Season Preview: Princeton Tigers

 

The Tigers pulled out an instant classic at Jadwin on Friday, thanks to another incredible performance from Ian Hummer. Now, we're all square in the loss column in a thrilling Ivy title chase.
Princeton has a lot of production to replace with the departure of reigning Ivy POY Ian Hummer. The cupboards are certainly not bare for Mitch Henderson’s squad in 2013-14 though.

In 2012-13: 17-11, 10-4, 2nd place, No Postseason.

A Look Back

Mitch Henderson’s third season at the Tigers’ helm will be his first outside the shadow of Sydney Johnson.

In his first campaign, Henderson enjoyed the services of Doug Davis, a Johnson recruit, whose last-second playoff heroics in his junior year stalled, if only momentarily, the Amaker juggernaut. The Tigers compiled a very respectable 20-12 overall record in 2011-12, Davis’ senior year, overcoming a disastrous start to the Ivy League season to finish in third place at 10-4. Davis graduated as the second leading career scorer for the Tigers, trailing only some skinny guy from the 1960’s.

Davis held that second spot for only eleven months until he was overtaken by 2012-13 Ivy POY Ian Hummer, the Tiger team leader in virtually every significant category last year. The Tigers managed an overall record of 17-11, including a 10-4 mark in the League, good enough for second place. But it was the way the Tigers finished second that has caused much head-scratching among the Tiger faithful.

I suppose one might make an argument that the Tigers can be better without Hummer, but not this reporter. Last year, Princeton never found a way to replace Davis. Almost every possession started, went through, or finished with Hummer. Losing two players of the caliber of Davis and Hummer in successive seasons presents Henderson with his second major test.

His first arose last December. After the Tigers lost to Wagner in a game in which they allowed just 40 points in regulation while forcing 20 turnovers, then blew a lead at the Barclays’ Center to a mediocre Fordham team, Henderson was forced to shake things up. He benched a senior co-captain in favor of the smaller but far more athletic Hans Brase, an untested freshman. Immediately, the Tigers put together a nearly flawless performance in a 12-point victory against tournament-bound Bucknell and the Bison’s NBA draftee, center Mike Muscala.

Henderson’s gamble paid off and the team was clearly his. The Tigers’ momentum carried them well into 2013, as they reached 9-2 in the Ivy League, gaining a stranglehold on the title with three games to go. With its fate in its hands, Princeton fell flat on its face, losing back-to-back  contests in New Haven and Providence before rebounding in a largely irrelevant finale at the Palestra. When the team declined to consider any post-season opportunities, the hand-wringing began in earnest. Henderson appeared stunned at the end of the year.

Players to Watch 

T.J. Bray, Senior. If Hummer was the team’s warrior, Bray was the mechanic who kept the machine tuned up and running smoothly. He was the only Tiger who played more minutes than Hummer, and he emerged as a reliable threat from behind the arc. He runs the show and must continue to play at a very high level for the Tigers to improve.

Denton Koon, Junior. Henderson’s first impact recruit, the 6’8” Missouri native has contributed in a major way since early in his freshman year. A natural forward, Koon became an emergency backcourt fill-in last year, impressing everyone with his versatility. He should thrive in his more comfortable spot.

Hans Brase, Sophomore. Much is expected from Brase after his early splash. He showed his relative immaturity at times last year, but should benefit a great deal from his exposure. Brase displayed a frustrating tendency to foul too much but he has a very high ceiling, indeed.

Question Marks

Bray needs a running mate in the backcourt. Jimmy Sherburne returns after missing the entire year due to a gruesome shoulder dislocation, suffered just as he was emerging as a potential star. He could be the answer. Someone in the talented class of incoming freshmen must step up in the way Koon did two years ago if this team hopes to be a factor in the Ivy race.

Prediction

Tommy Amaker may have more starters on his second team than most Ivy squads can find on their rosters. That said, Brown, Penn and Yale will be better this year than last, promising that the fight for second place will be spirited. In a transition year, the Tigers, who go on the road early in conference play to Penn and Harvard, may challenge for second but do not appear likely to reach double figures in Ivy wins for a third straight campaign.

5 thoughts on “Season Preview: Princeton Tigers

  1. Not sure Denton Koon counts as “Henderson’s first impact recruit,” given that Koon was admitted weeks before Henderson got the job.

  2. Nice job on the preview Toothless Tiger. You have certainly given us some things to think about for the upcoming season. Without question filling in for Ian Hummer and how he impacted not just statistical categories but the intangibles that made him the special player he was. However I must say a player that will be missed as well is Brendan Connolly. As much as we wanted more out of Brendan he was more athletic than maybe he got credit for and not only created some match up problems for other teams he also gave Mitch that big man to match up with opponents big men. As for the 2013-14 season. It is October and we are anxious to see some games and do some puzzle solving ourselves. However Mitch has been working on this puzzle since the last horn sounded. One thing we do know. There are pieces of the puzzle still in the box. It will be interesting to see if Mitch has found some missing pieces and how they will fit in. Hey that’s what good coaches do, they solve puzzles. For what it is worth, I think Mitch is a pretty good puzzle solver. And he has time to fit the pieces.

  3. It’s Western Europe in the smoky aftermath of World War II. The dark forces of evil have amassed behind the iron curtain in their blind pursuit of world domination. In their path stand a brave but undermanned group of plucky freedom fighters. The forces of tyranny play by their own rules and wear Crimson and Black. The forces of good follow the rules of sportsmanship and fair play. They wear Orange — and Green, and Brown, and Light Blue, and Red and Blue, and, well, Red and Blue.

    Whom do we cheer in the battle for the soul of the Ivy League?

    U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

  4. Odd not to mention Will Barrett returning since he was one of the nation’s most accurate three-point shooters and contributed in a lot of areas.

    This team will have to find some answers in the low post on both ends–losing Darrow and Connolly, as well as Hummer, leaves Brase at 6’8″ as the only post guy with significant playing time. Somebody’s going to have to do the dirty work on the defensive glass, even if “somebody” is “everybody.” And the four returning starters had better have improved offensively in some way in order to make up for all the possessions Hummer ate up last year.

Leave a Comment