The 1966-67 Princeton Tigers: Greatest Ivy team of all time?

Gary Walters and Chris Thomforde on the Feb.
27, 1967 cover of SI.
(Sports Illustrated)
Is it really a debate? Many scribes and Ivy observers say no. The greatest Ivy team of all time? Easy.
It’s either the 1964-65 Princeton Tigers with the greatest Ivy player ever, Bill Bradley, or the 1970-71 Penn Quakers with their gaudy 28-1 record, which included a perfect 26-0 in the regular season.
Those Tigers never rose higher than No. 20 in the polls, and that Penn team had the bewildering 90-47 loss to a Villanova team which it had beaten during the regular season.
But wait a minute. How about the long forgotten 1966-67 Princeton team, coached by Butch van Breda Kolff? They did a few things which no other Ivy has done.

The Tigers that season went 25-3 and 13-1 in Ivy play, beating No. 2 UNC at fabled Carmichael Arena. They blew out the second-best Rutgers team ever, led by All-American Bob Lloyd and Jim Valvano, on the road and came within a hair of beating Carolina again, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, losing 78-70 in overtime, after beating West Virginia in the first round. They came back to blast a very strong St. John’s team in the Regional consolation game, rising as high as No. 3 in the polls and finished No. 5.

 Who better to ask than Gary Walters, the star sophomore point guard on the ’64-’65 team and the all-everything on the ’66-’67 team? There is no question in his mind that the latter Tiger team was superior. It didn’t boast the best player in the land in Bradley but nevertheless enjoyed incredibly balanced scoring and rebounding and probably was the only team in the country capable of giving the Lew Alcindor-led UCLA national championship team a run for its money.
Two Princeton players adorned the cover of Sports Illustrated on Feb. 27, 1967, whose title read, “Princeton Builds a Basketball Dynasty.” That was probably prophetic, as from 1964 to 1979, Princeton was easily one of the top 20 programs in the country. The ’66-67 Tigers’ two top players were Walters and sophomore center Chris Thomforde from Long Island. Thomforde had a tremendous high school career and chose Princeton over the likes of Northwestern, Duke and Dean Smith’s UNC. Frosh were not eligible to play varsity when Thomforde entered, and his frosh team was undistinguished.
Thomforde had to beat out talented Robinson Brown for the coveted center spot on the varsity and did so quickly. Brown was classy about losing his spot and at times, both players played simultaneously. Thomforde and Walters developed a quick chemistry and played like veterans together. Thomforde cites the road Rutgers blowout win and the win at UNC as season highlights and firmly believes that the ’67 team could have competed with UCLA for the national championship if it had not entered the NCAA tourney so injured. Thomforde had played competitively against Alcindor in high school. But Walters had injured his hamstring against Rutgers, John Haarlow had a high ankle sprain and Ed Hummer had a bad hip.
Thomforde got to know Bradley in his junior season, when Bradley returned from his two-year Rhodes Scholarship stint. They have maintained a lifelong friendship. Bradley credits Thomforde for playing on the second-best Princeton team of all-time. Thomforde felt that he knew better but never engaged the former New Jersey senator and presidential candidate in a debate on the topic. He respected Bradley far too much.

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Princeton graduate transfer Hans Brase commits to Iowa State

Hans Brase is going to be a Cyclone.

Brase has committed to Iowa State, the Des Moines Register reported Friday. Brase had suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries in 2015-16 and 2016-17 at Princeton, including a torn ACL in 2015.

The Clover, S.C. native, a 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game during his 93 contests as a Tiger.

 

No. 5 Notre Dame ekes out 60-58 win over No. 12 Princeton in NCAA Tournament

Princeton had what it wanted: sophomore sharpshooter and Indiana native Devin Cannady launching an open three-pointer from the left wing for a chance to beat Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center.

Cannady’s high-arcing trey rimmed out, though, and the Fighting Irish hung on for a 60-58 victory, ending a remarkable Princeton (23-7, 14-0 Ivy) season that in the regular season culminated in winning the inaugural Ivy League men’s basketball tournament.

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Grading the inaugural Ivy League Tournament

After years of debating and voting on the efficacy of an Ivy League Tournament, the first one is in the books.

