Members of the media spoke with Dartmouth men's basketball coach Dave Faucher Wednesday via telephone at a press conference in Jad-win Gym. Toward the end of his interview, Fauch-er asked Princeton coach Bill Carm-ody the question on everyone's mind:
"Who's going to play?"
Carmody smirked and raised his hand to volunteer.
Talk about the men's basketball team has recently focused on how beat-up the Tigers are. Although Princeton (11-8 overall, 3-1 Ivy League) might wish there was a pause button to be pressed while the players recuperate, the games keep coming.
After two weekends on the road, the Tigers return home for Dartmouth (6-13, 2-4) Friday night and Harvard (8-11, 3-3) Saturday night.
The customary specter of the Penn game looms Tuesday, but not in the same way it has for the last few years. Last Saturday's loss to Yale showed the Tigers that the games before their encounter with the Quakers are more than tune-ups.
"You can't have any more slip-ups like that," Carmody said.
Dartmouth, the preseason favorite for third place in the Ivies, has gotten off to a surprisingly slow 2-4 start in the league. Harvard, on the other hand, has left its expected home in the cellar to reach .500 at 3-3.
Both opponents feature threats that Princeton's depleted line-up might have trouble handling. Originally expected to be out for the season with a detached retina, Harvard's leading scorer, Dan Clemente, returned last weekend and had 24-point games against both Cornell and Columbia. Dartmouth's best weapon, forward Shaun Gee, is a similar player to Clemente. Finding someone to stop each of these players has given Carmody cause for concern.
"On each team, you have a [six-foot, seven inch] guy who's explosive," Carmody said. "So how are you going to guard that guy?"
Ordinarily, Princeton might look to sophomore forward Eugene Baah or freshman guard Spencer Gloger for that task, but their availability for this weekend is questionable.
Baah's thigh contusion has shown some improvement. It is good as long as he stays warm, but tightens upon cooling, rendering him immobile.
Like Baah, Gloger has healed somewhat since last weekend, but is still not 100 percent. He has practiced lightly with the team, but will probably not get his usual complement of minutes.
At this point, Carmody is considering some improvisation to halt the opponent's top scorers, which could test the defensive abilities of junior guard C.J. Chapman and junior forward Nate Walton, who is still recovering from a wrist injury. Senior forward Mason Rocca will not be available to pick up the slack. As long as his ankle remains fragile, the Tigers won't risk losing him for the remainder of the season by putting him on the court.
Resurrecting Princeton's offense is yet another challenge. Aside from poor shooting against Yale, the team also appeared lackadaisical on backdoor cuts.
"We looked lethargic," Carmody said. "Maybe it's because we're playing six guys."
Carmody joked that he might have to unleash his own playing skills this weekend.
While this is far less than likely, Princeton's injuries will require that Carmody bring his "A-game" as far as coaching is concerned.