In the 15th installment of our 20ish-part series, Get to Know an Auto-Bid, we examine the Princeton Tigers.
Princeton clinched their 25th appearance in the tournament with a 71-59 victory over Yale in Sunday’s Ivy League Championship Game.
Princeton finished the season with a 23-6 record and an undefeated 14-0 mark in conference. The Tigers have not lost since Dec. 20 and their closest call came Saturday as Princeton needed overtime to defeat Penn in the semifinals
This season marked the first year that the Ivy League decided to implement a conference tournament. The tournament included the top-four seeds, but was not met by open arms by most of the league.
Until this year, the Ivy League awarded their automatic bid to the regular season champion. Part of that reasoning was they did not want more time away from the classroom and the other aspect in play was that the conference did not want their best team to miss out on the tournament because of an upset in the conference tournament.
That mentality was entire understandable because until the last 10 years, the Ivy League was dominated by Penn and Princeton and their annual matchup in the final game of the regular season was often a de facto championship game.
It would have been interesting to observe the discourse had Princeton not won the conference tournament and earned the automatic bid.
In recent years, however, the depth of the Ivy League has grown by leaps and bounds. Instead of the Quakers and Tigers going to the tournament every year, Harvard, Yale, and Cornell have all punched their ticket to the NCAAs and have had success when they got there.
Cornell made a Sweet 16 run in 2010, Harvard tallied first-round upsets over New Mexico and Cincinnati, and Yale upended Baylor in a 13-4 upset in last year’s first round.
Sunday marked Princeton’s first Ivy League title since 2011. That year saw the Tigers earn a 13-seed in the tournament and four-seeded Kentucky needed a basket in the final seconds to escape with a two-point victory. That Kentucky team ended up advancing to the Final Four.
Princeton has a long, storied history off tournament success. The Tigers made the final four in 1965 behind All-American Bill Bradley.
The most famous tournament performance in the post-Bradley years came in 1996 when the Tigers defeated defending National Champion UCLA in the first-round. Their last second basket came on one of their signature back-door cuts.
The win came in legendary coach Pete Carril’s 29th and final year at the helm.
Princeton’s best win of this season came in a two-point victory on the road vs. Bucknell, the Patriot League champions.
The Tigers’ system lends itself to close games. They slow down the pace and test their opposition’s patience. Their way of playing levels the playing field and can neutralize an opposing team’s athletic advantage.
Princeton has four players that average over ten points per game. Devin Cannady leads the squad with 13.7 points per game, while Spencer Weisz leads the Tigers in rebounding averaging 5.5 per game.
When a team has won so much like Princeton, winning become an expectation. The Tigers have not lost a game in nearly three months, so just getting to the tournament is not thought of as a win – they expect to win once they get there.
The Otter Room official bracket projection have Princeton as a 13-seed. Because of their system and the winning culture, no team wants to face Princeton in the first round.