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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My First View of Princeton Men's Basketball

I watched the last 10 1/2 minutes of the Princeton-Lafayette game last night, thanks to the fact that may cable TV carrier picks up the Lehigh Valley station. (If you want more in-depth coverage of Princeton, go to the Princeton Basketball blog that I've linked to, and if you want more on the Ivies, please go to Basketball U -- those guys cover Princeton and the Ivies very well). (And, sorry, readers, but reading to the kids at bedtime and spending time with them after work renders me unable to watch the game from the beginning, at least for now).

Here are some thoughts:

1. The Tigers are not big, and they are not athletic. They're good enough for a top 3 finish in the Ivies (probably behind Penn and ahead of one of Columbia or Yale), where being super-quick or very tall doesn't matter as much. In the action that I saw, they didn't look as fluid on offense as past Tiger championship teams or past Joe Scott Air Force teams. Still, the season is young, and Coach Scott is tinkering with his lineups.

2. The frosh point guard, Marcus Schroeder, is impressive as a floor general and more impressive as a defender. He's going to be a solid fixture at the guard spot for four years.

3. The Tigers faded down the stretch, as they were up 9 with about 5 to go and then held on to win, 44-42. They did not shoot foul shots well down the stretch, and they had some lapses in taking care of the ball.

4. I counted that Coach Scott played 8 players during the last 10 minutes -- frontcourt players Michael Strittmatter, Justin Conway, Kyle Koncz and Luke Owings, and guards Schroeder, Lincoln Gunn (a frosh shooting guard from the same HS as Schroeder), Edwin Buffmire and Matt Sargeant. Apparently, Owings and Koncz shot the three well last night, but during the last 10 minutes the Tigers' offense wasn't that impressive.

5. Okay, so I'm sounding a bit like one-time coach Pete Carril, in that I'm pointing out flaws as opposed to causes for optimism. Fair enough. The team is 4-1, and winning should beget winning (as I'm not a believer in the concept of "good" losses). The freshmen guards have a big upside, and the forwards have played together for a while. The defensive intensity was there.

Also. . .

Read The Daily Pennsylvanian for good coverage of the Penn Quakers. I found today's edition to be very balanced. A senior columnist, while generally praiseworthy of the team, commented that senior Ibby Jaaber's penchant for going for steals has backfired with a greater frequency than he would like, enabling the other team to score easy baskets. Yet another commentator sizes up the Ivies. While that commentator predicts a Penn title, she also suggests that Penn could lose a few games this year -- one to Princeton and one to Columbia.

This should be Penn's year, as they return the troika of gifted seniors, Steve Danley, Mark Zoller and Ibby Jaaber, who is the returning Ivy Player of the Year. Zoller was a first-team all-Ivy selection last season and has one of the best hoops IQs I've seen in the Ivies in a while. Danley has improved every year. Complementing that trio are junior Brian Grandieri, a one-time swingman who is playing great basketball at the point, and sophomore swingman Tommy McMahon, who came out of HS in California two years ago reputed to be a great shooter. The competition for minutes from the bench is fierce, and Coach Glenn Miller is tinkering a bit with substitutions the way Fran Dunphy liked to before Coach Dunphy settled on the eight or nine guys he'd use in his rotation. Watch out for frosh Darren Smith, a talented guard from the Peddie School in central New Jersey, among others.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tuned into the game when there was seven minutes left, the score was 39-32, and Princeton had just been fouled by Lafayette, sending them into the bonus. I figured this game was over.
Surprise. Somehow Princeton managed to make only three free throws in the final seven minutes.
Given that, I'd say that a Carril-ian assessment is definitely in order.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you realize that you saw probably the worst 10 minutes out of the 200 played this year. A couple of points:

1. Kyle Koncz's 3-pts pct is .548! He is 11-11 from the line. Luke Owings is shooting 3's at .429. These Tigers don't turn the ball over, have nearly twice as many assists as their opposition, and 60% more steals. They're also giving up as many offensive rebounds as they have in the past. They hav more on an inside game than they did last year, mainly because of the presence of Conway (who's the biggest 6-4 player Ive ever seen) and Buffmire. Who cares if they aren't tall or quick. They are skilled and tough. That matters more.

2. What's this line about coach Scott "tinkering with the lineup?" Conway, Owings, Koncz, Schroeder and Gunn start. Savage subs for Koncz, Strittmatter subs for Owings, Buffmire subs for Gunn. Schroeder's missed 2 minutes all season, so he doesn't have a sub. Finley subs for Conway. This is a consistent pattern. Scott says he is trying to get even more players in (more minutes for Savage and Finley, a look at Wilson, rest for Schroeder). LAST YEAR he didn't have players he could consistently trust on the floor--that was a year full of tinkering. Incidentally, Sargeant is hurt.

I recognize that you were only able to watch 10 minutes. But come on, do some research.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the last post, point 1, 5th sentence, should read "They're also *not* giving up as many offensive rebounds as they have in the past."


10:32 AM  
Anonymous Cliff said...

It is hard to really evaluate Princeton at this pont. Based on Pomeroy ratings (I'm lazy--those are the easiest to look at) the highest ranked team defeated by Princeton to date is VMI at 227. In other words, Princeton has yet to defeat a team in the top 200. The one time Princeton has faced a team in the top 200 they lost to #76 Loyola-Chicago 68-57. Princeton has an opportunity to get a top 200 win on Friday when they play North Dakota State, ranked #167. After that they play Lehigh on 12/6, another top 200 team at #171. How Princeton fares in those two games should go a long way in telling us something about where they stand at this time.

12:19 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I see your points, commenter #2, but I saw what I saw, and other commenters made similar points to mine. On the one hand, your points are very well taken, in that "you play who you play" and the numbers that you demonstrate are good. On the other hand, if the team was as good as the numbers suggest, they should have put this Lafayette team away down the stretch. The last commenter points out that the strength of schedule isn't that good, but, again, I'll take 4-1 over 1-4 against top mid-major teams any day of the week, especially at the season's outset. The best thing the Tigers can do to settle any debates about how good they are is to keep on winning.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take your point about Princeton not putting Lafayette away. Princeton was outstanding the first 15 minutes of the second half (the part you didn't see), but let the Leopards back in it. THIS is my biggest concern about Princeton this year. When you listen to Coach Scott speak after games and during weekly interviews (available online), you hear him mention his team's inability to seal the deal over and over, dating back to last season. Remember, in the last game vs Penn Princeton had a 17 point halftime lead and went to overtime.

For the long-term, not pulling away from teams will wear out guys like Schroeder who are playing 40 mins a game, and prevents players of the future like Finley from getting enough experience.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Cliff said...

Schroeder played another 40 minutes tonight against North Dakota State. Princeton lost despite a 35-28 lead with 15:38 left. Princeton started hot leading 26-12 at the final media timeout of the first half. Princeton was also badly outrebounded 38-19.

10:44 PM  
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