Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Team That Never Was

Douglas Davis enters the final three games of this season with 297 points, which gives him a pretty good shot to become the fifth Princeton men's basketball player to reach the 300-point mark as a freshman. He also has a reasonable chance to finish second on the all-time freshman scoring list.

Here are the four who reached the 300-point mark as Tiger freshmen:
Chris Young - 387 - 1998-99
Spencer Gloger - 336 in 1999-2000
Kit Mueller - 329 in 1987-88
John Smyth - 319 in 1982-83

You might notice that only two of the players on that list played together, and that was for one season. Chris Young was a sophomore during the 1999-2000 season, Spencer Gloger's freshman year, which ended with an NIT loss to Penn State.

The best Princeton team of the last 30 years was the 1997-98 team, which went 27-2, had the best record in Division I and reached as high as No. 7 in the polls. TigerBlog's longstanding contention is that the Tigers of 2001-02 would have been better had Young and Gloger stayed together for the following two years.

By now, the stories of Young and Gloger in Princeton basketball are painfully familiar. Young signed a professional baseball contract after his sophomore year (a draft he was only eligible for because he'd turned 21 six days before the deadline), and now that he has pitched in the Major League Baseball all-star game and has made tens of millions of dollars, it's hard to argue with his decision. Gloger became caught up in the revolving door of his Princeton/UCLA dilemmas, and when he finally did return to Princeton, he ran into an academic issue that essentially ended his eligibility. TigerBlog, as an aside, has long respected Gloger for the way he returned to Princeton, outside the spotlight, and finished his degree and graduated with the Class of 2005.

Gloger left Princeton to return to UCLA after Young signed his contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bill Carmody left for Northwestern after four years as Princeton head coach, and John Thompson came in to sort everything out. The result was a Cinderella Ivy League championship in 2001 and a three-way tie in 2002 between the Tigers, Penn and Yale.

Had Princeton had Young and Gloger together in 2000-01 and 2001-02, there is no Ivy League team since Penn's 1979 Final Four team that would have matched up with them. Forget for a minute that a team of players like Ahmed El-Nokali, Mike Bechtold, Andre Logan, Ed Persia, Kyle Wente and Ray Robins did just fine in the league in their own right. Add the other two, with Thompson as coach, and Princeton would have been unstoppable.

In Gloger, Princeton would have had a three-point shooter who in all probability would have beaten Brian Earl's Princeton and Ivy League record of 281 career three-pointers. Gloger, in addition to being a shooter, could defend, pass, handle the ball and rebound. In a full four-year career, he would have been a three-time first-team All-Ivy selection and have been around 1,500 career points.

In Young, Princeton would have had basically the Shaq of the Ivy League. Assuming no injuries, the big man would have finished his career second all-time at Princeton in points (and would have passed the 2,000 mark easily), rebounds and assists and first in blocked shots. By his senior year, he could have legitimately been a 20/10 player and ultimately a lottery pick in the NBA draft.

Princeton, led by those two, would quite possibly have been 14-0 in the league in 00-01 and 01-02 and would have been a very highly ranked team nationally. Who knows what might have been possible in the NCAA tournament? Certainly being outmatched physically wasn't going to be a concern.

TigerBlog remembers that 00-01 season as one of the great ones since TB has been around Princeton basketball, largely because it was a team of unknowns with an unknown coach who exceeded expectations.

Had the fates been a little different, that year – and the one that followed – might have been remembered for a whole different set of reasons.


Anonymous said...

Of the 300 point scorers, only Kit Mueller played his senior year. John Smyth did not play his fourth year in '85-'86, for a team that ultimately went 7-7 in the Ivies.

Princeton OAC said...

That's an excellent point. TigerBlog knew that John Smyth only played three years and originally thought he played his final three years; it wasn't until later that TB found out it was his freshman, sophomore and junior years. Interesting note; hopefully the jinx won't apply to Douglas Davis.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I still wince when I think of those lost golden years. That's the moment the Princeton B-Ball Dynasty died...but now we could be on the verge of another.

Next year, they'll have returning players like Davis, Mavraides, Buzcak/Finley, and Maddox and Saunders will be much improved I suspect. Add in top-notch recruits like Ian Hummer and Will Barrett, and you've got a stew goin'...

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is difficult to read. When Chris Young became ineligible, I almost cried.....

Anonymous said...

I remember that, when Chris Young signed his baseball contract, I thought about the long odds which any minor leaguer -- even a highly touted prospect -- faces in terms of climbing up to the big leagues. The greatest shame would have been the Tigers missing out on those what-if Young/Gloger teams and Chris never making The Show. Every time I see Chris pitching on television, I'm grateful that we at least avoided the worst case scenario.

You can't fault the guy for chasing his dream, although I doubt that his baseball career would be any different today had he and Gloger led Princeton to a couple of 14-0 seasons and a tournament victory or two.