton has vaulted itself near the top of the scoring offense chart.

Tonight's game will be a huge challenge. Then it's a break for 11 days (not eight, as TB said in the podcast), and that's followed by seven games in 23 days to end the regular season.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Peacocks And Tigers

In TigerBlog's book about the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton (shameless plug, you can buy it HERE), there is a section on the national champions that the women's program produced. 

Were TB writing it now, he could add the name Maia Weintraub, who won the NCAA foil championship Friday at Notre Dame. Weintraub, a freshman, became Princeton's first foil champ in 22 years. 

Maia Chamberlain, who is featured in the book after she won the NCAA saber title in 2018, reached the semifinals this year. The Princeton men also had two fencers reach the individual event, as Nicholas Lawson, another freshman, reached the epee final and Mohamed Hamza, a junior foil, reached the semifinals.

In all the Princeton fencing team finished fourth, its best showing since 2017, and produced seven All-Americans.

Within the section on national championships, TB's book has a chapter called "The Almost Champions," which talks about some of the teams and individuals who came really close to winning it all. Included in that section were swimmer Alicia Aemisegger (an NCAA runner-up), the 2009 cross country team (who finished fifth nationally) and the 2004 women's soccer team (the only Ivy team to ever reach the Final Four).

The basic point is that greatness isn't always measured by a national championship. Not every team or individual can get there, and to get close? That can be among the greatest moments an athletic program has.

This, of course, applies to the St. Peter's men's basketball team. No matter who wins the championship a week from tonight (including if a certain coach wins in his final year), St. Peter's will be THE story of the 2022 NCAA tournament. Even more than when George Mason reached the Final Four or when Butler made back-to-back championship games, this St. Peter's team inspired an outpouring of love from all over the country. Social media probably had a lot to do with it.

It ended for the Peacocks yesterday with a fairly one-sided loss to North Carolina in the regional final. Before that, St. Peter's became the first 15-seed ever to reach the Elite Eight, something it did by defeating Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue.

Maybe the reason for the Peacock love was that the team played so hard, something that was also true in yesterday's loss. Maybe it's because it was a whole team of guys that mostly were overlooked, especially by the teams it beat.

Mostly, TB thinks, it was about the coach, Shaheen Holloway. Every time he spoke during this tournament, he made even more fans that he already had. He spoke from his heart. He was honest. He was funny.

TB heard him at one point talk about working his way up to being a head coach by holding pretty much every other job along the way, which is something that Princeton men's lacrosse head coach Matt Madalon has said as well. He mentioned how point guards make good coaches, since they have to see everything, which you know appeals to former Princeton Ford Family Director of Athletics Gary Walters. 

No, St. Peter's didn't reach the Final Four. What the team did accomplish, though, will always be part of NCAA tournament lore. Actually, TB isn't really sure how the Peacocks did it. They were overmatched yesterday, and they should have been overmatched in their other games too. Still, they found a way to win. The most astounding was Friday night against Purdue, who seemed completely lost against the team from the MAAC.

As for the Final Four, if Duke is going to give its coach the same send-off that UCLA gave to John Wooden, it's going to have to go through North Carolina in the semifinal. It's the first time the two will meet in the NCAA tournament, and it's going to be a high-intensity event. Kansas-Villanova will be the jayvee game Saturday, but TB thinks whoever wins that game wins the final Monday.

In addition to fencing and basketball, there was another NCAA event this weekend, and Princeton did well there as well. The men's swimming and diving program produced two All-Americans this weekend. One was Joe Victor, who earned honorable mention All-American honors in platform diving. His teammate Raunak Khosia was a three-time honorable mention All-American, in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 fly, setting Ivy League records in all three events.


Friday, March 25, 2022

No Time To Rest

It's been nearly a week since the Princeton men's lacrosse team last played, which means that there's been just about enough time to exhale after the way that one went.

And, given that this is the Ivy League in 2022, it also means that there is no time to dwell on the last one. The next one will be just as tough.

Ivy League men's lacrosse to date this season has been nothing short of nuts. Of the seven league teams, six of them are currently ranked, and the seventh is on the verge of being ranked. Even though Dartmouth lost to Ohio State in midweek, the Ivy League teams are 27-7 against teams from other leagues, including 17-1 in March. 

Last weekend was the first weekend of conference games. All three were matchups between ranked teams. All three ended up as one-goal games. All three ended up as wins for the home team.

Princeton's game last Saturday – a 21-20 win over Penn in overtime – was insane. It was easily the best game played in college lacrosse so far this season.  

No game in the entire history of Princeton men's lacrosse has ever had more goals than the 41 the two teams scored. No game in program history prior to last Saturday saw both teams reach 20 goals.

Princeton looked like it was going to run away with it at 9-3 in the second quarter. Penn looked like it was ready to pull away after taking two second-half leads, including one at 17-16 just a few seconds into the fourth quarter.

There were 41 goals on 94 shots. That's a .436 combined shooting percentage between the teams. Maryland, at .403, has the country's best shooting percentage for the year.

Penn had one player with seven goals and nine points (Cam Rubin) and another with three goals and eight assists (Sam Handley). Chris Brown, who scored the game-winner, led the Tigers with six goals (career high) and nine points (also a career high).

There were 99 ground balls between the teams. Think about that. On 99 separate occasions the teams had to contest a loose ball. In a one-goal game, any one of those that went the other way might have made a difference.

It was an intense game as well. The weather was perfect, and the stands at Sherrerd Field were full. It was loud. As someone who has seen every men's game played at the facility except for one, TB can tell you that it has never been louder.

To win on a day like that took a lot. Princeton has really shown you something in the last four weeks. It started with a 15-10 loss to Maryland, but as TB said before that game started, Princeton needed that game to set itself up for what was to come.

What happened next? A 10-8 win at No. 3 Georgetown (the Hoyas' only loss). Then a 16-11 win over No. 3 Rutgers (again, that's RU's only loss so far). Then the game against Penn, who was ranked sixth.

Princeton has rocketed from unranked in the preseason to No. 2 by the media and No. 3 by the coaches. When those preseason rankings came out, TB was amused more than anything else. He'd seen the Tigers play in the fall and knew they'd be good. He also knew that the schedule would provide every opportunity.  

And that's exactly what's happened. There are three goals every year – win the Ivy title, get into the Ivy tournament, get into the NCAA tournament. Princeton has taken a major step towards the third with the three Top 10 wins and the first step towards the other two with the Penn wins.

The problem is that the league is just loaded. As TB said, the next one is always going to be tough.

In this case, that next one is at Yale tomorrow at 3:30 (Yale-Penn women play at noon). Yale might be the fourth-highest ranked Ivy team, but the Bulldogs are still 11th in one poll and 14th in another. They're also still the Bulldogs, which means they'll bring their own level of intensity and toughness. They're also at home.

This won't be easy. Nor will next week, when it's a trip to Brown. There have been years where the Ivy champ has been 4-2. This could be one of them. If Princeton-Yale isn't the best game this weekend, then maybe Cornell-Penn is. It's crazy.

Matt Kinnear of Inside Lacrosse perfectly captured the spirit of last Saturday at Sherrerd Field and about the Ivy League in general. 

This will be an amazing year of men's lacrosse in the Ivy League. If you were putting together an NCAA field right now, you might have five league teams in there. 

Each week will be an incredible challenge. 

Last week's Princeton-Penn game was as good as any lacrosse game TB has ever seen. Now both teams need to turn the page - quickly.

That's how it works in the Ivy League in 2022.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Some More Catching Up

TigerBlog would have liked to have been at the Ross Tucker/Kyle Brandt Jake McCandless Speaker Series event last night. 

Of course, he would have liked to have been at the women's lacrosse game at Loyola too, and since they were at the same time, he could only pick one of those. 

