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Men's basketball tries to keep focus in Ivies

With the men's basketball team now firmly entrenched in the heart of its Ivy League schedule, high-profile games against Texas, North Carolina State, North Carolina and Wake Forest are a distant memory.

Instead, the No. 11 Tigers (16-1 overall, 4-0 Ivy League) have Harvard, Dartmouth and the other Ivy League schools to look forward to. The important thing is that they not look past them.

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With so many big games on this season's schedule – and so many big wins – the league schedule, filled with many mediocre and below .500 teams, seems to be somewhat of a letdown. Nearly everyone expects the Tigers to go undefeated the rest of the season, and judging by the way the team has performed thus far, there is little reason to believe otherwise.

While some may wonder if the Tigers might take it easy now that the more difficult portion of their schedule is complete, the team is aware that their upcoming opponents have very little to look forward to this season.

The bigger they are . . .

Any of Princeton's Ivy opponents would like nothing better than to make their season by knocking off the nationally ranked Tigers. That is different from earlier in the season when Princeton's opponents had little to gain in the way of prestige from beating the Tigers.

"It's a much bigger deal for the Ivy League teams if they beat us," senior center Steve Goodrich said. "If North Carolina beats us it doesn't make their season, but if Brown wins, it does."

The Ivy League schedule presents another problem for the Tigers in that the teams in the league are more prepared for, or at least more used to Princeton's deliberate, precision-oriented offense.

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In fact, Columbia, coached by former Princeton player and assistant coach Armond Hill '85, is trying to institute the Princeton offense. When asked how long it would take for his players to learn the Tiger system, Hill replied, "forever." The Lions 6-12 record, including their 58-45 loss to Princeton last Saturday at Jadwin Gym, attest to the fact that they have yet to get the hang of it.

Know your opponent

While unable to replicate the system, the other teams in the league are definitely more aware of what's coming.

Another issue facing the Tigers is their national ranking. While the team is currently No. 11 in both national polls and has been for the past three weeks – in two of which the Tigers did not play because of exams – the team is aware that they will be judged differently now because the level of competition in the Ivy League is lower than that of the team's earlier opponents.

Not only must Princeton win games, but it must win them handily. Even if the Tigers win a close game, there is still a chance that they will fall in the polls.

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That being said, head coach Bill Carmody and the rest of the team have maintained all season long that while the national attention is nice, they are not all that concerned with how highly they are ranked.

"If we win a close game our ranking will probably drop, but who cares?" Goodrich said. "If we play the way we're capable of playing though, we'll beat those teams by 15-20 points."

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