This is the first in a series looking back at how each Ivy League squad fared during the 2010-11 season. The Princeton Tigers finished the year at 25-7 (12-2), winning a share of the Ivy League title and the NCAA bid that was awarded to the winner of the Ivy League playoff.
The Princeton Tigers’ 2010-2011 season was defined by a single shot. You all know the story by now – Doug Davis, 2.8 seconds on the clock, Princeton down by 1 against Harvard in the Ivy League playoff game to decide who gets to go to the NCAA tournament. Davis cuts left, catches the inbound pass, drives right, pump fakes, ducks under the flailing Harvard defender, elevates, and swishes the jumper. The crowd goes wild, the Tigers go to the tournament, and Davis becomes a minor celebrity (buoyed, at least somewhat, by the whole “Teach Me How To Dougie” craze, which was still a big deal back then).
We’ll get to the shot, I promise. But first we need to figure out how Princeton got there in the first place. Because while his buzzer beater made him the hero, Davis never would have had the chance if it weren’t for a pair of seniors – guard Dan Mavraides and forward Kareem Maddox – a sophomore gunslinger – forward Ian Hummer – and head coach Sydney Johnson (recently departed for the apparently greener pastures of Fairfield University). They were the ones who brought the Tigers out charging to start the season, willed them to the Ivy League playoff, and got the ball into Davis’s hands.
Princeton made something of a statement in its first game of the season, an overtime win against cross-town rival Rutgers. Over the past decade or so, the Scarlet Knights had grown accustomed to shellacking the Tigers to kick off the year, but Mavraides was having none of it this time around. The senior came out firing, shooting 6-10 from beyond the arch to lead all scorers with 26 points.
But the Tigers fell quickly back to atoledo earth, getting humbled at the CBE Classic. The team got blown out by Duke, then the number one team in the country, finishing 1-3 for the tournament. But something important happened during the third game of the tournament, the lone win over Bucknell – a decision that perhaps defined Princeton’s entire season.
Kareem Maddox was coming off a solid, if unspectacular, junior season as a reserve forward. He started the first three games of the year and put up middling numbers, playing decent but uninspiring basketball. But against Bucknell, Johnson sat Maddox for the first few minutes of the game, then brought him in as an early sub. Maddox played most of the remaining game, staying on the court far longer than the true “starter,” sophomore center Brendan Connolly. Maddox wouldn’t start another game for the rest of the year until senior night, his final home game at the end nederlandsegokken online casino of the season.
But something about the unorthodox strategy worked for Maddox. In his first game after the CBE tournament, Maddox came off the bench and absolutely dominated, going off for 30 points, 10 boards, and three blocks in an overtime win against Siena at home. A few games later, Maddox, still coming off the bench, scored 31 points in a double overtime win against Tulsa. The Tigers won eight straight before losing to then-19th ranked Central Florida.
After the loss to UCF, Princeton reeled off 10 straight wins and went 7-0 to start Ivy League play, beating every other team in the league. Sophomore forward
Ian Hummer emerged as one of the top scoring threats for the Tigers; the underclassman scored 25 and grabbed 12 rebounds against Columbia. Maddox continued to play out of his mind and established himself as the premier defensive big man in the league, with five blocks in Princeton’s overtime win against Penn.
The Tigers started to play sloppy basketball at the end of the season, losing to Brown by 10 points before getting blown out by Harvard in Cambridge. Princeton dug itself into a hole during the last game of the season, having to come back from down eight in the second half against Penn to tie with Harvard for the Ivy League championship and force a playoff game to decide who got to go dancin’.
Harvard hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1946. And Princeton was only one game removed from the smack down administered by Harvard in their final regular season matchup. Each team had won at home that season, and the game was played at Yale, the neutral site between the two schools. Princeton kept it close enough for one last shot. And Doug Davis took care of the rest.
The NCAA tournament was a victory lap for the Tigers. They had already won; the rest was just gravy. Of course, no one remembered to tell that to the players, who did their best to imitate Sydney Johnson’s epic upset over UCLA in 1996. It took a last second runner by Brandon Knight (held scoreless to that point!) to put Final Four-bound Kentucky over Princeton in the first round. But Princeton fans didn’t care. They had their season. They had their shot. And they didn’t need anything else.
Maddox, who only started four games all year, was a unanimous First Team All-Ivy selection and was voted Defensive Player of the Year, finishing his season with 52 blocks. Mavraides and Hummer were both voted Second Team All-Ivy.
And Doug Davis, who had been voted Honorable Mention his freshman year and Second Team his sophomore season, didn’t garner any league honors. Instead, he became immortal, a legend permanently ensconced in Princeton basketball lore. The shot of Davis sitting on the floor of the Yale gym, arms raised and two fingers held up on each hand because he knows the ball is going in, is the definitive image of the season. The record books may call Princeton Co-Champions, but last season, Princeton won.