TB forgot to mention yesterday that he wrote a feature story about Tucker in his senior year (2000 football season). One of the things that Tucker, an offensive lineman, said was that he hoped to at least get into an NFL training camp to see if they'd let him keep the helmet when he got cut.

He would, in fact, get into a training camp. Actually, he'd go on to play for seven seasons in the NFL, and he was on the field for the Dallas Cowboys when Emmitt Smith set the league's career rushing yardage record.

Presumably, Tucker has more than his share of NFL helmets. 

With how busy it's been around here with women's basketball and wrestling NCAA championship successes, TigerBlog has fallen behind on a few other items. To wit:

* Alexis Laudenslager of the softball team was named the Ivy League Pitcher of the Week this past week, and this should not be shocking news to anyone. Laudenslager was about as good as you can be, as she threw 11 innings against Brown over two games and allowed zero hits.

By the way, the great Harvey Yavener, who used to cover Princeton sports for a few decades, used to call no-hitters "zero-hitters." He's the only one who has ever used that term to TB's knowledge, and it has a certain charm to it.

Laudenslager threw four innings of relief Friday as the Tigers erased a two-run deficit to win 4-2. She then threw a complete game zero-hitter against the Bears Sunday.

Princeton swept the three-game set, which is a great way to get started in the league race. Up this week is a series at Harvard.

* The winter may be over, but the winter season hangs on just a bit longer. Princeton will be well-represented at two NCAA championship events this weekend, in men's and women's fencing and in men's swimming and diving.

Princeton is one of four teams in the country to qualify the maximum 12 fencers for the championships, which will be held at Notre Dame. Princeton's women are the No. 1 team in the country, but the NCAA awards only one combined team champion. Princeton has won it once under this current format, back in 2013.

For a lot more information on the fencing this weekend, click HERE.

There will be one swimmer and four divers at the championships in Atlanta. This is from the preview story:

Raunak Khosla, the lone Princeton swimmer to qualify for NCAAs, will race in the 200 IM, the 400 IM, and the 200 butterfly. In all three events he was 2022 Ivy League Champion, earned First Team All-Ivy League honors, and holds the school record.

Senior and co-captain Colten Young will compete in all three diving events, and will be joined by George Callanan, Taso Callanan and Joe Victor in the platform dive. For more, click HERE.

* The baseball team also had the Ivy League Player of the Week, as Brendan Cumming was honored after the Tigers split four games with other Tigers, the ones from Towson. From the release on

In Princeton's 2-2 series split against Towson, Cumming posted a .545/.583/1.091 slash line with 12 hits, 13 RBI, 10 runs scored, three doubles, and three home runs. In the Tigers' 21-8 game-three victory, Cumming set a single-game program record with nine RBI, surpassing Zack Belski's previous record of eight against Brown in 2016.

The baseball team opens the Ivy portion of its schedule this weekend with three games at home against Yale, beginning at 11:30 Saturday with a doubleheader and then a single game at noon Sunday. Princeton is 2-13 on the season but don't be fooled: the Tigers played a very tough schedule and had some pretty good showings, including a one-run loss at Mississippi State, the defending NCAA champ.

* Bill Bromberg was absent from the Class of 1952 Stadium press box for the men's lacrosse game last weekend against Penn. This in itself is news, as Bromberg hardly ever misses a game.

He's done well over 600 Princeton games between basketball and lacrosse. He hates to miss any, but this time it was unavoidable, as he needed some surgery. By all indications he is doing well. 

TB spoke with him yesterday, and he was already out and about and sounding pretty upbeat. There aren't too many nicer people who have ever walked onto Princeton's campus than Bill Bromberg, so it's good to see him on the mend.

* Princeton has the No. 1 ranked women's tennis player in the country. Her name is Daria Frayman.

She is the only women's tennis player in Ivy League history ever to reach the No. 1 individual ranking. 

Her team is 4-9 overall but that is a very misleading record, as seven of the Tigers' nine losses have come to Top 25 teams. Princeton is home for the first time this spring tomorrow, when Old Dominion is here at 3. Next weekend is the start of the Ivy League season, with a home match against Penn.

* It's definitely spring. At least that's what the calendar says. This weekend is the opening weekend of Princeton rowing, with the men's heavyweight and women's open crews at home and the men's and women's lightweights on the road. 

Remember, Princeton is the defending IRA women's lightweight national champion.

* For the complete weekend schedule, click HERE.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

If You Build It

If you're going to be on campus tonight, then you might want to consider stopping by McCosh 50 at 7:30.

The Jake McCandless Speaker Series returns with two former Tiger football players who are used to public speaking. Ross Tucker and Kyle Brandt, teammates a little more than 20 years ago and members of the Class of 2001, will be on the stage, along with Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack.

Tucker and Brandt are big-time members of the sports media world. 

Tucker, who was a longtime NFL offensive lineman, is now a broadcaster, podcaster and any other kind of caster there is when it comes to talking about football. Brandt began his professional career in acting, including being on "Days Of Our Lives." These days, he's one of the stars of "Good Morning Football" on NFL Network.

There aren't many people who more outgoing and affable than Ross Tucker. He's just a lot of fun to be around. TigerBlog hasn't spent nearly as much time around Kyle Brandt through the years, but he clearly has a big personality too. That's something you can tell from watching him on TV.

Brandt, by the way, returned the opening kickoff of the first game ever played in Princeton Stadium, which makes him the first person ever to run with the ball on Powers Field. 

The event is free and open to the public.

TB wishes he could be there, but he'll be in Baltimore, watching the women's lacrosse game between Princeton and Loyola. There are currently four unbeaten teams in Division I women's lacrosse, and Princeton and Loyola are two of them.

Princeton came close to no longer being one of them this past Saturday at Penn State, where the Tigers eked out a 12-11 victory courtesy of a last-minute goal from Sophie Whiteway on a free position shot and then one last defensive stand.

By the way, this week's player guest on the women's Princeton Laxcast is senior Lucie Gildehaus, who talks about dealing with injury and Covid, how difficult the choice to stay enrolled last year was and what she's learned about leadership during her time as a Tiger. She also talked about how she was a really good youth skier, competing in New Hampshire on her weekends prior to middle school. She was excellent on the podcast.

This past weekend's lacrosse games and everything else seem like they were a long time ago. All of the Princeton Athletics emotion since then has been contained in the women's basketball team and its 56-55 loss to Indiana in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament Monday night.

All day yesterday TB heard from people about just how impressive the Tigers were, and they were certainly that and more. As TB wrote yesterday, the harshness of it can be difficult to process at first. 

Maybe the same is true of how Patrick Glory and Quincy Monday saw their seasons end as well. Glory and Monday are the two Princeton wrestlers who reached the finals of the NCAA championships Saturday night.

Yes, both of them came up just short of an NCAA title. Yes, that stings. TB just hopes that they are able to understand the significance of what they've accomplished. And they both have another year to chase down the top prize.

Seeing them win in the semifinals was one of the great moments Princeton Athletics has produced in recent times. The idea that Princeton wrestling produced two NCAA finalists a day before the Princeton women's basketball team came within one basket of the Sweet 16 is extraordinary to those who like TB go back aways. 

The extent of what  Chris Ayres and his staff and Courtney Banghart and now Carla Berube and their staffs have done in building those programs cannot be overstated.

They have turned their programs into national powers, legitimate Top 25 teams year after year. They have become major factors in the postseason. They produce amazing athletes. 

And, as such, they have rallied their communities and have been embraced for all of the success they've had. 

You want to win. You want your season to go as long as it can. Sometimes, though, you have to stay focused on the bottom line. In the case of Princeton wrestling and Princeton women's basketball, they are simply amazing. 

What you've seen from them on their biggest stages the last few days is confirmation of that. 

And again, here's your reminder to go see Ross Tucker and Kyle Brandt tonight.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

What A Game In Bloomington

It's harsh, this NCAA basketball tournament.

