Monday, December 21, 2015

Princeton Tigers 61 at Maryland Terrapins 82 (NCAA Basketball) - December 19, 2015

After watching UNC Asheville beat Georgetown in a noon start, I headed to Baltimore for an evening game at Royal Farms Arena. The two cities are just 40 miles apart and there are several ways to travel between them, with MARC the cheapest. MARC (MAryland Rail Commuter) is a commuter train that is quite frequent during the week, but runs just one line on the weekend between Washington and Baltimore. With only nine trains on Saturday and six on Sunday, you are not spoilt for choice, but the timing worked well for me with the 4:10 train getting me to Baltimore just after 5, plenty of time for the 7:00 start. At $8, MARC is cheaper than Amtrak though it takes about twice as long with all the stops in between.

Penn Station has a baggage storage service for $4, so I left my knapsack there and took the light rail downtown. Royal Farms Arena has but one pro team, the Baltimore Blast of the MASL, but hosts many other events during the year. On this night, the Maryland Terrapins were making their first trip to Baltimore since the 1999-2000 season, with Ivy Leaguers Princeton the visitors.

Royal Farms Arena was once known as Baltimore Arena and was opened in 1962. You will immediately notice the retro ticket windows, though there is a more modern box office just next to here for will call tickets. The cheapest here was $17 to sit in the corner of upper deck (view below), so I went outside to see what the scalpers were offering.

Nobody was willing to come down to $10, so I waited for someone with an extra to stop by. Sure enough, a guy had one left over at center court and when a scalper offered him $10, the seller walked away in a huff. I quickly offered him $20 and he accepted. As it turned out the seat was in the second deck, right next to the television cameras. It had a full view of the action, but I could not see the band as the camera stand blocked my view. The two seats to my right were also sold, and one gentleman had to move one row up to see the entire court, a bit odd, but what do you expect for an arena that is over 50 years old? Air conditioning? Nope, despite chilly temperatures outside, it was stuffy and hot in the seats.

An escalator will take you to the main (and relatively barren) concourse, but other than that it is stairs that go between the three levels. Concessions are basic and best ignored.

The ceiling can be quite low in places, not good if you are claustrophobic.

The only banners are for the Blast, who have won their league championship seven times. Indoor soccer is one of the sports that I have yet to see, but as I run out of venues, I will probably end up going to a game or two somewhere, sometime. I always enjoy getting to see old venues and Royal Farms Arena is no different. It is a reminder of times when there were no luxury boxes or club seats and the fans who went to the game were there for the game. Which on this night was quite entertaining.

Maryland came in ranked sixth in the country, but there had been a couple of upsets earlier in the day with #4 Kentucky losing at the Barclays Center, while #7 Duke was defeated at MSG. So all the Terps had to do was beat Princeton to move up.

Melo Trimble (#2 below) is the star for Maryland, coming off a freshman season where he averaged 16.2 PPG and was an All-Big Ten First Team selection. He was largely invisible early on as Princeton stormed to a 25-19 lead behind 7 treys including three from Henry Caruso (#21 above). Was this another upset in the making?

Not quite. The Terps called timeout and immediately went on a 16-2 run, highlighted by five points and a steal from Trimble as the half ended 35-31 for Maryland. The second half continued on much the same note as Maryland opened on an 18-8 spurt that ended with a Jake Layman dunk that made it 53-39.

Princeton got no closer than 10 and when Rasheed Sulaimon (#0 above) drained a three to make it 68-49 with 8 minutes to go, the result was settled. The final as you see below was 82-61, a convincing victory for the nominal home team.

Trimble finished with just 7 points but added 10 helpers. Jake Layman led Maryland with 19 points, while Caruso topped the Tigers with 17. Princeton went 11/24 from long range, and only 10/28 from inside the arc. The discrepancy is crazy when you think about it, but it shows how the college game has changed.

I did a quick bit of research and found that including all 351 Division I teams, 35.1% of shots are attempted from beyond the arc, with 34.4% of those being hit, while 49.2% of two-pointers are successful. Thus the expected value of a three point shot (1.033) is higher than that of a two-pointer (0.984, excluding fouls that lead to a three-point play). Princeton is just playing the odds as you would expect from an Ivy League school. From the few games I have seen this season, there are just too many three-point attempts. I think the three-point line needs to be moved back to the NBA line in college hoops, too many teams are just too good at hitting these shots and the low post game is suffering.

Interestingly, Maryland is second in the nation in FG percentage at 53.5, just behind St. Marys at 54.2. However, St. Mary's has a ridiculous 47.3% success rate from long range, second in the nation behind Oklahoma at 47.7 (Maryland is 23rd at 40.2).


In the end, #5 Iowa State also lost, so Maryland was ranked fourth in time for Christmas.

My Washimorelphia trip ended on Sunday with an NFL doubleheader that saw Baltimore lose to KC 34-14 and Philadelphia drop a 40-17 decision to Arizona that evening. No need to talk about those stadiums or games, but I will say that Chiefs-Cardinals is my new Super Bowl prediction. You heard it here first!

Next Up

I'm hoping to end the year with the Leafs at Brooklyn on Sunday and then a Monday night trip to Iona College and a Wednesday matinee at Rutgers for some more NCAA hoops. Check back next week for recaps.

Happy holidays everyone!



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