Princeton all-time moment No. 5: NIT champions

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. We’re starting with Princeton because it”s approximately equidistant from Philadelphia and New York, two cities that just love Tiger basketball.

Most fans of college basketball are far too young to remember when the National Invitation Tournament meant something. When it began, New York City was considered the center of the basketball universe and Madison Square Garden the game’s spiritual home. In the years before March Madness and the expanded tournament field, the NIT was accorded a large measure of respect and prestige. By 1975, the NCAA tournament field was 32 teams, the largest it had ever been but less than half of what it is today. The quality of teams available and willing to participate in the NIT was high indeed.

On the whole, the decade of the 1970s may well have been the Golden Age for Tiger basketball, as Pete Carril was able to recruit well enough to produce 11 players who reached the pro ranks in those years. His 1974-75 squad got off to a lackluster start, and, after a one-point loss at Brown, stood at a mediocre 9-8. They casino online would not lose again, notching an impressive win at Virginia on the only occasion in his career when Carril was ejected from the premises for displaying antipathy toward the ACC officiating crew. A 12-2 Ivy record fell one game short of the 13-1 mark compiled by the Quakers, rendering the Tigers an obvious choice for a trip to the Garden.

Leading the Tigers were co-captains, and All-East selections, Armond Hill and Mickey Steuer. Big man Barnes Hauptfuhrer provided scoring punch inside. Nevertheless, the Tigers were not given much chance to improve upon their previous NIT appearance three years earlier which ended in the quarterfinals.

Things started well enough as Princeton soundly trounced Holy Cross by 21 in the opening round. Next up came the Gamecocks of South Carolina who had buried the Tigers by 18 earlier in the season. A Garden crowd of 11,500 cheered the locals lustily as the Tigers reversed the tables on the Gamecocks, racing to an 18-point lead at the half. Princeton made it stand up, 86-67.

Armond Hill lived up to his star billing in the semifinal against Oregon when he made two crucial free throws to give the Tigers a 58-57 lead, then blocked a shot by the Ducks’ great Ron Lee to seal the win.

Providence College reached the final in the opposite bracket, giving the Friars a chance to gain revenge for the Tigers” big upset win 10 years earlier in the East final of the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers dominated again, however, using a four-guard rotation to take control of the game”s pace. The final score was 86-67, giving the Tigers and the Ivy League their only NIT title.

The NIT championship was an important step in the development of the Tiger program. Defeating four excellent teams in a row was an impressive feat and the Tigers accomplished it on a national stage. Carril was clearly finding his stride as a coach on his way to legendary status. Princeton and Penn together extended the league”s credibility far beyond the confines of the northeast corridor.