It feels like déjà vu all over again.
For the second year in a row, the Princeton men’s basketball team is emerging from its exam break at the top of the Ivy League standings and looking primed to make a run for an Ivy League title after sweeping arch rival Penn in back-to-back games to open the conference season.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Exactly one year ago, the 2018-19 Tigers stood in exactly the same position. That Princeton squad of a year ago started conference play by sweeping Penn in back-to-back games and then beating the New York schools on the road to start the Ivy campaign at 4-0. Hopes of an Ivy League title began to rise until calamity struck and Princeton lost the services of one of its transcendent stars, Devin Cannady. Without their senior co-captain, the Tigers slumped through the rest of the Ivy season, losing six of their final 10 regular season games and finishing a disappointing third in the conference standings.
PRINCETON – The Tigers welcomed intrastate rival Monmouth to Jadwin Gym Tuesday evening in what has become a most entertaining series.
Last year, these two teams struggled to score against each other in what looked at times more like a street fight than a basketball game. A late Devin Cannady three-pointer gave the Tigers a 60-57 win. Mitch Henderson and his Hawk counterpart, King Rice, each arrived in their current positions in 2011. They have become good friends over the years as well as rivals on the court.
The Tigers’ prospects entering Saturday’s road game at Bucknell were not bright. Ken Pomeroy’s analytics suggested a six-point Bison triumph. Princeton fans, while not at all pleased with the 0-5 start, were quick to point out that their opponents were a collective 27-4. While Bucknell is projected to finish second in the Patriot League, the Bison are off to a mediocre 3-5 start, including most recently a 20-point thrashing by Yale.
Tiger fans were treated Tuesday evening to something they have sorely missed this young season: an exciting nail-biter of a college basketball game. The Arizona State Sun Devils capped off an eastern swing seeking revenge for last year’s remarkable upset at the hands of the Tigers in Tempe. In the end ASU got its revenge, but not before the Tigers pushed them into the final seconds with the outcome very much in doubt. A long baseline three by ASU’s Khalid Thomas inside of five seconds left settled the matter, 67-65.
The Tigers arrived in Bloomington to meet the Indiana Hoosiers as 18-point underdogs. Off to a 4-0 start under Archie Miller, the Hoosiers have fired up their rabid fan base fueling hopes of a return to contention at the top of the Big Ten. With low expectations regarding the outcome, Princeton coach Mitch Henderson was prepared to use the game as an opportunity to continue his search for a reliable rotation.
Still smarting from the second-half smackdown at Duquesne on Tuesday, the Tigers packed their bags for a Saturday tilt at San Francisco’s Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors, in the first men’s college basketball game there. While the Tigers’ injury woes are not as serious as the Warriors’, they would miss Ryan Schwieger, who left Tuesday’s game after six minutes, amid an 82-72 defeat.
The biggest story of the off-season was Miye Oni being selected in June’s NBA Draft. The Yale junior and reigning Ivy Player of the Year decided to leave school early and leave his name in the draft. Despite falling to the late second round, a perilous spot to making an NBA roster, Oni impressed in the Summer League and earned a guaranteed contract with the Utah Jazz. He is playing just as well in the pre-season and looks to be a real steal for the Jazz.