There are 68 teams in both tournaments, the men's and women's. Only one on each side will end with a win. 

For the rest? There is only that one hurdle is too tall to clear. Some of those hurdles hurt a bit more than others when they finally trip you up.

It can be a such roller-coaster of emotions from one round to the next, or even one possession to the next. And when it does finally end, you're left with the immediacy of it, the harshness of a marathon season over just like that, with nothing to do about it. This isn't best-of-seven. This is one and done, survive and advance, and only one of the teams on the court gets to do that.

The Princeton women's basketball team learned all that the hard way last night. Just two days removed from the highest of highs after an opening round win over Kentucky, the Tigers saw their season – as great a season as any Ivy League women's basketball team has ever had – end with a 56-55 loss at Indiana.

Fifty-six to fifty-five. One point. One excruciating point. 

In the end, there is only the heartbreak and the finality, and such a moment doesn't allow for perspective. That will come in time for these Tigers, and they'll realize that what they did this year was something amazing and special. 

The game that ended their season was a spectacular one. It wasn't a perfect one by any means. There were turnovers and scoring droughts, shots that normally went in that didn't and others that didn't even come close

It was spectacular nonetheless. 

It was spectacular in its intensity and in just how hard both teams played. It was spectacular in its competitiveness. It was spectacular in the tenacity both teams showed. 

On such a night, someone had to lose. This time, it was Princeton, by that single point. Before you can really appreciate what the Tigers did last night, you have to understand a few things. 

First, there was the environment. There were 9,628 fans there, and they were about 95 percent rooting for the Hoosiers. This wasn't in just any building. This was Indiana, Assembly Hall, a venue that is steeped in basketball history and a state that is even more so.

Then there was that opponent. Indiana started five players who were all 1,000-point career scorers. The Hoosiers were big and physical, and they most recently made it to the Big Ten championship game. They were ranked in the Top 10 for pretty much the entire season.

Had Princeton lost by 20 or so, nobody would have thought less of the visitors. It certainly looked like that might be the case when Indiana went from 17-17 at the end of the first quarter to 39-29 up at halftime and then to 41-29 in the third.

But Princeton didn't go away. There was no way this team ever would do that. This team is built around its defense, and defense is built around effort, and Princeton was going to give maximum effort to the end. 

The Tigers would lead twice in the fourth quarter, 50-49 with five minutes left and 52-51 with little more than a minute to go. Indiana won it with a Grace Berger layup and some foul shots, leaving Princeton one possession short of the Sweet 16.

There were four Tigers in double figures, and the one who wasn't might have been the most impressive. Ellie Mitchell had six points, but she also had 15 rebounds, and her energy never waned even as she went all 40 minutes. 

Princeton had beaten Kentucky 69-62 in Round 1 for the second NCAA win in program history. That effort, too, was wildly impressive, considering Kentucky had just won the SEC tournament and beaten No. 1 South Carolina to do it.

Indiana, though, is probably a better team, and Indiana was on its home court. Everyone there, the nearly 10,000 Hoosiers who were in the building, knew they'd seen a team that was the equal of theirs.

The NCAA tournament, though, is so unforgiving. It doesn't allow for a second chance, no matter how worthy a team may be of one.

And so Princeton had to deal with the disappointment. It's a team with two seniors. It's a team with an incredible coaching staff. It's a team that is built for the long haul.

The 2021-22 Tigers will be remembered for being as good as any the Ivy League has seen. They'll be remembered for their NCAA win and for how captivating they were to watch. They'll be remembered for the incredible game that they played in the second round against Indiana.

In time, the disappointment of 56-55 will fade.

This team's legacy never will. It's etched in stone. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

"We Play To Have Fun"

As TigerBlog said Friday, there's a new Tiger in the women's basketball family.

Say hi to Theresa Croxton. 

Theresa is the baby. The rather nervous looking guy is Warren Croxton, who has now been a father for three whole days now.

And kudos to Warren, who appears to have dressed head-to-toe in Princeton gear to the birth of his first child. That's the kind of loyalty Princeton Athletics breeds.

Congratulations to Warren and his wife Michelle. Yesterday was bring-the-baby-home day, which means that he probably didn't sleep much last night.

Warren is the women's basketball contact in the Office of Athletic Communications (among his other sports). Because of Theresa's arrival, Warren is not in Bloomington, Indiana, for the women's basketball NCAA tournament.

Hey, if you're going to miss out on history, at least it was for a good reason.

You know how TigerBlog said that Warren looks nervous in that picture? You know who didn't look nervous at all? That would be Abby Meyers. Kaitlyn Chen. All of their teammates and coaches. 

There was not a single Tiger who looked scared in the least. You know how they looked? Like they were having fun. 

After the game, Chen said this: "We play to have fun."

The Princeton women's basketball team knocked off Kentucky Saturday afternoon 69-62 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. This may have been an upset in terms of seeding. It may even have been an upset in terms of across-the-board talent.

What it wasn't was a fluke. Princeton didn't win because it got lucky or played a perfect game. 

Who wouldn't have fun in that situation? Every team would. It's the fact that the team you saw Saturday was the same Princeton team you saw in Jadwin Gym all year, the one that always seems to be having fun, that makes this group different. It's what defines them.

As for why they won, it's because the Tigers did the things they have done all year.

It was such classic Princeton women's basketball under head coach Carla Berube. The Tigers defended the way they do. They played hard. They played together. They played clutch.

Princeton may not have had the first-team All-American on its side, the way Kentucky did with Rhyne Howard. What they did have was Meyers, who put together what has to be the greatest single-game performance in program history once the stakes were factored in. 

Meyers scored 29 points, scoring from everywhere (pull ups, floaters, layups) and anywhere (three-point land). Her most acrobatic was a fourth-quarter drive to the basket that required her to spin the ball off the backboard and in, but really she was there whenever Princeton needed a score.

Chen, too, was her usual self, with 17 points in 40 minutes and her own ability to pressure the other team, regardless of who that team is. This Kentucky team is not just another team, by the way. Kentucky had won 10 straight, including a win over No. 1 South Carolina in the SEC championship game.

Think about that. The SEC champion Kentucky.

This was not a great week for Kentucky basketball against New Jersey teams. The Wildcat men lost to St. Peters Thursday in the first round, and then it was the Princeton women who won this game.

Berube was asked if this was the biggest win in program history. If it isn't, it's in the top two, along with Princeton's other NCAA win, an 80-70 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the 2015 tournament. 

Berube also was asked about comparing this to what it was like as a player. She said coaching is way more stressful. A good follow up question would have been to ask her what it feels like to be with a so-called mid-major as a coach after being with the bluest of blue bloods (UConn) as a player.

Next up is Round 2 tonight at 8 against Indiana, on Indiana's home court. The Hoosiers took out Charlotte 85-51 in the first round to improve to 23-8, a record that includes a run to the Big Ten final. The teams have not met since 1978 (Princeton won that game 62-51, for whatever that's worth).

The Hoosiers are very good. They score more than 72 per game and allow a little more than 60. They rebound. They force turnovers. 

It's the second round. The teams are supposed to be good. So yes, Indiana is very good.

So is its opponent tonight. Princeton is good. And it has a lot of fun playing together. Those two things couldn't be more obvious when you watch them play. 

Now they have at least one more chance to do so, after the history that the Tigers made Saturday afternoon. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Princeton-Kentucky II

Childbirth is, of course, a very serious thing, so TigerBlog doesn't want to joke about it.

Well, maybe a little. It's possible, after all, that this conversation may actually happen in the next few hours in a delivery room near Princeton:

Doctor: "Okay, it's time to push."
Mother-to-be: "Honey, hold my hand."
Father-to-be: "Can it wait? The game is about to start."

