Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ninety Plus

So which is a better way to put this?

Is it 1) Princeton has scored at least 90 points in consecutive men's basketball games for the first time since 1974 or 2) Princeton has scored more than 90 points in consecutive men's basketball games for the first time since 1972.

See, back in 1974, Princeton beat Columbia 90-47 and Columbia 92-56 on the same weekend. Princeton beat Harvard 91-66 and then Cornell in its next game 96-69 two years earlier.

The current Princeton men's basketball team has had 104 and 91 in its last two games. By the way, the final scores of the last two games were 104-52 over Lafayette and 91-61 over Fairleigh Dickinson.

Digging a little deeper shows that this is the fourth time in program history that Princeton has scored at least 195 points in a two-game span. The other three:
* 206 vs. Dartmouth/Harvard in 1967
* 201 vs. Colgate/Davidson in 1967
* 200 vs. Columbia/Cornell in 1965

As an aside, Gary Walters started all six of the games TB references above. Gary thinks Ed Hummer did as well, and possibly Robbie Brown. 

Anyway, to that you can now add 195 against Lafayette and Fairleigh Dickinson in 2016.

The last two games marked the fourth and fifth times in Mitch Henderson's tenure as Tiger head coach that Princeton has reached at least 90 points. How rare is that?

Consider that in the tenures of his three immediate predecessors - Sydney Johnson, Joe Scott, John Thompson - Princeton reached at least 90 points only once, and that was against Division III Ursinus in 2003. In other words (unless TigerBlog is missing a game), Princeton didn't reach 90 points any other time from 2000-01 through 2010-11.

And in the Bill Carmody years? Princeton reached at least 90 points twice, both times against Division III schools. The last time before Henderson became head coach that Princeton reached 90 points against a Division I school?

How about back under Pete Carril, in 1995, against Cornell, a 95-69 win.

Here's something Princeton has never done: score at least 90 points in three straight games. The Tigers next chance will be Saturday at 2 at Stony Brook.

By the way, Stony Brook's Island Federal Credit Union Arena is beautiful. If you're going to be in the neighborhood Saturday, make sure you check out the game.

The team against which Princeton is attempting to reach 90 again is 3-2 and allows 56.6 points per game. Of course, early season numbers being what they are, Stony Brook allowed 32 against the Merchant Marine Academy and 42 against Farmingdale State, so it's a little skewed.

Stony Brook is a pretty good team. The Seawolves were 23-12 a year ago, and they came heartbreakingly close to reaching the NCAA tournament after falling 51-50 to Albany in the America East title game on a shot with 1.6 seconds left - this after Stony Brook led 49-42 with 1:43 to go.

Stony Brook's two losses are in OT at Vanderbilt and by one at Western Kentucky. Those two teams are a combined 8-4.

Reaching 90 again won't be easy. It's also not the goal. The idea, as someone infamously said once, is to win the game.

Still, something is different about these Tigers, who are 4-0 and averaging 83.5 points per game, tied for 44th in Division I. Maybe the new shot clock (30 seconds instead of 35) means scoring should be up, but that doesn't account for these numbers.

Look at the KenPom numbers for Adjusted Tempo. Princeton ranks 83rd in Division I. That's possessions per 40 minutes, so clearly the Tigers are pushing the pace.

There are 351 teams in Division I men's basketball. The teams ranked 349th, 350th and 351st in Adjusted Tempo are Denver (coached by Joe Scott), Holy Cross (coached by Bill Carmody) and American (coached by Mike Brennan). Those are familiar names to Princeton fans.

Hey, Georgetown is 230th. Richmond is 192nd. The only direct Princeton basketball relative above the Tigers is Fairfield, at 64th.

In other words, Mitch Henderson is playing at a faster tempo than Princeton basketball has traditionally been played. And faster than the overwhelming majority of the Princeton basketball family continues to do so elsewhere.

So far, it seems to be working.

It's way too early in the season to figure out what's going to be in February and March. Hey, there will be some huge tests this month, beginning Saturday and including, among others, games at St. Joe's, Maryland and Miami.

Still, these Tigers have been fun to watch so far. And they've looked pretty good too.

You can't ask for much more out of your November.

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