Princeton’s roller-coaster regular season ended in calamity this weekend. In a season of ups and downs, the Tigers saved their worst for last, losing back-to-back games in convincing fashion at home to Brown and Yale. After surrendering an astounding 25 turnovers to Brown on Friday night, the Tigers completely collapsed on Senior Night, losing by 22 points on Saturday to Yale, 81-59. It was the most lopsided loss by a Princeton team at home to Yale in program history.
Everything is at stake on Friday night when the Princeton Tigers men’s basketball team clashes with the Dartmouth Big Green in Hanover. And by everything, I mean winning an Ivy League regular season championship. That’s the goal for a program like Princeton’s every year.
Earning a berth in the conference postseason tournament is a nice reward, and one that Princeton very nearly has cemented at this point. But make no mistake, the real goal for Princeton this year—and every year—is to win an Ivy League championship. When you win an Ivy League championship, they put a banner in the rafters enshrining the memory of your team for eternity. Princeton players and fans are reminded of the glory of Princeton’s greatest players and teams every time they enter Jadwin Gym and gaze upon that awesome pantheon of conference championship banners hanging in the rafters.
It’s been an up and down season for the Princeton men’s basketball team. During the nonconference schedule, the Tigers see-sawed up and down, with jaw-dropping losses and heart-stopping wins, including the largest loss in program history to Duke and a win for the ages at nationally ranked Arizona State.
The roller coaster ride has continued for the Tigers during the Ivy League season. The conference slate began with a surprising four-game winning streak, including a thrilling, back-to-back sweep of arch-rival Penn. As Princeton entered the heart of its conference schedule, the Tigers sat in the catbird seat, atop the Ivy League standings with a perfect 4-0 record. Even better, the team learned that its senior co-captain and leading scorer and rebounder, Devin Cannady, would be allowed to return to the team after serving a three-game suspension for a violation of team rules. The future looked bright.
But then the roller-coaster suddenly dived downward again. A second straight road weekend took its toll on the Tigers as Princeton was swept convincingly by Yale and Brown. A third straight loss by nine points at home to Harvard on Friday night dropped Princeton to fourth in the League standings, and suddenly the season sat on a precipice.
Princeton’s customary post-holiday exam break normally passes quietly and uneventfully for the men’s and women’s basketball teams as the Tigers play no games for more than two weeks while the rest of the college basketball world shifts into high gear for conference play.
This year, a stunning development marred the exam break with the news that senior co-captain Devin Cannady had been suspended from the team for a violation of team rules. The University has remained tight-lipped about Cannady’s status, making no announcements about when or whether Cannady will return to the team. In what perhaps is an indication that the Princeton sharpshooter may be allowed to return to the team at some point this season, Cannady sat on the team bench during Princeton’s return to action on Sunday against Division III opponent Wesley College of Delaware.
With back-to-back wins over No. 17 Arizona State and the defending Ivy League champion Penn Quakers, the Princeton men’s basketball team has their fans wondering whether the Tigers can contend for a league title.
A few weeks ago, thoughts of an Ivy League championship seemed wholly unrealistic. After an exhibition win over Division III DeSales, the Tigers opened their Division I season inauspiciously with double-digit losses at Lehigh and at home against Farleigh Dickinson. Princeton’s prospects brightened after three straight wins over Monmouth, Maine and George Washington; however, both Monmouth and Maine were winless when Princeton played them, and George Washington was 1-6 when the Colonials invaded Jadwin Gym.
Another pair of double-digit losses to St. Joseph’s and St. John’s suggested that Princeton hadn’t cured its defensive woes of a season ago when the Tigers allowed nearly 72 points per game, worst in the Ivy League. Then the Tigers suffered their most lopsided loss in program history, when the Duke Blue Devils thrashed Princeton by an astonishing 51 points at Cameron Indoor Stadium in a nationally televised game.