After my piece last week about potential contenders to challenge Harvard in the upper echelons of Ivy basketball, I received some feedback that I should have included Princeton. Fear not, Tigers fans. The time is nigh, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Princeton’s chances this year.
Last season, Princeton finished third behind Harvard and Yale, with a 16-14 overall record and a 9-5 conference record. Three Tigers averaged double figures last season, and all three are returning. Let’s learn a little more about the team by looking at three key players.
1. Spencer Weisz, Junior
Weisz, a 6’4 forward, has improved every year during his college career. In his first year, he was the first Princeton freshman to be a starter since 2008. He was honored as the Ivy League Rookie of the Week four times before eventually being crowned the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, accumulating the most awards for a freshman at Princeton since 2008-09.
Last season, as a sophomore, he was named to the Second-team All Ivy League. Weisz did a little bit of everything for the Tigers, and lead the team in points and assists. Unsurprisingly for a basketball player at Princeton, he has developed the reputation of being an extremely smart player. What he lacks in innate athletic ability and quickness, he makes up for with a high basketball IQ and a nuanced understanding of the fundamentals. Weisz’s greatest strength is his passing and play making, and he averaged over 2.5 assists a game last season. He is a spot up shooter with three-point ability, and co-lead the Tigers in 3 points made with Hans Brase.
2. Hans Brase, Senior
Brase is one of only two seniors on this young Princeton team, so the Tigers will undoubtedly be looking for leadership from their 6’8 forward. His junior year effort was his best yet, and he finished the season 9th in the Ivy League in scoring, fourth in rebounding, eighth in 3 pointers made per game and second in defensive rebounds per game.
Brase has posted impressive performances against the staunchest competition in the Ivy group, including a 20 point, 7 rebound and 4 assist game against Harvard last season, during which he went 8 for 14 from the field and scored the first 11 points of the game. Brase is a large body who is equal parts physical and skilled. He is able to play facing the hoop and with his back to the basket, as is made apparent in his success at the rim and in 3-point shooting.
3. Steven Cook, Junior
Rounding out the trio of double digit scorers for the Tigers is 6’4 guard Steven Cook. After playing just 40 minutes total through the first 17 games of the season his freshman year, Cook came on strong and averaged nearly 26 points per game over the course of the final 13 games. He became a starter last year and registered 15 double-figure scoring effort and lead the team in steals. Cook, similar to Weisz, is a player with a high basketball IQ that can do a little bit of everything. Offensively, he can score in a variety of ways and more importantly, is capable of creating his own shot.
The Tigers went 0-4 against rivals Harvard and Yale last season, and will seek revenge against their league partners in several marquee match-ups, including a bout against Harvard that will be televised on ESPNU February 5th. Historically, Princeton has a rich basketball tradition, and their alumnus include one of the most recognizable names in Ivy Group history, in Bill Bradley. They have a good opportunity this year to establish themselves as viable contenders for Ivy League dominance, and will be looking to make their first visit to the NCAA Tournament since 2011.