A team that faced more questions than answers at the start of this season is now firmly in the hunt for a spot in the NCAA tournament. After losing multiple veteran leaders from last season, the Princeton Tigers (15-12 overall, 9-5 Ivy League) have found themselves as the second seed in the inaugural Ivy League postseason tournament. The winner of the four-team tournament will have the honor of representing the Ancient Eight in the one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year: March Madness.
The Tigers, however, will not enter their most critical game of the season on the highest of notes. They will begin the postseason on a two game losing streak, including a 56-58 loss to league-bottom Dartmouth and a 40-52 loss to Penn Quakers, ranked first in the Ivy League, in the Palestra. The loss against Penn featured Princeton’s worst offensive showing of the season, with a season low in points scored and where the team shot an ice-cold 26.2 percent from the field.
Nevertheless, the Tigers have more than enough reasons to expect a strong showing come Saturday evening. Freshman forward Bella Alarie was the most recent recipient of the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award, and has been a star throughout the season. She has led the Tigers in scoring, with 12.6 points per game, and was second in rebounding with 7.4. Moreover, production has not been lacking from the upperclassmen – junior forward Leslie Robinson and senior guard Vanessa Smith have been second and third in scoring on the team, at 10.2 points and 7.6 points, respectively. Robinson, named to the All-Ivy Second Team, has been particularly efficient, shooting at a 49.8 percent rate, the second best in the league.
Indeed, the Tigers will need good performances on all fronts as they prepare to do battle with a team that has proven to be one of their toughest challenges. Both games against the Crimson (20-7, 8-6) this season went down to the wire; at home, the Tigers eked out an overtime victory, and at their meeting in Cambridge, the Tigers edged out the Crimson by just four. As they look for victory on Saturday, the Tigers are certain to rely heavily on their top two scorers once more: Alarie and Robinson together averaged 29 points and 13.5 rebounds across those two games against the Crimson.
It’s been a long time since Tiger fans have had a weekend this exciting. One thing is certain: if the last two games Princeton has played against Harvard are any indication, Saturday’s battle is sure to be one to remember.