Notre Dame staved off the madness to start the NCAA tournament.
The fifth-seeded Fighting Irish fought off an upset bid from No. 12 Princeton and claimed a 60-58 victory in a first-round matchup in Buffalo.
The Tigers had multiple chances late to either tie or take a lead, but were unable to convert, keeping them without an NCAA tournament win since 1998. Princeton had a look to tie it with 18 seconds left, but Steven Cook’s 3-pointer was off the mark, though a tip-in from Pete Miller pulled the Tigers within one. Matt Farrell then missed the front-end of a one-and-one, giving Princeton the ball down one.
The Tigers pushed the ball past halfcourt, but Devin Cannady settled for a decent 3-point look rather than attack the rim and his offering clanked off the rim.
Notre Dame entered the game as the country’s top free-throw shooting team at 79.9 percent, but struggled mightily at the line this day, going 14 of 21 (66.7 percent), which in no small part helped the Tigers stick around and ultimately have a chance to win the game on the final possession.
Bonzie Colson had 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists for the Irish. Farrell had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Princeton got 15 points from Spencer Weisz in a game in which they shot 38.6 percent from the floor and 25.8 percent from 3-point range, but still had an opportunity to win.
The Irish will now await the winner of No. 4 West Virginia and No. 13 Bucknell for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 in the West region.
Introducing Cinderella: Princeton Tigers back to the tournament for the 25th time
Seeding: Princeton has the second-longest active winning streak in the nation, trailing only Vermont. Winners of 19 in a row, the Tigers are likely destined for to be a No. 13 seed, according to NBC Sports bracketology. Given the other projected No. 13 seeds, Princeton has the highest RPI of the group.
Names you need to know: Spencer Weisz is the Ivy League Player of the Year. While he’s fourth on the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game, but he led the Tigers in rebounds (5.4 RPG), assists (4.0 APG) and steals (1.6 SPG). Devin Cannady (13.7 PPG), leads the team in scoring, followed by Steven Cook (13.6 PPG) and Myles Stephens (12.2 PPG). Stephens, the 6-foot-5 sophomore, is the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. All four are strong shooters from beyond the arc.
Stats you need to know: 10: The Tigers averaged 10 made 3-pointers a game, shooting 38 percent from deep as a team. More than 40 percent of Princeton’s points come courtesy of the 3-ball. The Tigers also play at a methodical pace, like the Princeton offense tends to be played at, meaning they make the defense work while in search for the best possible shot.
Big wins, bad losses: Aside from sweeping the Ivy League, the Tigers defeated Patriot League champion Bucknell, another projected No. 13 seed, on the road in December. The 72-70 win wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. That win started Princeton’s 19-game win streak. Its worse loss belongs to Saint Joseph’s, which finished second to the bottom in the Atlantic 10 standings.
How’d they get here?: Princeton ran the table in the Ivy League, but it wasn’t all that easy. In the first-ever Ivy League Tournament, the Tigers were rewarded by playing Penn on the Quakers’ home floor, The Palestra. Princeton forced overtime, thanks to a putback by Stephens in the final seconds. After leading by only two at halftime in the title game against Yale, the Tigers were able to pull away after starting the second half on a 13-4 run.
Outlook: Princeton is a balanced team. The Tigers can stretch the floor and put up points in a hurry given their volume of 3-point attempts. Princeton should be a tough out regardless of opponent.
How do I know you?: While it’s been since 2011, Princeton has been a stable part of the NCAA Tournament field for decades. The 2017 NCAA Tournament will be the program’s 25th all-time appearance.
After attending the NBPA Top 100 Camp in late June and playing on a Utah Prospects team that included five-star guard Frank Jackson, 6-foot-7 power forward Yoeli Childs has been on the receiving end of increased attention recruiting-wise in recent weeks. Saturday it was revealed that Childs has trimmed his list to five schools, with two SEC programs making the cut.
Auburn and Vanderbilt, two programs that will have some key front court personnel losses to address after the 2015-16 season, remain under consideration for Childs as do Boise State, BYU and Princeton. While Childs, who attends Bingham HS in South Jordan, Utah, has yet to take an official visit he has unofficially visited both Boise State and BYU.
