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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Princeton Basketball, 2-0 in the Ivies!

I've been to two games this season, and from each I sensed a turnaround in Princeton's men's basketball program. I've blogged about the team earlier this season, and, no, I'm not now predicting that this team will win the Ivies and get the league's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament (Cornell obliterated its opponents this weekend and remains the favorite, and Penn, Harvard and Columbia, among others, remain most formidable). With that background out of the way, the Tigers are 2-0 in the Ivies, picking up impressive road wins at Dartmouth and Harvard on consecutive nights.

There are plenty of recaps to link to, including the Princeton Basketball News blog, which is the first place you should go for all talk about Princeton Tiger basketball.

Coach Sydney Johnson is onto something in Tigertown, and the Tiger faithful have some cause to hope that this is the beginning of a turnaround of the program and a restoration of the brand that Butch van Breda Kolff, Pete Carril, Bill Carmody and John Thompson III helped carefully construct over the past half century.

Or, as Dick Vitale would say, "Stock up, Princeton Tigers, baby. That Sydney Johnson, what an outstanding young coach, what a job he is doing in central New Jersey. My old friend Petey Carril captured the nation's imagination with a great style of play, and Coach Johnson is getting Tiger basketball back to its rightful perch. Watch out for those Tigers!" Of course, Vitale has said nothing of the sort (yet), and I can't properly account for Dickie V's inflection in a blog post. And, let's not get too giddy, two games are just that, two games, and the season is grueling. Every home team gets up for you, every home gym is a snake pit, and you have 12 league games left to play. A lot can happen between now and then.

True, and for the first time in a few years, Tiger faithful are thinking that a lot of good can happen, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tigers are playing better than they have since the pre-Joe Scott era. And things are looking up for next year too: they bagged a blue-chip recruit out of DC, Ian Hummer, son of Ed and nephew of John, both former Princeton greats.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tiger fans should be happy. Still the most amazing thing is Harvard's quick deflation as a real rival to Cornell or anyone.

The Penn team is ridiculously streaky (like Harvard). They seem like a bunch of talented stars in search of a script. They almost beat Cornell last year, and played well this year against North Carolina...but lose to Dartmouth! IMHO the Palestra remains the hardest place for visitors to get a win in the Ivies even when the Quakers are so-so.

The best thing of all: Ivy Basketball is showing some life again. Thanks Tigers. Let's see if Big Red is the new Penn or Princeton for now.


3:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out

11:32 AM  
Blogger Escort81 said...

I listened to both games with my father (who, as a member of the Class of 1937 has been a follower of Princeton sports for 75+ years now), and we were encouraged. Even when Princeton and Penn dominated the league not all that long ago, the away weekend at Hanover and Cambridge was not usually a walkover. Coach Johnson is doing a good job, and I think if the Tigers are .500 or better in the league this season (that's only 5-7 the rest of the way, with 7 of the 12 games at home), that would be a good step up from last season. Then, next season, after Coach Johnson gets in what will be only his second recruiting class -- last season's freshmen were not "his" recruits because of the timing of the Scott firing and his hiring -- we can be in a better position to determine whether there is an impending return to dominance, or if those days are gone forever.

The news about Hummer is good. He has decent size at 6-6, and hopefully shooting touch is an inheritable trait.

Just being competitive and respectable again is a relief.

6:22 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

The good start in the Ivies and solid backcourt play is most encouraging. I'd like to see better play from the frontcourt, and perhaps we'll see that if opponents place their defensive emphasis on stopping the Tigers' guards.

This weekend will tell us more. Cornell and Columbia visit, and a good step forward for the Tigers will be if they can go 1-1 (or better, of course) this weekend.

8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly they are playing better. This is not intended as a knock, but having watched them, the athletic talent is still a work in progress.

12:40 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Don't disagree with the comment abotu the athleticism, but there is some (Davis, Maddox) and the players play well together. The PBN blog had a good feature about the extra work PG Marcus Schroeder and SG Dan Mavriades do after practice. Good stuff. Tiger fans will appreciate the improvement, especially if they see more next year.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the exception of Cornell's opponents, it seems like a year when each Ivy team has the capability of beating any other. The old rivalries like Penn and Princeton (hmmm I'm trying to think of another one on that level) should once again be entertaining.

New Orleans

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Hold that Tiger!"

Strike the conditional opening phrase of my last post...

...and anything I previously said about the Palestra.

Good thing I don't make a living betting on sports, much less commenting on them.

So is Glen Miller Penn's Joe Scott?

He has had a lot of talent, but nothing like Dunphy's inspiration, teamwork, and grace.

New Orleans

7:00 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, NS.

Miller did something curious on Saturday night. In desperate need for a win, he benched four of his starters (at least at the game's outset). Penn played poorly against Cornell, which wanted to rebound from its poor showing against Princeton. Now, the Quakers are 1-3 in the league.

Penn has talent. Miller, though, is a curiosity, in that he might be the only coach in college history to have three first-team all-league players in the same season and not win his league's title (he did that at Brown with Earl Hunt, Joseph Forte and Ala Nuatiliaa (sorry for any misspelling of the last name). His teams haven't been known for their defense, either.

Still, the season is young, and anything can happen. Penn has a formidable program and will do some damage within the league before the season's over.

But if Penn doesn't win the league this year, the pressure will mount on Miller next year, so much so that Penn fans might be chanting "We want Matt Langel" before too much longer. (Langel, as I know you know, is one of Fran Dunphy's assistants at Temple and a former standout player for the Quakers).

11:24 AM  

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