On Wednesday, hundreds of Princeton students mobbed the Frist ticket office to get their seats at the Palestra this weekend. With music, endless T-shirts, and an overall mood that can only be described as “hype,” it became clear that Ivy Madness had officially begun.
On Saturday, the men's basketball team will finally get the chance to add a regular season title to their repertoire and ultimately to win the inaugural Ivy League Tournament. The winner of this tournament will not only get crowned as champion, but will also get an automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Basketball Tournament. The Tigers enter the tournament as the number one seed and the expected winners.
However, their road will not be easy. The tournament, technically a neutral site game, will perhaps be the toughest road test of the year for the Princeton gang, which will take on Penn in the first round Saturday at 1:30pm. While a contingent of Princeton fans is sure to make their presence felt, Penn will definitely have an advantage playing on their home court in what will perhaps be the biggest game of the season.
The Tigers will look to use the same formula that they did in two earlier matchups against the Quakers. In those battles, the Tigers relied on their defense in order to stifle the Quaker offense, holding them to 49 and 52 points respectively in the teams' two meetings this year. During these games, the Tigers out-rebounded the Quakers in both contests and won the battle at the charity stripe, netting around .850 for the two matchups combined. The third time around, the Tigers will presumably rely on the same strategy while adding more offensive firepower.
The Tigers know that this game will ultimately come down to poise. In big games like this one, there will be times where the going gets tough. But Princeton has been in situations like this before; they have been battle-tested throughout the season, most recently against Harvard, whom they may face once again. Princeton will lean on the senior core now more than ever to provide the mindset necessary to overcome obstacles they will face in the game. Of course, having standout players such as Amir Bell ’18 and Myles Stephens ’19 helps make solving problems during the game much easier.
This Saturday, the Tigers will look to become the first Ivy League team that defended their conference title with a tournament victory. Their road starts against Penn, at the Palestra, home of the Quakers. Up to the challenge, there is no place the Tigers would rather be.
Let the madness begin.