And it certainly has engendered much discussion amongst the Ivy faithful, given its prominence on the ESPN family of networks this past weekend (ESPNU for the semifinals and ESPN2 for the final).

From a national perspective, not so much, despite the fact that the venerable college basketball writer John Feinstein was one of the media members in attendance for the Saturday session. With that said, here is an attempt to grade the event in different categories:

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On the Vine – Mar. 15, 2017

Joining hosts Peter Andrews and Mike Tony for a special Ivy League Tournament recap and NCAA Tournament preview edition of On the Vine are special guest Bobby Norell of One Foot Down (SB Nation’s Notre Dame site), and IHO writers Rob Browne and George Clark.

(Here’s Norell’s Princeton-Notre Dame preview for One Foot Down.)

The panel gets a detailed breakdown of Notre Dame’s team, season and program from Norell and then reflects extensively on the ups and downs of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament and the future of the tourney.

Myles Stephens: The silent assassin

The silent assassin strikes in one of his louder moments. (Princeton Athletics)

Just moments after his Yale Bulldogs were eliminated by the Princeton Tigers in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament, James Jones faced a contingent of media reps seeking his analysis of the tourney final.

Jones does not parse his words. He said that during a timeout in the second half, called to halt the gathering Tiger momentum, he noticed on the stat sheet that Myles Stephens, the Tiger sophomore, had scored 18 points. He turned to an assistant and asked, “How did that happen? That’s the quietest 18 points I have ever seen.” He described Stephens as “the silent assassin.”

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No. 1 Penn defeats No. 2 Princeton, 57-48, earns third NCAA Tournament berth in four years

No. 1 Penn bested No. 2 Princeton, 57-48, at the Palestra Sunday, handing the Quakers the Ivy League Tournament title and their third NCAA Tournament appearance in the past four seasons.

Penn (21-7, 13-1) used a 14-4 second quarter advantage to create separation between itself and the Tigers (16-12, 9-5), who shot just 18-for-64 (28.1 percent) from the floor.

The Red and Blue were led by Michelle Nwokedi, who posted 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Anna Ross, who notched 17 points. Pacing the Tigers were Bella Alarie, who contributed 11 points and 11 boards, and Leslie Robinson, who registered nine points in 27 minutes of play.

Penn swept its three meetings with Princeton this season and has won its last five matchups with the Tigers.

Penn will hold a NCAA Tournament Selection Monday watch party at the Palestra. Doors to the Palestra will open at 6:15 p.m., and admission will be free to all for the show beginning at 7 p.m.

No. 12 Princeton to play No. 5 Notre Dame in NCAA Tournament Thursday

Less than four hours after Princeton defeated Yale to clinch in the Ivy League Tournament final to clinch its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011, the Tigers (23-6, 14-0 Ivy) learned they will play Notre Dame (25-9, 12-6 ACC) in the NCAA first round Thursday in Buffalo, in the West region.

The matchup will tip off at 12:15 p.m. on CBS, with Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce on the call, per Matt Norlander of CBS Sports.

The Tigers’ last NCAA Tournament victory came in 1998, when they defeated UNLV in the Big Dance as a No. 5 seed.

Princeton’s last NCAA Tournament appearance six years ago was a 59-57 first-round loss to Kentucky as a No. 13 seed.

Like Princeton, Notre Dame prefers to play a slower pace and shoot a lot of three-pointers, and the Fighting Irish rank first in the nation in free throw percentage and 16th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Notre Dame lost to North Carolina in the Elite 8 last season at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia, and the Fighting Irish also made the Elite 8 the previous season.

Notre Dame is led by junior forward Bonzie Colson, who has averaged 17.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, junior guard and Bridgewater, N.J. native Matt Farrell, who has contributed 14.2 points and 5.5 assists per game, senior forward V.J. Beachem and his 15.0 points and 4.1 rebounds, and senior guard and Medford, N.J. Steve Vasturia and his 13.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

The Fighting Irish are 9-8 against top 60 KenPom competition and are ranked No. 25 in KenPom. Princeton is ranked No. 59 by KenPom.