The father-to-be in question is Warren Croxton, Princeton's women's basketball contact in the Office of Athletic Communications. The mother-to-be is his wife Michelle, who is due tomorrow. 

It's entirely possible that little Theresa Croxton will make her appearance before tip-off tomorrow afternoon of the Princeton-Kentucky NCAA women's basketball game. It's possible, though, that she'll be taking her sweet time and will come along right at 4 tomorrow afternoon, right when the game starts.

Despite TB's attempt to convince Warren that Michelle would never hold it against him if he went to the women's game in Indiana, Warren will in fact will be there for the birth of the baby. Princeton head coach Carla Berube, who has three children of her own, mentioned Warren on the most recent podcast she and TB did.

Hopefully mother and baby will be doing great by the time the game starts and Warren will be able to watch it. 

Before TB gets into the Princeton-Kentucky women's game, he does want to mention his beloved South Dakota State Jackrabbits, who lost to Providence in the men's first round yesterday. TB said that he thought South Dakota State had a good chance in that one. 

In fact, the Jackrabbits would have won had it not been for way rougher than normal three-point shooting. Even with that, it was a three-point game with less than a minute to go when Providence put up a desperation three as the shot clock expired. The ball clanked off the rim and South Dakota State now had it with a chance to tie – except the ref called a ticky tack foul, giving the Friars three foul shots. It was over after that.

Is there no sense on the part of the officials to understand the situation? Come on. It's the NCAA tournament. 

TB also watched the Princeton-Penn, er Richmond-Iowa, game. That was a Princeton alum (Chris Mooney) against a Penn alum (Fran McCaffery). Mooney is one of TB's favorite Princeton men's basketball players ever. McCaffery is the one who got TB started in writing.  

Princeton (Richmond) won a very entertaining game 67-63. In fairness, Richmond may have benefited from a non-call on an Iowa three-point attempt in the final minute.

And what can you say about the St. Peter's win over Kentucky? It was fabulous. And the Peacocks' coach, Shaheen Holloway, gave the greatest postgame sideline reporter interview of all time. He was completely calm the whole time, and when he was asked about his demeanor, he said "It's just basketball."

Okay, back to Princeton-Kentucky women.

It's the second-straight NCAA game in which Princeton will face Kentucky. The two teams played in 2019, and the Wildcats won that time 82-77. Do you know who Princeton's leading scorer in that game was? TB will give you a few paragraphs.

Princeton has two current players who played in that game. Grace Stone played 38 minutes and had six points, five rebounds and four assists. That's a very solid line. 

Julia Cunningham played seven minutes and did not score. Abby Meyers, as you might recall, took that year off from school, but she did play in the 2018 NCAA tournament, when she had a team-best 13 points (in 24 minutes) of a 77-57 loss to Maryland. 

Who was the leading scorer against Kentucky? It was Gabrielle Rush, who had 22 points, shooting 6 for 11 from three-point range. Bella Alaire had 20 points, 15 rebounds and five assists that day. 

Princeton outrebounded Kentucky in that game but was done in by the Wildcats' 50 percent shooting and 16 turnovers. 

This is a whole new group of Tigers, one with a lot of experience winning games and limited experience in the NCAA tournament (those are the only minutes for the entire team). Berube has a ton of NCAA experience, as both a player at UConn (where she won an NCAA title) and as a Division III head coach at Tufts.

When TB asked Berube on the podcast about getting ready to play a team on such short notice, she said it was actually a lot more time than you'd think. Interesting.

The first part of the first sentence of the pregame story on Kentucky's website says a lot: 

Looking to continue its momentum from winning the 2022 Southeastern Conference Tournament and riding a 10-game winning streak ...

Consider that to stretch that winning streak to 10 and to win the SEC title, Kentucky had to beat South Carolina, still the No. 1 overall seed.

There's also this paragraph:

The turnaround for Kentucky overall has been amazing. The Wildcats sat 9-11 overall and 2-8 in the SEC on Feb. 10. Less than a month later, the Wildcats will enter the NCAA Tournament 19-11 overall, 8-8 in the SEC and with a conference tournament title. The 10-game winning streak is the most for Kentucky under Elzy. All 10 wins were against league foes, marking only the second time in program history the Wildcats have achieved that feat. During that stretch, five straight games were won by 15 or more points, marking the first time in program history UK has done that.

The first order of business for Princeton is to contend with Rhyne Howard, who was just named a first-team All-American. Howard is 6-2 and listed as a guard. Going back to the Kentucky website, there is this:

The most versatile player in the country, Howard is the only player in the nation that has over 600+ points, 200+ rebounds, 100+ assists, 70+ steals and 35+ blocks.

Howard had 15 points, five rebounds and four assists against Princeton in the 2019 game. Those are solid numbers, but they're numbers Princeton can live with. Her average for the season is 21 points and seven rebounds, and she has had 32 in two of Kentucky's last five games. Those numbers are more problematic.

Looking at Kentucky's stats don't say much, because of how much better the team has played the second half of the year. The big questions are 1) does the momentum from last week carry over, 2) can Princeton impose its defensive will on the game, 3) can Princeton rebound against a much-bigger opponent and 4) can Princeton shoot well?

The outcome lies somewhere in those answers.

Princeton went to Indiana yesterday. By all indications on social media, the team is enjoying the experience, which is a big part of what the tournament is all about.

It's Fran McCaffery who several decades ago told TigerBlog that nothing compares to playing in the NCAA tournament. And he's right. 

Of course, winning enhances that experience. Princeton has earned its spot. It's almost time to see what happens in Princeton-Kentucky II.  

Good luck to the Tigers. And to the Croxtons.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Is This Your Favorite Day Of The Year?

For some of you out there, today is your absolute favorite day of the year. 

This can be one of two reasons. First, it's St. Patrick's Day. Did you know that TigerBlog once marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York City with his high school marching band? 

More than the wearing of the green, though, today is also the first full day of the NCAA men's basketball and wrestling tournaments. 

This means non-stop basketball today from noon to midnight, followed by another such day tomorrow. These are the two days where teams seeded No. 12 or higher knock off Power 5 teams and do so with highlights that last forever.

As TigerBlog says every year, the NCAA men's basketball tournament is the only major sporting event he can think of that gets less exciting with each passing round. The real thrill of the tournament is today and tomorrow and seeing what player that you've never heard of before becomes part of college basketball history.

When they talk about March Madness, they talk about today and tomorrow.

Forget picking who eventually wins. You should ask who is likely to pull one of the famed upsets. 

The formula is to find a team that is used to winning and is either an elite offensive or defensive team. TigerBlog can give you a 13 who could beat a 4: South Dakota State over Providence, which is this afternoon at 12:40.

South Dakota State is 30-4 and is either first or second in Division I in scoring offense, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. If shots start falling, watch out Friars.

If he has to make a prediction on which teams will make the Final Four, TB would go with Gonzaga, Kentucky, Tennessee and Iowa. If you ask him which team he's rooting for to win it all, he'll tell you Purdue.

The men's and women's tournaments tipped off with their First Fours, which for the men began Tuesday and the women yesterday. Princeton's old friend Tom McCarthy had the men's games on CBS.

The first full day of the women's tournament is tomorrow. The Princeton women play Saturday at 4 against Kentucky at the University of Indiana.

The Tigers are the 11th seed. The Wildcats are the sixth seed. The winner of that game gets the winner of No. 3 Indiana and No. 14 Charlotte.

TigerBlog did a pre-NCAA tournament "Conversation With Carla," which you can listen to HERE. TB was confident all year that Princeton would be in the NCAA tournament, so he saved the team's two seniors, Abby Meyers and Neenah Young, for this one.

Young hasn't been able to play all year due to injury. Meyers is of course the Ivy League Player of the Year. 

