Next March will mark five years since the Princeton men’s team last reached the NCAA Tournament — five years since the Tigers faced off against co-champion Harvard in New Haven, five years since Doug Davis ’12 drained his last-second jumper to push Princeton over the top.
“Everyone remembers the Doug Davis shot,” said Spencer Weisz ’17, a high school junior in North Jersey at the time. “It was unbelievable watching it on ESPN. It’s something I always dreamed of being a part of. So now, I really have an itch of wanting be there, having two years under my belt and not experiencing it. … We all want to get there.”
Weisz is one of five returning starters for this year’s Tigers, who are projected to be in the thick of a very competitive Ivy League race when the conference season begins in January. (Yale, Princeton, and Columbia all received first-place votes in the preseason media poll, while defending co-champ Harvard ranked fourth.) But first, the team will navigate a challenging nonconference slate and look to build on a strong finish last year that saw Princeton win its final four games.
“Later on in the season, we were able to find ways to win that we weren’t able to early on,” Weisz said. “I think that’s where we’re going to hopefully start out the season — knowing how to win games.”
In the offseason, coach Mitch Henderson ’98 has emphasized defense and a stronger inside presence on offense, after relying heavily on the perimeter game last year.
Like many of his peers, Henderson is curious to see how the new 30-second shot clock will affect his team. Being poised late in the shot clock will be key, he said — and having experienced guards should help Princeton in that area.
Henderson and Weisz both expect big things from point guard Amir Bell ’18, who averaged 8.8 points while starting all 30 games in his freshman year. “He can be phenomenal,” Weisz said. “He can be one of the best guards in the league, hands down. He has the skill set, he has the mind for it.”
G - Amir Bell ’18
G - Spencer Weisz ’17
F - Hans Brase ’16
F - Steven Cook ’17
F - Pete Miller ’17
F - Henry Caruso ’17
F - Alec Brennan ’18
G - Aaron Young ’18
G - Devin Cannady ’19
G - Myles Stephens ’19
F - Noah Bramlage ’19
Since the Princeton women made a spash with their 30-0 regular-season record and first-round NCAA Tournament win last year, forward Alex Wheatley ’16 and her teammates have noticed, well, being noticed.
Walking around campus, Wheatley said, “Some of our younger fans, if you’re wearing your Princeton gear you’ll see them nudge their mom and be like, ‘Was that—?’ It’s fun.”
The Tigers are enjoying another type of recognition this November: a No. 25 ranking in the preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll. They were the heavy favorite in the Ivy League’s preseason media poll as well, with 16 of 17 first-place votes.
With five Ivy titles in six years, coach Courtney Banghart has a good sense of what her team needs to do to realize those promising forecasts — and it begins with defense. “Every year we’ve won it, we’ve been the best team in the league defensively, and that means everything from challenging shots to rebounding,” she said. “Those two things remain critical parts of who we are. This team can score. We spend a lot more time on the defensive end.”
The Tigers return four big-time scorers in Wheatley (10.9 points per game), Annie Tarakchian ’16 (10.3), Michelle Miller ’16 (11.6), and Vanessa Smith ’17 (7.5 as a reserve). They also add a dynamic freshman class that includes two players Banghart projects as immediate contributors, Sydney Jordan ’19 and Qalea Ismail ’19.
Tarakchian said the freshmen are adjusting to college basketball, where everyone was a 1,000-point scorer somewhere and the upperclassmen have the benefit of a few extra years of training in the weight room. “Freshman year, from my experience, I felt like I got hit by a bus,” she said. “But that’s just how it feels for everyone. You have to stay confident.”
G - Amanda Berntsen ’16
G - Vanessa Smith ’17
G - Michelle Miller ’16
F - Annie Tarakchian ’16
F - Alex Wheatley ’16
F - Taylor Williams ’16
F - Leslie Robinson ’18
G - Tia Weledji ’18
G - Kenya Holland ’18
G - Taylor Brown ’17
G/F - Sydney Jordan ’19
G - Qalea Ismail ’19
Princeton men’s basketball
Fri., Nov. 13, Rider 7 p.m. TV: The Comcast Network
Sat., Nov. 21, SAINT PETER’S 9 p.m. *at Dillon Gym
Wed., Nov. 25, LAFAYETTE 7 p.m.
Mon., Nov. 30, FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 5, Stony Brook 2 p.m.
Tue., Dec. 8, Saint Joseph’s 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 12, Lipscomb 4 p.m.
Thu., Dec. 17, LIBERTY 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 19, Maryland 7 p.m. TV: Big Ten Network
Tue., Dec. 22, BUCKNELL 7 p.m.
Tue., Dec. 29, Miami (Fla.) 7 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 3, Hampton 5 p.m.
Tue., Jan. 5, Norfolk State 7 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 9, Penn 4:30 p.m. TV: Fox Sports 1
Sun., Jan. 24, BRYN ATHYN 2 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 29, Brown 6 p.m. TV: American Sports Network
Sat., Jan. 30, Yale 7 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 5, HARVARD 7 p.m. TV: ESPNU
Sat., Feb. 6, DARTMOUTH 6 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 12, Cornell 6 p.m. TV: American Sports Network
Sat., Feb. 13, Columbia 7 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 19, YALE 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 20, BROWN 6 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 26, COLUMBIA 6 p.m. TV: American Sports Network
Sat., Feb. 27, CORNELL 6 p.m.
Fri., March 4, Harvard 7 p.m.
Sat., March 5, Dartmouth 7 p.m.
Tue., March 8, Penn 8 p.m.
Princeton women’s basketball
Fri., Nov. 13, AMERICAN 7 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 15, DUQUESNE 2 p.m.
Thu., Nov. 19, Seton Hall 7 p.m. TV: Fox Sports 2
Tue., Nov. 24, Rider 7 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 27, UC-Irvine 10 a.m., at Loyola Marymount Tournament
Sat., Nov. 28, LMU/Seattle TBA, at Loyola Marymount Tournament
Sun., Dec. 6, MICHIGAN 4 p.m. TV: ESPN2
Tue., Dec. 8, MONMOUTH 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 12, PITTSBURGH 3 p.m.
Mon, Dec. 14, FORDHAM 7 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 18, Ohio State 7 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 20, Dayton 2 p.m.
Tue., Dec. 29, Marist 7 p.m.
Sun., Jan. 3, HAMPTON 2 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 9, Penn 1 p.m.
Fri., Jan. 29, BROWN 7 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 30, YALE 6 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 5, Dartmouth 7 p.m.
Sun., Feb. 7, Harvard 12 p.m. TV: American Sports Network
Fri., Feb. 12, CORNELL 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 13, COLUMBIA 6 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 19, Yale 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 20, Brown 7 p.m.
Fri., Feb. 26, Columbia 7 p.m.
Sat., Feb. 27, Cornell 6 p.m.
Fri., March 4, HARVARD 7 p.m.
Sat., March 5, DARTMOUTH 7:30 p.m.
Tue., March 8, PENN 5:30 p.m.