From a personnel standpoint Auburn will lose three front court players at the end of the 2015-16 season in Cinmeon Bowers, Jordon Granger and Tyler Harris (grad student by way of Providence). The Tigers have just three scholarship front court players who will have eligibility beyond the upcoming season in sophomore Trayvon Reed and freshmen Horace Spencer and Danjel Purifoy (who’s more of a wing than an interior player).
As for Boise State, the Broncos don’t have a scholarship senior in their front court but they do have two juniors in Nick Duncan and James Webb III. Accounting for those eventual departures is a key for head coach Leon Rice and his staff. BYU is in a similar situation as Boise State, however the Cougars will welcome back multiple front court players from their respective LDS missions in 2016-17 including Eric Mika and Payton Dastrup.
Princeton has just one senior in its front court heading into 2015-16 in Hans Brase, but he’s an important player for the Tigers whose departure will need to be accounted for. And while Vanderbilt has just one scholarship senior in the front court in center Josh Harrison, both Damian Jones and Luke Kornet will be juniors.
Pregame Shootaround: No. 6 Arizona looks to avenge lone conference loss, ‘Ivy League Friday’
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Harvard at Princeton, 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
This is one of two games in the Ivy League matching an undefeated team (in conference play) with one that already has suffered a loss, with Tommy Amaker’s Crimson looking to rebound from their home loss to Dartmouth last weekend. And while Wesley Saunders has been Harvard’s leading scorer, the key to slowing down the Crimson is to keep point guard Siyani Chambers in check.
Dartmouth was able to do that, as Chambers scored 13 points but did so on 3-for-11 shooting to go along with three assists and two turnovers. Princeton, which beat Penn in its league opener, is led by forwards Spencer Weisz and Hans Brase. And given the influence that Chambers has on the action for Harvard, this sets up to be quite the opportunity for Princeton freshman guard Amir Bell as well.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Oregon State at. No. 6 Arizona, 10:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
Sean Miller’s Wildcats have just one conference loss thus far, a 58-56 defeat suffered in Corvallis just under three weeks ago. Since then Arizona’s won five straight, with four of the five wins being by double digits. Stanley Johnson’s begun to assert himself as the offensive weapon many expected him to be upon his arrival on campus, and point guard T.J. McConnell continues to lead the way for a group that has shot 49 percent or better from the field in four of their last five games. Oregon State was able to slow down the tempo and use a matchup zone to fluster the Wildcats in their first meeting, but they’re going to need that and an exceptional performance from junior guard Gary Payton II to pull off another upset.
WHO’S ON UPSET ALERT?: Buffalo (-6) vs. Kent State, 10:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
The oddsmakers have the Bulls listed as a six-point favorite for their home game against Kent State, which is sitting atop the MAC East standings with a 6-1 record. But Rob Senderoff’s team already has wins over Ohio and Central Michigan (both at home), and they’re currently on a six-game win streak. This is a game Bobby Hurley’s Bulls need if they’re to factor into the division race, as they’re already two games out of first, and they’ll need to slow down Kent State’s Jimmy Hall in order to get the win. Hall scored 32 in a win over Ball State last weekend, and he followed that up with 15 points and 15 rebounds in a win over Central Michigan Tuesday night. Buffalo will counter with Jarvis Moss, who’s averaging 18.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
Another Ivy League matchup to keep an eye on is Yale’s trip to New York City to take on Columbia (8:00 p.m.). The Bulldogs are 2-0 in league play, and the Lions are looking to rebound from their home loss to Cornell.
Oregon looks to bounce back from a highly disappointing effort in their 90-56 loss at Arizona on Wednesday by beating Arizona State in Tempe (8:00 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). The Sun Devils took care of Oregon State Wednesday night, with Shaquielle McKissic leading a balanced effort with 17 points.
Friday is a key night in the MAAC, with Siena’s trip south to take on Manhattan (7:00 p.m., ESPN3) being one of the games on the slate. If the Saints are to win they’ll have to buckle down defensively, as Jimmy Patsos’ team is ninth in the MAAC in field goal percentage defense (45.5%) and 11th in three-point percentage defense (40.0%) in conference games.
Monmouth’s just a game behind Iona in the loss column at 7-3, and they’ll need a win at Fairfield (8:00 p.m., ESPNU) to make sure that remains the case. Sophomore guard Justin Robinson is averaging 16.4 points per game in conference play for the Hawks. Fairfield is led by Marcus Gilbert, who’s scoring just over 17 per game.
