Up until recent years, the Penn-Princeton always seemed to have huge championship implications. The thinking was that both schools were on another level from the rest of the league to the degree that whoever won the head-to-head meetings would go on to win the Ivy title. Ignoring the fact both teams have swept the other six schools only once (1980-81), the stakes generally have been very high when these two teams have gotten together over the years. However, for the fifth time in the last six meetings, that won’t be the case when they take the court at The Palestra tonight.
Princeton (10-10, 1-5 Ivy) at Penn (14-8, 5-1 Ivy) – 7:00 pm ET (CN8)
Live stats | CN8 video | Princeton audio | Penn audio
Following an encouraging non-league performance, Princeton’s implosion in league play has been nothing short of unbelievable. The most common explanation is that Kyle Koncz’s injury has affected the team’s play at both ends of the court. While that certainly hasn’t helped matters at all, it must be pointed out that the Tigers were able to stomp Rice for their best win of the season with Koncz already hurt and ineffective. In actuality, the dramatic dropoff may have more to do with playing teams for whom the cuts and screens of the Princeton offense and the matchup zone defense lost all novelty some time ago. Glen Miller seems to have a pretty good handle on it, going 2-2 against Joe Scott despite a pretty decent talent gap at Brown. The one encouraging sign for Tiger fans is Scott’s track record of preparation for Penn — illustrated by his teams outscoring the Quakers 102-84 in the four first halves so far. The second halves haven’t gone nearly as well, but at least Princeton has been in decent shape at halftime.
Part of the reason Penn hasn’t looked as good offensively in Ivy play as it did against similar teams outside the league is that league opponents have looked to slow things down against the Quakers. Penn averaged a league-high 71.8 possessions per 40 minutes in non-league games, but that figure has fallen to just 65.3 in the league. The Quakers will be in for more of the same against a Princeton team playing at an impossibly slow pace of 51.6 possessions per 40 minutes in league play. The Tigers have cut down on turnovers nicely in the league (19.9 percent), and they don’t crash the offensive boards at all, so Penn will have a tougher time getting out and scoring in transition. With Scott conceding the offensive rebounds, it will be crucial for his undersized frontcourt to keep the Quakers from getting second chances, as his team is dead last in defensive rebounding by a wide margin at just 61.8 percent. Offensively, Penn will look to use its three-point shooting to pick apart a Princeton team that is allowing Ivy opponents to shoot 40.0 percent from outside the arc. Depending on what kind of defense Miller throws at them, the Tigers either are going to have to suddenly find a way to score inside, or figure out a way to score from the outside against a Quaker defense holding league opponents to just 29.9 percent from deep.
Pomeroy says: Princeton 47, Penn 60