The last time the men’s and women’s basketball teams both were picked to finish first in the Ivy League media poll, in 2010–11, each team lived up to that billing, winning conference titles in a thrilling year of Princeton basketball. Two years later, both sets of Tigers have been declared the favorites again, and with veteran-laden rosters and a recent history of success, each team could hang even more banners in Jadwin Gym this winter.
“We’re doing something wrong if those aren’t the expectations,” said men’s head coach Mitch Henderson ’98. “In the league, I think we match up well with everybody.”
The two teams’ similarities reach beyond preseason rankings. Both squads are led by do-everything senior forwards, Ian Hummer ’13 and Niveen Rasheed ’13, the top returning scorers and rebounders in their leagues. Each team will use several upperclass players in the front court, and both offenses are run by experienced point guards, T.J. Bray ’14 and Lauren Polansky ’13.
Perhaps most importantly, both teams have done little but win over the past three years. The women have lost only one Ivy League game during the last three seasons, while the men have won at least 10 of 14 conference games each year since 2009. “Having that legacy is pretty special, and hopefully we can keep that going this senior season,” Hummer said.
The men’s team is stocked with skilled forwards and centers. In addition to Hummer — an explosive, physical player who passes well and is an asset on defense — the Tigers have centers Brendan Connolly ’13 and Mack Darrow ’13, roommates with very different skill sets, and talented forward Will Barrett ’14, who is back after sitting out most of last season with a foot injury.
But with the graduation of Doug Davis ’12 and Jimmy Sherburne ’14 out with a shoulder injury, Princeton’s back court is thin. The Tigers will need Bray, who did not play on the team’s summer trip to Spain due to a knee injury. “We’re a completely different team when he’s on the floor,” Henderson said. “He does everything for us.”
The women’s team, meanwhile, has made three straight NCAA tournament appearances but still lacks a postseason victory. Without another proven scorer alongside Rasheed, head coach Courtney Banghart has created a new offensive system that provides more balance on the court.
Princeton will continue to play an aggressive defense fronted by Polansky, the two-time reigning Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. The Tigers stifled foes with pressure last season and grabbed 12 more rebounds per game than their opponents, the fourth-best record in the nation.
No player epitomizes that style better than Rasheed, a high-energy player who relentlessly seeks out rebounds and loose balls. With the graduation of All-Ivy players Lauren Edwards ’12 and Devona Allgood ’12, Rasheed will take even more responsibility on both ends of the floor. Banghart said she’s up to the challenge. “People are going to see a better Niveen than they saw last year, which is a scary thought,” she said.