Grace Porter ’25 trekked all the way to Sacramento last week to watch the men’s basketball team take on the favored Arizona Wildcats in the first round of March Madness. A ways into the neck-and-neck game, she said, she and her friend realized Princeton really had a chance of winning.
“I don’t think I’ve ever screamed louder in my life than when we won that game,” Porter said. “Truly surreal.”
Excitement, surprise, and pride are running strong on Princeton’s campus this week as the Tigers prepare to play in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1967. School spirit is surging, students said, bringing people together in new and exciting ways.
“In my bracket, I said that Princeton would beat Arizona purely out of school spirit — I never expected them to win against Arizona and surely did not expect them to advance to the Sweet 16,” said Tess Dakin ’26. “I’ve seen a lot of students and fans joke that we have suddenly become a ‘basketball school,’ but these wins definitely prove you should never underestimate Princeton!”
Despite being on spring break during the men’s first win against Arizona and then the second against Missouri, students tuned in to the games from around the world.
“I was looking at the live updates of our historic basketball game with the Princeton University Orchestra in the middle of the Hungarian woods on our spring break tour of the Balkans,” said Sol Choi ’26.
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, Isa Kessinger ’24 watched the game in a restaurant with Princeton friends. “We all ended up screaming at the TV when we won,” she said.Both on campus and beyond, students say these victories changed their perspective on Princeton and built up school pride.
“I never expected to be this excited about sports at Princeton,” said Jason Bohner ’25. “Usually the celebration and intrigue is reserved for larger schools. But here we are — the Cinderella story unfolding right in front of me. It’s rare to be on campus for something that has seldom happened before.
“You can tell that this is a special moment.”
Many students share the feeling that they are witnessing history. Ayushmaan Kher ’26 said, “Everyone on campus is watching; it’s basically what campus spirit is. Everyone is supporting the team. Especially after spring break, this is an added reason to be back here with people and it keeps us together.”
Thomas Danz ’26 added, “It is always really cool to see the underdogs perform well, especially against big schools whose big focus is sports. It shows that smart people can be athletic too.”
Many students also express their respect and admiration for the players’ dedication both to sports and academics. Willem Alleyne ’26 said Blake Peters ’25, one of the team’s guards and a star in the Missouri game, was applauded as he walked out of precept.
“It makes it so much more special that these guys are your friends and you see them in everyday environments,” Alleyne said. “Credit to them as people as well — they’re so humble, good people, good company. You have to admire the work that they put in on the court and also in the classroom.”