State of the Tigers, 2012
The Princeton Tigers are undefeated in 2012! The statheads out there will likely call foul and complain about “sample size,” given that Princeton has only played one game so far – a victory over Florida A&M on New Year’s Day. But that win, coming on the heels of a triple OT thriller over Florida State in Tallahassee, pushed the Princeton squad’s record above .500 for the first time all year. The Tigers
sit at 8-7, and have won seven of their last nine games after starting the season an ugly 1-5. With one home game against TNCJ left before a brutal five game road swing to start Ivy League play, let”s take a look at the keys to Princeton’s recent success and the potential problems that remain with the real season set to kick off in just a week and a half.
Princeton has a Point Guard!
One of the big question marks at the start of the 2011-2012 Tigers campaign was who would bring the ball up the court for Princeton. Would Doug Davis, a natural shooting guard, be forced to shoulder the load? Would Ian Hummer play some sort of awkward point forward? Could anyone on the team dribble the ball the length of the court?
Sophomore guard T.J. Bray has put an end to all those questions, emerging as one of the most integral
cogs in the Princeton machine. In his first year as a starter, Bray has played almost 34 minutes a game, just behind Messrs. Davis and Hummer and a full eleven minutes more than the next man on the Princeton roster. And Bray’s made the most of casino pa natet his opportunity. He has the most assists on the team, averaging just under 4 dimes a game with a respectable 1.6 assist/turnover ratio. He’s also been lights out from downtown, leading Princeton with a .417 clip on three point shots. And he’s second on the team, behind Hummer, in both steals and rebounds. Most importantly, he’s given the Tigers consistency at a position that was in sore need of some after the departure of Dan Mavraides.
The Tigers are Winning in Overtime
Princeton’s recent run of winning basketball technically began on Nov. 27, with a blowout win over D-II West Alabama in the last game of a disappointing TicketCity Classic tournament. But spiritually, the turnaround came two games later, when the Tigers went down the road and beat de dem neuen Online Portal im Netz. cross-town rival Rutgers for the second straight year, 59-57. The game was more than just a badly needed tally mark in the wins column for the Tigers; it was a reminder that the success of last year’s Princeton team was not yet wholly out of the grasp of the current incarnation. Last year, if you recall, the Tigers kicked off their season by playing David to Rutgers’ Goliath, with an overtime victory that set the tone for the rest of the season. Princeton wouldn’t lose an overtime contest the rest of the way.
Let’s return to this season. Following the close victory against Rutgers, Princeton has won both of its overtime games, including the aforementioned triple overtime victory against Florida State. The last game was especially heartening for a Princeton squad that let another ACC upset bid against NC State slip through its fingers in the final seconds earlier in the season. Princeton has lost to plenty of teams this season that it should have beaten handily. But the team has also shown signs that it can hang with anyone.
Can Princeton Hang with the Big Men of the Ivy League?
It’s been a tough few months for center Brendan Connolly, who head coach Mitch Henderson prophesized would be one of the Tigers to make The Leap this season. Connolly hasn’t started a game since November, and the only category in which he leads the team is fouls per game. The Tigers have been relatively effective with a three forward attack, essentially playing three rangy power forwards instead of a traditional 3 or a true center. But when league play rolls around and the Keith Wrights of the world set up shop in the paint, will Connolly be pressed back into action? There’s still time for the big man to turn things around, but so far the campaign has been disappointing, and the center spot remains the Achilles’ heel for the Princeton team.
Finally, to end on a positive note, Denton Koon has officially arrived! The Prodigy from Liberty™ was named the Ivy League Rookie of the Week on Monday, after putting up seven points and ten boards against Florida State and following it up with a career high 13 points against Florida A&M. Koon’s the first Tiger to get the ROTW nod from the Ivy League since Ian Hummer’s freshman season.
By the way, the only two Princeton losses in the last nine games also happen to be the only two games where Koon played fewer than ten minutes. Coincidence, correlation, or causation? We’re not sayin’; we’re just sayin’.