As for Berube, TB asked her, among other things, whether all of her experience in coaching Tufts in all those Division III tournaments carries over into Division I. What is remarkable about Berube is that her demeanor never changes. She's the same this week as she was in Week 1 and in midseason.

Before Princeton and Kentucky can tip it off, there is the start of the NCAA wrestling championships. Princeton will be represented by six wrestlers at the event, which is being held in Detroit. 

The first matches also begin today at noon.

The highest number of wrestlers Princeton has ever sent is seven. This is the third time Princeton has qualified six, and the four years in which there have been six or seven Tigers have all come in the last five seasons.

This is from the pregame story on

Princeton has had one individual champion, with Bradley Glass '53 winning the unlimited division in 1951. Princetonians have made the final five other times, most recently with Greg Parker '03 (174) in 2002. The best finish of the Chris Ayres era (since 2007 NCAAs) came from Matthew Kolodzik '21 (149), who finished third in 2018.

TigerBlog mentions this because the current group of Tigers has a chance to at least match Kolodzik and possibly even Glass. There are two wrestlers seeded in the top five: Patrick Glory is No. 3 at 125, and Quincy Monday is No. 5 at 157.

The other four Princeton wrestlers are Marshall Keller (30th seed at 149), Travis Stefanik (23rd seed at 184) and Matt Cover (32nd seed at HWT).

The morning sessions are on ESPNU. The evening sessions are on ESPN. The brackets can be seen HERE.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Playing By The Rules

The more TigerBlog watches the video of Coulter Mackesy's fourth goal against Rutgers from last Saturday's men's lacrosse game, the more he thinks it just might be the single greatest shot he's ever seen.

If you missed it, here it is again:

And if you missed and care about lacrosse, you're in the minority, because this goal has literally several hundred thousand views across a bunch of different platforms and outlets. 

This goal is extraordinary on so many levels. First, he does it all by himself. Second, his hands are only free for a blink of an eye and the ball is on its way. Third, the goalie appears to be tracking it but simply can't catch up to the velocity. And finally, the location is absolutely perfect.

Add it all together, and it was a completely unsavable shot, unless you happen to be TigerBlog Jr., who texted his father to say "I would have had it," even though he would have had no chance at it.

The goal came in a 16-11 Princeton win, one that helped vault the Tigers further up the national rankings. Princeton has now gone from unranked to either No. 3 or No. 4 in every poll after a 4-1 start that has seen the team take down the No. 3 team on consecutive weekends, first Georgetown and then Rutgers. The only loss is to No. 1 Maryland.

Does this mean it should be smooth sailing for Princeton through the Ivy League? Hah. Hardly. 

If you didn't check out the rankings, you now have six Ivy League teams ranked, and the seventh receiving votes. The Ivy League has produced 10 NCAA championship teams (six of those from Princeton) and countless NCAA teams, but what it never, ever has had is the kind of depth it does now.

The Ivy League starts its conference schedule this weekend with three matchups, all of which are top 20 matchups. That's insane.

For its part, Princeton takes on Penn at home Saturday at 1. The Quakers are the lowest ranked team Princeton will play in four weeks - they are ranked sixth. 

Every league game will be a battle. There are no gimmes at all in the Ivy League this year. The seven Ivy teams are a combined 26-6 on the year.

Beyond that, Ivy teams have won their last 16 games. No Ivy team has lost a game this month. And this is against some tough, tough schedules.

TigerBlog, of course, is very excited about the start Princeton has. Like the league it plays in, this team is a deep one, a team that has already had to deal with injuries and has been able to succeed despite them. 

TB had other exciting news this past week as it relates to lacrosse. He learned he's been selected to the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Rules Committee, for a four-year term that starts this September.

To this point of his career, TigerBlog has been quite active in the sport in many ways, mostly on the statistical side. He's helped create and write the NCAA official statistician's guide, and he's been the official stats person for the NCAA championships every year since 2005.

When the opportunity came to apply for a spot on the eight-man rules committee, he jumped at it. To write the stat rules, after all, you need to basically go through the rule book and come up with a way of assigning statistics to every situation. 

He's always been a big stickler for the rules in sports. It tortures him when he sees professional coaches and athletes in situations where it's clear that they don't know the rules.

Since he's found out he's going to be on the rules committee, he's heard from a bunch of people who have suggestions as to what rules need to be changed and how. To be honest, he doesn't yet know how the process works, and he'll be doing a lot of listening at first. 

At the same time, he has his own ideas as well. The previous rules committees have done a great job of improving areas of the game that needed addressing, such as the pace of play and the face-off. Too much of an overhaul isn't always a good thing.

It'll be a fascinating exercise, that's for sure. TB is certainly looking forward to it.

Before then, though, there is the rest of this season, one that in a league as loaded as the Ivy League should be equally as fascinating.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Heading To Richmond

As his colleague Elliott Carr was walking out of the Office of Athletic Communications on his way to the men's basketball bus, TigerBlog mentioned to him about how Princeton played only five guys in the opening round win over Georgetown in the 1999 NIT.

Those five: Ahmed El-Nokali, Brian Earl, Gabe Lewullis, Chris Young, Mason Rocca.

TB suggested that it was possible that no team has played five players 40 minutes each in a college basketball since. Elliott suggested he check out IUPUI.

And so he did. As it turns out, the Jaguars had five players - B.J. Maxwell, Boston Stanton III, Nathan McClure, Chuks Isitua, Mike DePersia - go all 40 minutes each in the Horizon League tournament loss to Oakland two weeks ago. It seems IUPUI was ravaged by injuries and at one point had to advertise for practice players on campus.

The 1999 NIT remains one of TB's favorite postseason experiences with the Princeton men's basketball team. It was just a lot of fun.

If you've forgotten, Princeton defeated Georgetown and then North Carolina State before falling to Xavier in the quarterfinals. The game against Georgetown was played in Jadwin and was followed by trips to Raleigh and a quick turnaround to Cincinnati.

They were three really well-played, really entertaining games. TB hasn't asked any of the Tigers who played back then, but he's guessing they remember it pretty much the same was he does. 

If anything, he's still not quite over losing the double figure lead, and then the game, to Xavier. Had the Tigers won that game, they would have been guaranteed two more in Madison Square Garden.

TB didn't realize this until he looked up just now, but Earl and Lewullis played all 120 minutes of the three games.

The current Princeton men's basketball team is making its NIT debut tonight at 7 on ESPNU at Virginia Commonwealth. As with every other team in the NIT, the goal was to make the NCAA tournament, but this event can be a great consolation prize.

Princeton will be playing in the NIT for the seventh time. No discussion of the NIT and Princeton is complete without mentioning another great postseason run, though on that was a bit before TB's time, the one in 1975, when the Tigers ran through Holy Cross, South Carolina, Oregon and Providence to win it all. Back then, the tournament was played completely in the Garden, with four games played in a one-week stretch.

This was part of the Daily Princetonian story: 

"Don't wake me. Let me dream," said the ebullient coach puffing on his cigar in the winning locker room last Sunday.

Interestingly, that story also included this:

Just minutes after Princeton's miraculous 80-69 victory over Providence in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship game, Tiger coach Pete Carril stood before a standing-room-only crowd of reporters and cameramen in the Madison Square Garden press room. A sportswriter for a major wire service asked the mastermind of the Princeton NIT title, "How does the glass slipper feel?" Thinking back to the seemingly insurmountable odds which his team overcame, a candid Carril replied, "I hope it never gets to be 12 o'clock."

When did the Cinderella metaphor first get used in sports? TB found this on Wikipedia (so it just be true):

In a sporting context the term has been used at least since 1939, but came into widespread usage in 1950, when the Disney movie came out that year, and in reference to City College of  New York, the unexpected winners of the NCAA Men's Basketball championship also that year. The term was used by Bill Murray in the 1980 movie "Caddyshack,"  where he pretends to be the announcer to his own golf fantasy: "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion."

