Game Preview: Princeton at Pitt (CBI Quarters)

You almost get the feeling that the CBI is putting something in the water.

A day after Princeton went off for 95 points against Evansville (a score I never thought I”d write while covering this year”s Tigers), Pitt scored 81 in a rout of visiting

Wofford. Granted, it”s probably got less to do with the water and more to do with high-scoring teams playing new opponents without much advance scouting, but either way, the point is that defense has been at a premium so far in the tournament.

With all due respect to Evansville and a very good Missouri Valley Conference, the Pittsburgh Panthers represent a whole different breed of challenger for the Tigers. Say what you will about Pitt”s stumbles in the Big East, but this is still a team that was ranked in the Top-25 in both the coaches” poll and the AP

and had a great record in non-conference play before the Big East gauntlet. While clearly not the same team that earned a one seed to the Big Dance last season, Pitt is not a team to be taken lightly in the CBI.

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Princeton 95, Evansville 86; Tigers Advance to CBI Quarterfinals

Princeton scored 95 points, a season high, in a thrilling victory at Evansville in the first round of the CBI. (Photo Credit: courierpress.com)

Apparently Doug Davis wants to play at least one more game as a Princeton Tiger. (And who said the CBI couldn’t be fun?)

Just over a year after he sank the buzzer beater at New Haven to send the Tigers to the big dance, Davis caught fire again, this time exploding for 31 points (a career high) as Princeton knocked off Evansville, 95-86, to advance to the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational.

Davis’s offensive performance was, simply put, masterful. The Princeton senior shot 9-11 from the field, including 5-6 from beyond the arc, and was a perfect 8-8 at the line. Take a minute. Let those numbers sink in. Doug Davis only missed twice! All game! In the ADRC hdd regenerator Tools v1. 19 times he threw the ball towards the hoop! I mean, come on!

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CBI 1st Round: Princeton Travels to Evansville

Ian Hummer leads Princeton back into the postseason for the third consecutive year, as the Tigers head to Evansville in the CBI. (Photo Credit: msn.foxsports.com)

Bad news first, Tiger fans – Princeton didn’t make the NIT, denied

whatever small modicum of prestige an appearance at the second-tier tournament might bestow (mainly, bragging rights over Penn). But the good news is that the Tigers still have a chance to prove their superiority over the Quakers, as both Princeton and Penn head into what could potentially be a pretty wild CBI for Ivy League basketball fans.

First, a quick reminder about the structure and quirks of the College Basketball Invitational: the CBI is a sixteen-team tournament, and the championship is played as a best-of-three series, with the two teams in the finals alternating home venues. The other funky twist is that the teams are reseeded for the semifinals after the first two rounds of play (more on why that might make things very interesting in a minute).

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Princeton's Hot Finish

Princeton fans were in a tough spot in this game, knowing one of their foes would benefit no matter the outcome. (Photo Credit: princetonbasketball.com)

The game ought to have been Penn’s for the taking. The Quakers were playing for the chance to punch their ticket to Quinnipiac (because of course that’s the logical neutral site, Ivy League!), where a date with Harvard awaited. The team had trumped the Tigers at the Palestra by 15 points earlier in the season. And perhaps most importantly, Penn had Zach Rosen, who would be declared the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year the next day, wearing the still-fresh scent of a Harvard slayer and coming into the game playing

sensational basketball.

In the end, it wasn’t even that close. The game might not have had any direct postseason implications for Princeton (although there are now rumblings of a possible NIT berth), but the Tigers played like a team possessed. Princeton started the game on a 10-2 run and led

the rest of the way. Penn cut the lead to 3 midway through the second period, but Princeton made its free throws down the stretch (14-18 in the second half) and had a comfortable hold on the game in the last few minutes.

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Game Preview: Penn at Princeton

Princeton's senior point guard looks to close out his career at Jadwin with a victory over the rival Quakers. (Photo credit: dailyprincetonian.com)

Just like last year, the season finale between Princeton and Penn will decide whether or not the league hosts a one-game playoff with Harvard to determine the Ivy League’s bid to the NCAA tournament. But this year, only a Princeton loss ensures that Harvard is, for the second straight year, saddled with the terribly emasculating “co-” prefix and forced to live with an asterisk next to its “Ivy

League title.” Skeptics and conspiracy theorists might make the boneheaded argument that the Tigers, based on the team’s recent history with the Crimson, might not have too much incentive to play all that hard, relishing the chance to see that the Harvard program, after a season that at times resembled a coronation, is put back in its place a bit and forced to stoop to the indignity of yet another playoff game.

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Game Preview: Princeton at Harvard

The last four games between Harvard and Princeton have been true battles. Expect more of the same on Friday night, though Harvard has been unbeatable at home over the past two seasons. (Photo Credit: baynews9.com)

Which team do you think is more worried about Friday night’s Princeton-Harvard game in Cambridge?

