2008-09 Princeton Basketball Preview
Tigers look to escape Ivy League cellar
By Raphielle Johnson
Last season brought the return of a school hero, with former Ivy League Player of the Year Sydney Johnson back as head coach of his alma mater. But things didn’t go as planned, with a return to Ivy dominance being replaced by a last-place finish thanks in large part to a struggling offense. But with just two starters back this season, how much better can the Tigers be on offense? One player expected to be back when last season ended, guard Lincoln Gunn, left the team for personal reasons and won’t be back. And with Noah Savage, Kevin Steuerer and Kyle Koncz out of eligibility Coach Johnson will have to hope that some of the newcomers are ready to contribute now. It looks like another tough year for the Tigers in the Ivy League.
2007-08 Record: 6-23 (3-11 Ivy; t-6th)
Head coach: Sydney Johnson (6-23 in one season)
Assistant coaches: Tony Newsom, Brian Earl, Scott Greenman
Home court: Jadwin Gym
PPG: Zach Finley (10.2)
RPG: Finley (4.4)
APG: Marcus Schroeder (1.7)
FG%: Finley (51.9%)
FT%: Kareem Maddox (83.3%)
3PT%: Nick Lake (38.9%)
Assist/TO ratio: Schroeder (1.67)
Lincoln Gunn was a guy who would have been the Tigers’ first option when it came to the perimeter. But with him gone, the backcourt has to deal with an overall lack of experience combined with the absence of a consistent offensive option. Marcus Schroeder, who played around twenty-five minutes per game last season, becomes the leader for the Tigers. Not much of a threat as a scorer, Schroeder does a good job of taking care of the basketball for a team that was last in both turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio. The only other guard with credible experience last season was Jason Briggs, who played in twenty games and started four.
Other returnees looking to crack the rotation include junior Nick Lake and sophomores Bobby Foley and Dan Mavraides. The trio averaged a combined 21.9 minutes per game, with Lake getting a little more than twelve of those minutes. So while they’ve been in the program, the three newcomers in the backcourt will have ample opportunities to earn some serious playing time. Max Huc (Rosemont, PA) and Doug Davis (Philadelphia, PA) should be a part of the point guard rotation this season, and John Comfort (La Grange, Ill.) possesses the range to contribute on the wing. Whether or not these three help out isn’t the concern; it’s how much will they contribute since the Tigers lack depth at the guard positions.
Luckily for the Tigers they do return senior center Zach Finley, the leading returning scorer and rebounder. Finley also led the Ivy League in field goal percentage and was fifth in blocked shots per game. And with the lack of consistent threats from behind the arc, look for Finley to be the focal point of opposing defenses. But just like the backcourt, the Tigers lack experience up front and will look to returnees that haven’t played much to fill in the gaps left by the departure of some key contributors. Kareem Maddox, who only played twelve minutes per game, is the likely candidate to start alongside Finley.
Upperclassmen Michael Strittmatter and Pawel Buczak will also be in the running for playing time but both prefer to play on the perimeter, something that is more than acceptable in the Princeton offensive system. And since the Tigers lack significant bulk beyond Finley and Maddox, freshman Zane Ma (Los Angeles, CA) becomes even more important for Princeton this season. Classmate Patrick Saunders (Gilford, NH) is in the mold of Strittmatter and Buczak, preferring to play on the perimeter than locked down to the blocks.
In an ideal situation, the newcomers and returning players who haven’t played much would have some time to grow into their new roles. But with an overall lack of experience those guys won’t have that kind of grace period this season. How much the Tigers improve this season will depend upon the development of the newcomers and the emergence of options at the point and inside alongside Finley. But in an Ivy League that’s essentially Cornell and then a traffic jam in the midsection, it may be tough for the Tigers to claw their way out of the cellar this year.
Team Stats (conference ranking in parentheses)
PPG: 57.7 (8th)
PPG allowed: 64.2 (2nd)
FG%: 42.5% (7th)
FG% defense: 46.8% (7th)
3PT%: 32.9% (5th)
3PT% defense: 32.9% (2nd)
FT%: 69.8% (5th)
Rebound margin: -2.6 (8th)
Assist/TO ratio: 0.84 (7th)