Though the Tigers won 14 games this season with double-digit margins, the ongoing effects of COVID-19 made this a far from easy season for Princeton. Game delays created less-than-desirable scenarios where the team was forced to play back-to-back games, yet the Tigers’ perseverance showed in their consistent and dominant play.
Their excellence and determination hasn’t gone unnoticed: on March 7, Princeton ranked No. 24 in the AP's Top 25 Women’s Poll. They were one of three mid-major conference teams and the only Ivy League team to be ranked. The Tigers have also consistently been in the top 50 teams per the NCAA’s Net Rankings and currently sit at No. 22, 96 slots above the next highest ranked Ivy team, Columbia. Princeton will look to continue their success on both ends of the court as they enter the Ivy Tournament to vie for a spot in the NCAA March Madness tournament.
The Ivy Tournament
Princeton will enter Ivy Madness as the number one seed and will take on fourth-seeded Harvard first. Columbia will take the second spot, playing third-seeded Yale in the first round of play on Friday, March 11. The winners of each semifinal will advance to the final game on Saturday, March 12.
The Crimson will look to avenge their previous loss against the Tigers as the two teams face off again on Friday. Boasting the highest average points per game in the Ivy League, at 71.1, Harvard is no stranger to aggressive offense, especially from the three-point line, where they log 32.6 percent on 724 attempts. To overtake the Tigers, who have given them two of their lowest-scoring conference games in regular-season play, Harvard will have to get hot from deep and stretch Princeton's defense out to the perimeter. Penn attempted this in their final game against the Tigers but were unable to keep up their 3-point accuracy, contributing to their 69–43 loss. Harvard also leads the Ivy League in steals per game, with guards Harmoni Turner and Maggie McCarthy bringing in a combined average of 4.9 steals per game. They will likely look for opportunities to take the Tigers into quick transition play to avoid letting the Princeton defense settle in.
Should the Lions defeat Yale in Friday’s semifinal, Columbia may be Princeton's toughest opponent in the Ivy Tournament. The Lions’ prolific rebounding at 42.9 combined average rebounds per game and tough defense have resulted in some of the Tigers’ lowest scoring quarters of the season, as well as their lowest scoring game of the Ivy season. Columbia will look to re-create those efforts in a potential rematch against the Tigers. Like Harvard, Columbia will look to take the Tigers out to the three-point line, where guard Abbey Hsu has shown consistent success throughout the season, averaging 3.5 3-pointers per game to lead the league.
If Yale can upset Columbia in their semifinal, the Bulldogs could prove to be formidable opponents for the Tigers. Their 12-point loss to the Tigers in January was the closest any Ivy team has gotten to breaking the Tigers’ now 40-game Ivy League win streak, their work on the defensive end being key to that effort. Yale has allowed an average of just 56.4 points per game, just trailing the Tiger’s average of 50.0, and they average a solid 3.77 blocks per game, most of which coming from forward Camilla Emsbo, whose average of 2.3 blocks per game leads the league. Emsbo’s rebounding prowess is also key to Yale's defensive and offensive strategy, as she just trails Princeton sophomore forward Ellie Mitchell in rebounds per game.
Should the Tigers emerge victorious, it would be their third consecutive Ivy Tournament title.
Isabel Rodrigues is a guest contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @isabelinspace.