VCU, by the way, is 21-9 on the year and was the third-seed in the recent Atlantic 10 Conference tournament. The Rams allow only 61.3 points per game, which ranks 16th in Division I. They also are the No. 3 team in the country in three-point percentage defense, so somewhere in there figures to be where this game is decided.

The winner gets the winner of Towson-Wake Forest.

Princeton isn't playing in the tournament it wants, but the Tigers showed great grit and toughness to force the Ivy tournament final into a one-possession game, something that never would have happened without the clutch play of Jaelin Llewellyn and Tosan Euvbuomwan. It's a quick turnaround to the NIT, but it's a great opportunity for the team to get back out there together. 

One more thing about the Ivy men's basketball tournament: The biggest winner was Noah Savage, the Princeton alum who was the color commentator. He was great on all three games.

So now it's NIT time for the Tigers. Hopefully they have fun, and hopefully it lasts awhile. 

Monday, March 14, 2022

Quite A Weekend

 TigerBlog thought three things heading into the Princeton Athletic weekend:

1) the women's basketball team would win the Ivy League tournament but one game would be closer than 10 points
2) the men's lacrosse team had a great chance to beat Rutgers
3) Princeton's men's track and field team would produce at least one NCAA champion

Check. Check. Check

If you don't believe him, you can ask Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack. TB texted him all those things Friday.

What he didn't include was the men's and women's fencing teams, who produced three weapon champions at the NCAA regional at Jadwin Gym. 

So where to start?

It has to be with men's track and field. What Princeton did at the NCAA championships in Birmingham this weekend was extraordinary.

Princeton did in fact have its NCAA champion, accomplished Friday when Sondre Guttormsen won the pole vault, in an event in which his brother Simon finished fourth. Sondre, a junior, was a Norwegian Olympian this past summer.

His win was followed by top four performances by Andrei Iosivas in the heptathlon and by the distance medley relay team of Harrison Witt, Michael Phillippy, Sam Rodman and Sam Ellis. C.J. Licata finished eighth in the shot put.

Added all together, and Princeton sent eight athletes to Alabama, and all eight earned All-American honors. As a team, Princeton finished a remarkable fifth. It's one of the great accomplishments by a Princeton team in recent memory.

As TB also mentioned, the fencing teams had a big weekend. The women had two weapon winners, and two weapon winners named Maia, for that matter. It was Maia Weintraub in the foil, and it was Maia Chamberlain in saber.

In fact, Weintraub was followed by teammates Tinney Mak and May Tieu as the Tigers went 1-2-3 in foil. Chamberlain led a 1-2 Princeton finish in epee, as Lola Constantino was second. 

On the men's side, Mohamed Hamza, a 2021 Olympian as well who reached the quarterfinals in Tokyo,  won the foil. The announcement of Princeton's NCAA championship qualifiers will be announced tomorrow.

For men's lacrosse, it was a second straight win over the No. 3 team in the country, this time Rutgers for the Meistrell Cup. Up next is the Ivy opener against Penn Saturday; the Quakers figure to be another Top 5 opponent after they stayed unbeaten with two late goals to beat Villanova.

By the way, the Ivy League looks absolutely loaded top to bottom this year.

On the women's side, the Princeton women put up their second-highest goal total ever with a 27-18 win at San Diego State. That's a lot of goals.

As for the women's basketball team, the Tigers won the Ivy League tournament championship by taking down Harvard 72-67 and Columbia 77-59. The win against Harvard was the first time since Carla Berube became head coach that an Ivy team stayed within 10 points of the Tigers.

It was not unexpected. Harvard was playing knowing that a loss would mean the end of the 40-year career of head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. The Crimson fought hard for their coach and pushed Princeton to the limit.

Considering this is March, that was a good thing. One of the down sides of winning comfortably is that you don't have many chances to know what it's like to have to execute when things are tight - and when stakes are highest.

To that end, Princeton showed you a great deal in Friday's semifinal. It did so again in the final against a Columbia team that was fired up to try to earn its own NCAA bid, especially after the Lions crushed Yale in the semifinals 67-38.

The final was tied at 16-16 after one quarter. Princeton did what Princeton does after that, which is to say play smothering defense and calm, steady offense to pull away.

The MVP of the tournament was Kaitlyn Chen, who put up 30 in the final. 

To the victor belonged the spoils, which in this case meant the NCAA tournament automatic bid. Had Princeton not won the tournament, it's almost a sure thing that the Tigers would have seen their name called anyway during last night's Selection Show.

As it turns out, Princeton will play Kentucky in its NCAA opener, Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. The Tigers were given a No. 11 seed, and their first-round opponent has won 10 straight, most recently over the No. 1 overall seed, South Carolina, to win the SEC tournament.

It's also the second straight time Princeton will play Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers fell 82-77 to the Wildcats in the 2019 tournament.

It won't be easy at all. It will be exciting. That's what March is all about.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Tournament Time

TigerBlog's plan was to watch most of Princeton's Ivy League basketball tournament semifinal game in the Sherrerd Field press box before the start of Princeton-Rutgers men's lacrosse.

He's still going to do that. The only difference is that it'll be the women's semifinal today, not the men's semifinal tomorrow.

The Princeton-Rutgers game, which matches the seventh-ranked Tigers and third-ranked Scarlet Knights, has been moved to tonight at 6 on Sherrerd Field. It was originally scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, but the forecast in Princeton is awful, with heavy rain turning to snow and heavy winds.

Tonight? It'll be 50 degrees and clear without much wind at game time. In other words, it'll be a perfect night for a big game.

Princeton is playing its third straight game against a team ranked in the top three, after a loss to No. 1 Maryland and a win over then-No. 3 Georgetown. That game allowed Rutgers to move up from No. 4 to No. 3.

Princeton comes into the game as one of two teams in Division I ranked in the top 10 in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The other is Michigan, who happens to be No. 1 in both.

Rutgers comes into the game at 6-0. The Scarlet Knights were one overtime goal away from the Final Four last year; the goal was scored by Princeton grad Connor McCarthy during his post-grad year at North Carolina.

It figures to be a great game. It's certainly the kind of game Tiger coach Matt Madalon wants to schedule each year. He talks about it HERE in this week's podcast.

As a result of the move of the lacrosse game, TB won't be watching the Princeton-Cornell men's game Saturday at 11 from the press box. Instead, he'll be watching the Princeton-Harvard women's game instead, which tips this afternoon at 4:30.

The Ivy League basketball tournaments are being held at Harvard. They'll be at Princeton next year.

The full schedule for the Ivy tournament is this:

Women's semifinal: No. 1 Princeton vs. No. 4 Harvard 4:30 (ESPN+)
Women's semifinal: No. 2 Columbia vs. No. 3 Yale 7:30 (ESPN+)

Men's semifinal: No. 1 Princeton vs. No. 4 Cornell 11 am (ESPNU)
Men's semifinal: No. 2 Yale vs. No. 3 Penn 2 p.m. (ESPNU)
Women's final: 5 p.m. (ESPNEWS)

Men's final: noon (ESPN2)

Princeton's men and women will both be the Ivy League champion regardless of what happens this weekend. The tournaments determine the league's automatic NCAA bids, not the champion.

The Princeton women went 14-0 in the league during the regular season, but the tournament will not be easy. It starts this afternoon against the home team, one that knows that if it loses then the 40-year career of head coach Kathy Delaney-Smith will come to an end. That's a lot of motivation.

If Princeton gets past Harvard, next up would either be Columbia or Yale. The Lions went 12-2 this season and figure to have learned from the two Princeton losses. Yale gave Princeton its toughest game during the season, with a tie game at the end of the third quarter. 

As for the men, Princeton has gotten better as the year has gone along, which is the No. 1 sign of a well-coached team. At the same time, the semifinal challenge is against a Cornell team who was one of two (along with Yale) to defeat the Tigers this year and who almost did it twice.