In one corner we have Princeton, by any metric the inferior basketball team, forced out of the cozy confines of Jadwin Gymnasium to the frigid hinterlands of New England to face the best team in the conference and one of the nation”s elite defenses. In the other corner, Goliath Harvard, already the proud owners of a twenty-win season and riding a 27-game win streak at Lavietes. On paper, Princeton is just an orange speed bump on the way to the Crimson’s first ever outright Ivy League title and a bid to the NCAA tournament.

But, as the American novelist James Baldwin once said, “the most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” Granted, in context I think Baldwin was talking about the crippling effect of poverty on society at large, but ignore that for now and consider the relative positions of Princeton and Harvard going in to Friday’s game. A Princeton loss doesn’t hurt the team that much – they’ve already shown the postseason tournaments they can beat a Top-25 team in Harvard and their chance of actually winning the Ivy League is still miniscule even if they beat the Crimson. A Harvard loss, on the other hand, suddenly makes Saturday’s Penn game a high-stress, must-win scenario for Harvard and derails what’s been a relatively smooth coronation process through the Ivy League. Couple that with Princeton’s recent win streak and the crazy gleam the Tigers seem to get in their eyes whenever they play Harvard, and you could make the argument that, right now, Princeton is the most dangerous team in the Ivy League. Not the best – the most dangerous.

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In an Up and Down Season, a Statement Victory

Now that they've cleared the crowd off of Carril Court, what can we make of Saturday night's big victory for the Tigers? (Photo Credit: goprincetontigers.com)

At first, there was only euphoria. Sheer, blinding, unadulterated joy. There wasn’t room for anything else. Princeton beat Harvard on Carril Court as the legendary coach watched, besweatered as always, from the raucous stands. Mitch Henderson, the man who played for Carril and now carries on his legacy, had his first signature Ivy League win. The Tigers handed the Crimson its first Ivy League loss of the season Saturday night, knocking off a Top-25 team at home for the first time since the late “70s.

Who could blame the Princeton faithful for storming the court once the final buzzer sounded? Christmas came early for Tiger fans, after an Ivy League season that at times promised little more than a lump of coal. The win over Harvard, without a doubt, represented the zenith of Princeton’s season.

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Game Preview: Dartmouth at Princeton

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After playing their first five Ivy League games on the road (and 12 of their last 13 games away from Central New Jersey), the Princeton Tigers finally return to Jadwin Gymnasium to face Dartmouth on Friday. Princeton is looking to get back to .500 in Ivy League play after losing to Yale in New Haven last week, while the Big Green is still searching for its first league win of the season.

History is not kind to Dartmouth’s hopes of notching a minor upset against the Tigers this weekend. As noted by the Dartmouth basketball website with a sort of grim determination earlier this week, since Jadwin Gym opened in 1968, the Big Green has won only 3 of 43 games at Princeton. The Tigers have won the last four meetings with Dartmouth, and have yet to lose back-to-back games in the Ivy League this season (granted, they’ve also failed to win back-to-back games against their Ivy competition, which doesn’t bode well for Harvard’s visit Saturday night, but that’s a concern for an entirely separate blog post).

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Game Preview: Princeton at Brown

The Bears were able to knock off the heavily favored Tigers last time Princeton paid a visit to the Pizz. Will Brown prevail at home again in 2012? (Photo Credit: brownbears.com)

In a parallel Ivy League season, one where Princeton didn”t drop an early game to Cornell and Zack Rosen didn”t use the Tigers as a backdrop against which to cement his early candidacy for Ivy League POY, Saturday night”s Brown-Princeton matchup in Providence would have all the signs of a classic trap game. After all, Brown”s been deceptively good at home this season (5-6 in Providence, 1-6 on the road) and the Bears are coming off an impressive (for them) 1-1 week that saw Andrew McCarthy named Ivy League Player of the Week after rejecting a school record 7 shots against Dartmouth and holding his own against the staunch Crimson front line. And with heavyweight Yale looming, perhaps Princeton”s focus might waver against depleted Brown and give the Bears a window of upset opportunity.

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Game Preview: Princeton at Penn

A big game from Ian Hummer will be the key to a must-win game for Princeton

at the Palestra on Monday night. (Photo Credit: goprincetontigers.com)

Normally, a Penn-Princeton athletic contest is a sort of coy celebration of the temperamental, are-they-aren't-they rivalry — Penn says definitely yes while Princeton plays hard to get and pretends to be “rivals” with Yale and Harvard instead. But Monday night's basketball game transcends the usual warmed-over faux-rivalry storyline in favor of Ivy League basketball relevance. After Harvard's Friday night destruction of Yale, Penn is now one of two undefeated teams left in the Ivy League, while Princeton needs this one to realistically remain in the title chase.

That means that when all is said and done Tuesday morning, the topography of the league will have shifted dramatically. If Penn can take care of business at home, the Quakers will enjoy a two-way tie for first place and will have dropped Princeton into the Ivy League's bottom half. On the flip side, Princeton has a chance to blow the league wide open and admit a new member to the growing club of one-loss teams.

Last year Princeton swept the season series, winning an OT thriller at home and handily defeating Penn at the Palestra. But will this year be different for these two squads? Let's take a look!

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