Another Ivy League team to keep an eye on is Cornell, which begins a stretch of four straight home games tonight against Brown (7:00 p.m.). Senior forward Shonn Miller (16.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg) has played very well for the Big Red, and he accounted for 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks in their 57-47 win at Columbia last weekend.
2014-2015 Ivy League Preview: Is this the year someone catches Harvard?
The favorite to win the Ivy League, as has been the case for the last three or four years, is Harvard. The Crimson are coming off of a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament in which they won a game (No. 3 seed New Mexico in 2013, No. 5 seed Cincinnati last year) and return the two best players from that team in Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders, both of whom have a strong argument to be named Preseason Player of the Year. The Crimson will also boast a deep and talented front court, headlined by Steve Moundou-Missi and Zena Edosomwan, but their perimeter depth will be a concern. An injury to either Chambers or Saunders would be a major blow.
Harvard went 13-1 in league play last season, with their one loss coming at home against Yale. The Elis have a chance to put together a truly special season, as junior big man Justin Sears, our Preseason Ivy Player of the Year, is flanked by a pair of all-league caliber guards in seniors Javier Duren and Armani Cotton. Yale is big and they are physical and they love to attack the glass at both ends of the floor, but until they find a way to shoot the ball consistently from the perimeter, the game plan to beat the Bulldogs is fairly straight forward.
There are some other good teams in the league, as the Ivy should once again be one of the toughest mid-major conferences in the country. Columbia is the sleeper, as the Lions bring back everyone from last year’s 8-6 campaign. Kyle Smith’s club controls tempo, is loaded with dangerous perimeter shooters, has a handful of big-and-slow-but-tough front court pieces and a pair of big-time scorers in Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg.
Princeton loses T.J. Bray, which would hurt anyone in the conference. They bring back some pieces up front and landed a terrific recruiting class, headlined by high-major prospects Amir Bell and Alec Brennan. Brown, Dartmouth and Penn should all fight for that fifth-place spot, while Cornell looks like it’s destined for the cellar once again despite getting Shonn Miller back.
PRESEASON IVY LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Justin Sears, Yale
Harvard is the most talented team in the Ivy, and while Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders are both deserving of consideration for Preseason Player of the Year, neither does as much for their team as Sears does for Yale. The Elis are built around their ability to attack the glass and control the paint, and Sears (16.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is the reason why they’re able to do that. A physical, 6-foot-8 forward, he rebounds, blocks shots and can step out and beat a defender on the perimeter. The rising junior will be the focus of every opponent’s game-plan again this season.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-IVY TEAM:
Siyani Chambers, Harvard: There have been very few Ivy League point guards that are capable of doing what Chambers (11.4 ppg, 4.6 apg) has done in his first two seasons. His influence goes well beyond his stat line.
Wes Saunders, Harvard: A 6-foot-5 wing, Saunders is the leading scorer (14.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.8 apg) and most talented player on the best team in the conference.
Shonn Miller, Cornell: Miller missed the 2013-2014 season, one in which the Big Red went 2-26. But he’s a beast that will put up numbers (11.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.9 spg, 1.9 bpg in ’12-’13).
Alex Rosenberg, Columbia: A 6-foot-7 forward, Rosenberg is the leading scorer (16.0 ppg, 43.2% 3PT) for a Columbia team that has an outside chance of winning the league.
Thursday morning the full field for the 2014 Wooden Legacy was announced, with 2014 NCAA tournament participants Western Michigan and Xavier among the eight teams. Also in the field is Washington, which is looking to return to the NCAA tournament after missing out in each of the last three seasons, and Long Beach State will serve as the “host” team in the event that annually features a Big West program.
Princeton, San Diego, San Jose State and UTEP round out the eight-team field, with the event being played November 27 and 28 (Thursday and Friday) at Cal State Fullerton and November 30 (Sunday) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Of the eight teams five participated in postseason play last year, with San Diego playing in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and Princeton and UTEP landing in the CBI field. As mentioned above, Western Michigan (MAC tournament champions) and Xavier (at-large from the Big East) reached the NCAA tournament with the Broncos losing to Syracuse and the Musketeers falling to NC State.
From a wins standpoint UTEP and Western Michigan were the most successful teams in 2013-14, with each winning 23 games. San Jose State, in its first season as a member of the Mountain West, won just six games last season.