A take on the top 10 teams in Ivy men’s hoops history

Editor’s note: Ivy Hoops Online writer Richard Kent has followed Ancient Eight men’s basketball for decades and after consultation with players, coaches and fans has compiled his personal list of the top 10 men’s hoops teams since the formation of the Ivy League as we know it in 1955. No top 10 list in this category is going to look the same, so if you have a top 10 of your own that you’d like to share, please share it in a comment below. 

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Princeton has become a different team going into Penn rematch

Mike Tony posted an excellent recap of Saturday’s heart-stopping overtime victory by the Tigers over arch-rival Penn. I thought I’d share some of my own observations.

Pete Carril was on hand to welcome back one of his favorite teams, the 1969 Ivy Champions, celebrating the 50th anniversary of that title. Most of the members of that team returned, led by NBA first-rounders Geoff Petrie and John Hummer. The first game in Jadwin Gym, also against Penn, was played 50 years ago this month.

The Tigers of January are a far different team than the one that opened the Division I season absorbing a sound thrashing by Lehigh in Bethlehem. Let’s break down the changes, most of which have been positive.

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Ivy 60 for 60: Geoff Petrie

Geoff Petrie (24) averaged 21.8 points, 4.6 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game during his Princeton career. (Princeton Athletics)

Following our countdown of the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s men’s basketball history this summer, Ivy Hoops Online is delighted to continue celebrating the 60th anniversary of modern Ivy League basketball by honoring the top 60 players in Ivy hoops history (in no particular order). For the next entry in our Ivy 60 for 60 series, we cover one of the greatest players in Princeton basketball history.

When Butch van Breda Kolff left Princeton for the glitz and glamor of the NBA after the 1967 season, the Tiger tank was anything but empty. Among the players Pete Carril found on his roster were two future NBA draftees, John Hummer and the subject of this profile, Geoff Petrie.

Petrie was, quite simply, the best player I have ever seen in a Tiger uniform. I did not see Bradley in person, and all must acknowledge that he was the most important player, if not the greatest, in the history of the League. Nevertheless, a strong case can be made that Petrie is the best player ever. (Paul Hutter makes it in his wonderful 2014 volume, The Golden Age of Ivy League Basketball.)

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Columbia all-time moment No. 2: Jim McMillian’s third straight All-American selection

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Columbia is next because you don’t mess around with Jim.

The man behind the best prolonged stretch of basketball in Columbia history receives his own honor in our countdown.

There are individual moments in Jim McMillian’s career one could point to, such as his 37-point effort against Princeton in 1968’s playoff, but nothing single-handedly sums up his career better than his postseason accolades. Since freshmen could not play varsity NCAA basketball, McMillian’s three-year run from 1967-68 through 1969-70 is unequaled in Columbia history and is unlikely to be repeated by anyone going forward. McMillian led Columbia to an incredible 63-14 record in his tenure, including the 1968 Ivy title and 20-4 and 20-5 records the next two years, finishing second in the league. Had the landscape of NCAA basketball looked in the late 1960s as it does today, McMillian likely would have had more than just one postseason opportunity as the Lions were ranked in the top 20 at points in each of his last two season with nothing to show for it. Nonetheless, his career on the court is unparalleled in Lions history.

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Columbia all-time moment No. 3: Columbia clinches 1968 NCAA Tourney berth

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Columbia is next because the Dave Newmark did Willis Reed in NYC before Willis Reed did Willis Reed in NYC.

The best season in Columbia basketball history was in jeopardy. Despite a 16-game win streak and a dominating stretch in Ivy play, the Lions had to face a Princeton Tigers team which just defeated them by 11 points. The winner would be the Ivy representative in the 23-team NCAA Tournament, the loser would be unlikely to make the NIT. For a Columbia team sitting at 20-4, anything less than a title would have been an extraordinary disappointment, even to be taken down by a Princeton squad who was 20-5 and started the preseason ranked No. 8 in the nation.

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Reunions celebration reveals updates for Princeton

Tiger head coach Mitch Henderson met with fans, friends and alumni Friday at Robertson Hall during Princeton’s recent annual Reunions celebration. The freewheeling Q&A session touched on a number of timely topics which may be of interest to IHO readers. Henderson introduced a new member of his staff, Donovan Williams, who spent the past five seasons learning his craft as a member of Fran O’Hanlon’s Lafayette staff. Williams fills the spot vacated by Marcus Jenkins, who rejoins Tiger alum Chris Mooney at Richmond.

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