In years past, Princeton would have already clinched a spot in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The Tigers finished the regular season at 20-6 overall, and undefeated in Ivy League play (14-0). That put them four games ahead of second place Harvard.
The regular season champion of the Ivy League would always received that automatic bid, until this year.
For the first time in it’s glorious history, the Ivy League will host both men’s and women’s conference tournaments. The winners will received automatic bids to the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships, respectively. The top four teams will travel to Philadelphia, PA this weekend for the historic conference tournament taking place at The Palestra.
Despite their regular season dominance and record, the Tigers, riding a 17-game winning streak, face a challenging round through the Ivy League Tournament and into the Big Dance.
In the opening round, Princeton will have to get through Penn, on the Quakers home court. Back on January 7, the Tigers opened conference play with a 61-52 win over Penn. In the second matchup this season, Princeton once again prevailed, beating the Quakers 64-49 at The Palestra.
Penn snuck into the tournament with a win over Harvard in the regular season finale. The Quakers started slow, losing their first six conference games. Since then, they’ve won six of their last eight. The Quakers are led by senior Matt Howard and a pair of freshman in forward AJ Brodeur and guard Ryan Betley.
Princeton has four players averaging double figures in points this season; seniors Steven Cook and Spencer Weisz and sophomores Devin Cannady and Myles Stephens.
If the Tigers get past Penn on Saturday, they will face the winner of Harvard and Yale in the championship on Sunday. While Princeton handled Yale comfortably, twice, this season, they played two very closely contested games against Harvard. The first matchup with Harvard went to overtime with the Tigers pulling out a 63-58 win. In the second matchup, Princeton snuck away with a four point victory, 64-60.
This is the unforgiving reality of the one-bid league; win the tournament – or else. Regular season results out the window, it all comes down to the first ever Ivy League Conference Tournament. Who will be dancing come Sunday night?