Princeton swept Penn and split with Yale. 

The top four scoring offense teams in the league are the teams in the men's tournament. The top two scoring defense teams in the league (Harvard and Dartmouth) didn't make the field. 

What does that say? TB isn't sure, though he finds it interesting.

On the women's side, the teams ranked 1-2-3-5 in scoring offense and 1-2-5-7 in scoring defense are in the field. 

Again, that's pretty interesting. You'd think it would be the opposite, right? Defense wins championships and all? 

The only other stat on the men's side where the top four teams are in the tournament is defensive rebounding, where the four tournament teams rank 1-2-3-4. For the women, you can add team field goal percentage, three-point percentage, three-pointers made and assists. All of those are offensive stats. 

Hey, like TB said, it's interesting.

It also doesn't matter. Not when the games start.

It should be a great weekend of Ivy League basketball. And it should be a great men's lacrosse game, one day sooner than originally planned. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The Players Of The Year

Want to see something impressive? 

Check out what Marge Donovan of the women's lacrosse team did Tuesday night in the Tigers' 18-13 win at USC in Los Angeles.

How far did she run? The goals in women's lacrosse are 100 yards apart, and it's 30 yards from the goal to the restraining line. Figure Donovan ran, what, 70, 75 yards? With the ball, by the way. 

TigerBlog timed her three times. It took her somewhere around 9.5 seconds, whatever distance she ran. That's crazy.

McKenzie Blake scored five goals in the game for the Tigers. Ellie Mueller, a sophomore playing in her first college season, had four assists, this after she had three goals and an assist in the 13-12 win over Cornell this past Saturday. Mueller had one goal for the season prior to that. 

If the last name is familiar, it should be. For that matter, a Princeton player named "Mueller" who has a bunch of assists should be very familiar. Her father is Kit Mueller, the former men's basketball great who was the 1990 and 1991 Ivy League Player of the Year. 

Princeton added to its Ivy basketball Player of the Year totals with two more recipients this week. In the last few weeks, TigerBlog has in this space compared Tosan Evbuomwan to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Abby Meyers to Jimmy Chitwood. He acknowledges that one of those people isn't real, by the way.

Now you can compare Evbuomwan and Meyers to each other. And why not, now that they both have been named the Ivy League Player of the Year. 

Beyond that, they were both the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year, which is how it should have been. 

They have more in common than their awards. They're both great players to watch play, with uncommon skills and the ability to do something spectacular any time they touch the ball. They both make their whole team better, and they both seem completely unflappable on the court. 

In case you're wondering, this is the sixth time in Ivy League basketball history that one school has had both players of the year. It's also the second time in Princeton history. Here's the list:

2013 - Niveen Rasheed/Ian Hummer (Princeton)
2009 - Brittney Smith/Alex Barnett (Dartmouth)
2008 - Jeomi Maduka/Louis Dale (Cornell)
2000 - Diana Caramanico/Michael Jordan (Penn)
1981 - Gail Koziara and Ann Deacon/Larry Lawrence (Dartmouth)

The Ivy League Player of the Year award on the men's side dates back to 1974-75. On the women's side, it was first awarded in the 1979-80 season.

On the men's side, Princeton's first Players of the Year were Armond Hill in 1976 and Frank Sowinski in 1977. Craig Robinson won in 1982 and 1983, followed by Bob Scrabis in 1989 and then Mueller's two wins. From there, it goes Sean Jackson in 1992, Sydney Johnson in 1997, Steve Goodrich in 1998, Brian Earl in 1999, Hummer in 2013 and Spencer Weisz in 2017. 

As for the women, Addie Micir was Princeton's first Player of the Year, in 2011. Rasheed won in 2012 and 2013, followed by Blake Dietrick in 2015. Bella Alarie won in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

To that list, you now add Evbuomwan and Meyers. They are both overwhelmingly deserving.

Princeton is the Ivy League outright champion on both the men's and women's side. They both had two first-team selections, with Evbuomwan and Jaelin Llewellyn for the men and Meyers and Julia Cunningham for the women. 

TB spoke with Cunningham on this week's "Conversations With Carla" podcast. He asked her about the growth of her defensive game, and her answers were pretty fascinating. 

Speaking of defensive games, Cunningham's teammate Ellie Mitchell won the league's Defensive Player of the Year award. That, too, is not shocking news.

Next up for both teams is the Ivy League tournament, which begins tomorrow at 4:30 for the women against Harvard and Saturday at 11 for the men against Cornell (coached by Earl). The other semifinals are Columbia-Yale for the women and Penn-Yale for the men, and the finals will be Saturday at 5 for the women and Sunday at noon for the men.

Remember - Princeton will be the 2022 Ivy League champion for the men and women regardless of the tournament. The events this weekend determine the league's automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The Boat Race

TigerBlog starts today with Annie Anezakis, the former Princeton women's lightweight rowing captain. 

There was a story on yesterday about how she'll stroke the Oxford Blue boat in the Oxford-Cambridge race this spring. TB supposes there are few events in the sporting world that can match the Oxford-Cambridge boat races for tradition and spectacle. 

The Boat Race, as it's known, dates to 1856, and the only interruptions in the series came during World War I, World War II and then in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. It has to be just a something very special to see in person.

The women's race dates back to 1927. It's only been since 2015 that the two events have been held together.

Just as Oxford and Cambridge were unable to race in 2020, Anezakis and her Princeton lightweight teammates also were sidelined by the pandemic. In fact, on the day that it was announced that the 2020 season was being shut down, Princeton's women's lightweights also found out that they were the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

The women's lightweight crew was able to get back on the water in 2021. Actually, the Tigers were able to do more than just row – they were able to win the IRA national championship.

You can read about the 2021 women in TB's book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton. Their season, and the one before it, were the subject of the prologue, which you can read HERE.

Anezakis, by the way, is an Australian native, and she had to navigate serious travel hurdles to get home and then back to Princeton during the pandemic. 

If you want more information on the book itself, click HERE.

TigerBlog's book is a celebration of women's athletics and of the women who came to Princeton to compete. It is also talks about how important the athletic experience has been for them.

If there's a common theme throughout, that's it. So many of them cared, and continue to care, so much about what being an athlete has done to shape them and about what they learned while being Tigers. The women's ligthweight team of 2021, for instance, dealt with the disappointment of the 2020 cancellation, the joy of being able to return to rowing and the heartbreak they felt for their senior teammates of 2020 who didn't have the opportunity to come back.

There is a great deal of fencing in the book, as befits a team with the success that the program has had through the decades. This year's edition is up there with any of them, with an unbeaten regular season and an Ivy League championship achieved in dominant fashion.

This Saturday, the NCAA fencing regional will be held in Jadwin Gym, for both the men and the women.

Here is some information for fans who wish to attend:

Tickets: The event is free to the public. All guests age five and above must be fully vaccinated and present a vaccination card and ID at the door to gain entry. Children under the age of 5 do not require a vaccination card. A mask must be worn at all times.

NCAA Championships: The NCAA Championships are set for March 24-27 at Notre Dame. The Mid-Atlantic/South region has seven spots allocated in every weapon except for men's épée, where it has six. All six weapons have two national at-large spots each. Qualification to the NCAA Championships will be based 40 percent on regular-season results and 60 percent on finish at the NCAA regional.

This is the Mid-Atlantic/South Regional, with Drew, Duke, FDU (women), Haverford, Johns Hopkins, Lafayette, NJIT, North Carolina, Penn, Penn State, Princeton, Stevens, Temple (women) and Wagner (women).

There's a huge weekend on its way for Princeton, but the fencing regional will be one of only two on-campus events (the other is Princeton-Rutgers men's lacrosse Saturday at 1; tickets available HERE). 

