SportsProf

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Princeton Basketball, 4-0 in the Ivies!

It shouldn't be news to you that the Tigers swept league favorite Cornell and Columbia this weekend at home. You can read the headlines and the accounts on-line (the Princeton Basketball News Blog remains an excellent source). What's more startling is that the Tigers dismantled Cornell, 61-41 and held off a Cornell comeback in the second half, and, also, that the Tigers soundly beat Columbia, 63-35. These scores resemble the scores from the Kit Mueller era and then the Steve Goodrich era at Princeton.

Few expected this team to do much in the Ivies this year (among others, Blue Ribbon picked the Tigers to finish last in the Ivies). As a diehard Tiger fan, I was hoping for Coach Sydney Johnson's team to turn the program slightly around from last year's 6-23 finish and would have considered the year a major success (and still would) if the Tigers were to finish in the first division of the Ivies, a solid fourth.

Believe me, the Ivy season, as with any conference's season, is a grueling one. Not only do you play teams that are familiar with your style and your personnel, you play teams on back to back nights with the same goal as you and other mid- and low-major teams -- to secure what in all likelihood will be your conference's only bid to the NCAA tournament. Try playing six straight weeks of Friday and Saturday night games with two against your travel partner -- in this case, the storied University of Pennsylvania program -- mixed in. It's not easy.

After last weekend's games (road victories at Dartmouth and Harvard), Tiger fans had cause for some optimism, especially given a) last year's finish and b) all of the publicity surrounding Coach Tommy Amaker and the Harvard program (such as, "best recruiting year in the Ivies in a long time"). The Tigers took care of business on the road, but I'm sure that most fans would have settled for a 1-1 split this past weekend, with the lone victory over Columbia on Saturday night (especially after the way Cornell trashed Brown and Yale last weekend). After this weekend's victories, the Tigers' fans still will remain cautiously optimistic. The Tigers go on the road to play Yale and Brown, and follow that game with a Tuesday night contest against Penn.

The possibilities are exciting, but the truth is that no Ivy opponent will take Princeton lightly after this past weekend. Yale and Brown are tough in their small gyms, and Penn is Penn. Yes, the Quakers are 1-3 in the Ivies and, yes, to many Coach Miller is struggling with his lineups, but the Quakers get up for Princeton like few others. Besides, the Quakers are desperate -- they cannot afford any more losses in league play.

So am I excited about the Tigers' possibilities? Most certainly. Do I think that they have a good shot at winning the Ivies? Well, we're way too far away from that to even get started. I'm only focused on Brown and Yale, and then ask me on March 10 (the last game of the season, against Penn in the Palestra) whether I think they can win the Ivies. The Tigers have been a very pleasant surprise so far, and, as I've blogged before, Coach Johnson is definitely onto something in Tigertown. Regardless of whether you think that the 4-0 start is a trend, a fluke, or a harbinger for a championship, you have to admit that things are looking up for Princeton men's basketball.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sports Prof

Everyone loves a Cinderella. It's embedded in Western aesthetics.

Princeton is, after a woeful interlude, in that unlikely role for what was long a top program.

Despite being a Penn fan, I think it's great. From afar (these games are hard to see on the Gulf Coast) it appears to be that Coach Johnson is doing it the old way: with dignity, discipline and basketball smarts.

Glen Miller like Joe Scott, seems to be an intense screamer. When it comes to team play, cool and collaboration would seem to prevail.

Hats off to Johnson and his young charges.

NS
N.O.

11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So far, it seems that SJ has persuaded them that defense wins. If he can convince them that there's no reason EVER to have an off night on defense, the program could rebound.

Carril's teams played great defense, and low scores were not simply a function of the deliberate offense limiting the other teams' possessions. At its best, the Princeton offense tired out opponents mentally and physically and put pressure on the other team's offense. Offense is supposed to be fun, but when every possession matters it becomes work...

If three-time captain Sydney Johnson can make them believers, he can bring back the magic.

CB76

11:08 PM  
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