There are more teams who will compete in California than there are teams who will compete on campus, in fact. The women's lacrosse, women's tennis, women's water polo and softball teams are all in California for spring break matches.

This weekend is also the Ivy League basketball tournament weekend. Those games will be held at Harvard, where the Princeton women take on the home team Friday at 4:30 and the men take on Cornell Saturday at 11 in the semifinals.

HERE is the full schedule for the week.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A Picture Worth 400 Words

TigerBlog wrote about 400 words on Princeton's 10-8 win over Georgetown in men's lacrosse Saturday.

He could have summed the whole game up with this shot from Brian McWalters, which, if a picture if worth 1,000 words, would have left him with 600 more in the bank:

Yup. That's pretty much everything you need to know about how the game went. 

Princeton was unranked in every preseason ranking and preview that TB saw a few months back except for one that had the Tigers 18th. That was it. 

It bothered him to a certain extent, because he had a sense of what this team could do. He figured the same thing he figured two years ago, when Princeton went from unranked to the top five in five games.

With the schedule Princeton had, TB knew the Tigers would have every chance to make their statement. And that's exactly what happened Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C.

Princeton opened the season with wins over unranked Monmouth and Binghamton. After that, Princeton was staring down at a gauntlet that started with No. 1 Maryland two Saturdays ago.

TB figured Princeton needed that game to get ready for what was to follow, and it seems he was right. Princeton lost that game 15-10, which left the Tigers with teams ranked No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 in last week's poll on three straight Saturdays. 

Princeton responded with a very impressive effort against the Hoyas, who were the No. 3 team a week ago. TB would say it was Princeton's best defensive effort in 10 years, as Georgetown was held to half its season goal average and the Tigers set the program record for caused turnovers in a game with 17. 

This is a bit of a different Princeton team than the ones in recent years. This is a team that is built the way head coach Matt Madalon loves, strong up the middle of the field.

Erik Peters, the Tiger goalie, was the Ivy League Player of the Week after his 16-save performance. This came after a career-high 19 saves a week ago against Maryland, which leaves Peters with 35 saves in two weeks against teams that very well could reach the Final Four.

In front of Peters, Princeton has a deep group of close defensemen and longstick midfielders and its most athletic group of shortstick defensive midfielders maybe ever. Even without first-team All-American George Baughan Saturday, Princeton played seven different longsticks and five SSDMs, and 10 different players had at least one caused turnover.

Another impressive part of the win is the fact that Princeton is an extraordinarily inexperienced team, at least in terms of games played. Alex Slusher, who had five goals, seems like he's been around for awhile, but he's also only played in nine career games.

In fact, of the 24 players who played in the game, 17 have played in fewer than 10 career games, including seven of 10 starters.

The win over Georgetown was a huge step forward for this team. It's one thing to know you're getting better and see it every day in practice. It's another to have the validation of a big win.

For Princeton, there is no time at all to relax. The Tigers next five opponents are ranked in this week's poll. The Ivy League, in fact is up to five ranked teams out of seven, and the other two are also much improved.

In fact, Princeton is in the process of doing something that very few teams have ever done, or at least it figures very few have ever done.

With the win over No. 3 Georgetown behind them, the Tigers' next opponent is ... the No. 3 team in the country. That would be Rutgers, who comes to Sherrerd Field Saturday at 1 (tickets can be purchased HERE).

Rutgers is unbeaten at 6-0, with two Top 20 wins (Army and Loyola). This figures to be another great game, hopefully with another big crowd (Princeton-Georgetown drew 2,500 fans, many of whom were Tiger alums).

After that? It's the Ivy opener against Penn (fourth in some polls, sixth in others). Then it's Yale (also in the top 20). And then Brown (ditto). And then Boston University (see above).


The Tigers moved into the top 20 in every poll after the two opening wins and were around 18 or so after the Maryland loss. Yesterday's polls had Princeton either fifth (USA Lacrosse) or seventh (coaches and media polls). 

With that and with Peters' honor, it was a great Monday after a great Saturday for Princeton men's lacrosse. Now another big Saturday is on the horizon, followed by another and another and so on.

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Outright Champs

TigerBlog was on the men's lacrosse bus to Georgetown Friday afternoon when head coach Matt Madalon asked him how he would describe Tosan Evbuomwan of the men's basketball team.

The conversation had turned to basketball, both men's and women's, both of whom had clinched Ivy titles by then. 

TB thought for a second bout Evbuomwan and then said this: "He's sort of the Giannis of the Ivy League. The more he thinks about it, the more TB likes that description.

Giannis, of course, is Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, who led his team to the NBA title a year ago. Giannis is a two-time NBA MVP, and you can make a very strong case that he is the best basketball player in the world right now.

What makes him so special is the ability for someone his size (6-11, 245) to create his own shot. Giannis can - and regularly does - take the ball facing the basket near the three-point line, puts it on the floor and gets to the rim without any help. That's the bread-and-butter of Evbuomwan's game as well.

Giannis and Evbuomwan are both matchup nightmares in their leagues. You can't guard them with big men, because they can take them off the dribble. You can't guard them with faster but smaller players, because they'll both overwhelm them.

In addition, both are outstanding passers and rebounders. And you need to account for them at all times, which opens things up for everyone else on the team. 

Evbuomwan showcased his skills yet again Saturday night, when Princeton defeated Penn 93-70 to clinch an outright Ivy League championship. The Tigers went into that game having already secured at least a tie for the title and the No. 1 seed in the Ivy League tournament, and a win over Penn or a Yale loss to Brown (a game that started an hour later that Yale would win 74-65) would mean the championship was all Princeton's.

Evbuomwan had this line in the Penn game: 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. He played 32 minutes, or eighty percent of the game, and if you factor his numbers over 80 percent of the 48 minutes of an NBA game, they would have been 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. Evbuomwan also shot 9 for 14 from the field in the game.

Jaelin Llewellyn also had a big night for Princeton. Coming into the game needing 14 points to reach 1,000 for his career, Llewellyn had 18 at halftime and 24 for the night, bringing him to the 1,000-point mark in fewer than one half of the game and in less than three full seasons.

Oh, and neither Llewellyn nor Evbuomwan committed a turnover in the game.  

With the regular season over, Princeton looks ahead to the Ivy tournament, which starts for the men Saturday at 11 am at Harvard. The first semifinal matches Princeton and Cornell, coached by former Princeton great Brian Earl. The other semifinal matches Yale and Penn, and the final will be Sunday at noon.

As for the women, they also salted away an outright championship with a win this weekend over Penn, this time in Jadwin Gym Friday night. The final score of that one was Princeton 69, Penn 43.

The game was 18-16 Princeton after one quarter and 22-20 Penn nearly four minutes into the second. Then Princeton went on a 13-0 run, one that was more about the "0" than the "13," and Penn would get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.

That win, plus Harvard's win over Dartmouth, eliminated the Quakers from the postseason chase and solidified the women's Ivy tournament matchups: No. 1 Princeton vs. No. 4 Harvard Friday at 4:30 and No. 2 Columbia vs. No. 3 Yale after that. The women's final is Saturday at 5.

Princeton and Harvard got to a trial run yesterday afternoon, when the two finished the regular season on the same court where they'll play again Friday for biggest stakes. What was on the line yesterday was a perfect Ivy season for the Tigers, and again the Tigers came through, winning 73-53.

Ellie Mitchell had 15 points and 12 rebounds as she continues to make every loose ball her own personal cause. Abby Meyers had 14 points; she should be the Ivy Player of the Year, unanimously, TB would think. 

If you're keeping score, that's back-to-back perfect seasons for the Princeton women in Carla Berube's first two seasons - only Bill Carmody on the men's side has done so before in Ivy League history.

It's a good moment to step back and enjoy the two outright championships. Briefly, at least.

For both, there is still much left to accomplish. 

Championships, though, should never be taken for granted.