Here we go, Wildcat fans, the first day of the NCAA tournament. We live for this every year, and although our seed is high enough for us to expect a victory, I can tell you that it is not whatsoever "guaranteed" in any way, shape, or form. But we'll get to all that just a little bit later.
First, let's compare the seasons of the Kentucky Wildcats and Princeton Tigers:
As you can see Kentucky has played much tougher competition. The Tigers are only 4-4 against top 100 competition, while the Wildcats are 12-7 against the top 100.
The Tigers are coming off a big upset win versus the Harvard Crimson in the Ivy League playoff game, and the Wildcats are coming off six straight wins including an SEC championship
Now, you may think a #4 seed is almost a "guaranteed victory." Think again. Want to see how many times the 13 has prevailed? Here you go, courtesy of BBState.com:
|03/18/2010||(13) Murray State||(4) Vanderbilt||Ohio Valley||Billy Kennedy||Round of 64||San Jose, CA||W, 66-65|
|03/20/2009||(13) Cleveland State||(4) Wake Forest||Horizon League||Gary Waters||Round of 64||Miami, FL||W, 84-69|
|03/21/2008||(13) San Diego||(4) Connecticut||West Coast||Bill Grier||Round of 64||Tampa, FL||W, 70-69|
|03/21/2008||(13) Siena||(4) Vanderbilt||Metro Atlantic||Fran McCaffery||Round of 64||Tampa, FL||W, 83-62|
|03/17/2006||(13) Bradley||(4) Kansas||Missouri Valley||Jim Les||Round of 64||Auburn Hills, MI||W, 77-73|
|03/18/2005||(13) Vermont||(4) Syracuse||America East||Tom Brennan||Round of 64||Worcester, MA||W, 60-57|
|03/20/2003||(13) Tulsa||(4) Dayton||Western Athletic||John Phillips||Round of 64||Spokane, WA||W, 84-71|
|03/14/2002||(13) North Carolina-Wilmington||(4) Southern California||Colonial||Jerry Wainwright||Round of 64||Sacramento, CA||W, 93-89|
|03/16/2001||(13) Indiana State||(4) Oklahoma||Missouri Valley||Royce Waltman||Round of 64||Memphis, TN||W, 70-68|
|03/15/2001||(13) Kent State||(4) Indiana||Mid-American||Gary Waters||Round of 64||San Diego, CA||W, 77-73|
|03/12/1999||(13) Oklahoma||(4) Arizona||Big 12||Kelvin Sampson||Round of 64||Milwaukee, WI||W, 61-60|
|03/13/1998||(13) Valparaiso||(4) Mississippi||Summit League||Homer Drew||Round of 64||Oklahoma City, OK||W, 70-69|
|03/14/1996||(13) Princeton||(4) UCLA||Ivy League||Pete Carril||Round of 64||Indianapolis, IN||W, 43-41|
|03/16/1995||(13) Manhattan||(4) Oklahoma||Metro Atlantic||Fran Fraschilla||Round of 64||Memphis, TN||W, 77-67|
|03/19/1993||(13) Southern||(4) Georgia Tech||SWAC||Ben Jobe||Round of 64||Tucson, AZ||W, 93-78|
|03/20/1992||(13) Louisiana-Lafayette||(4) Oklahoma||Sun Belt||Marty Fletcher||Round of 64||Tempe, AZ||W, 87-83|
|03/15/1991||(13) Penn State||(4) UCLA||Atlantic 10||Bruce Parkhill||Round of 64||Syracuse, NY||W, 74-69|
|03/16/1989||(13) Middle Tennessee State||(4) Florida State||Ohio Valley||Bruce Stewart||Round of 64||Nashville, TN||W, 97-83|
|03/18/1988||(13) Richmond||(4) Indiana||Colonial||Dick Tarrant||Round of 64||Hartford, CT||W, 72-69|
|03/13/1987||(13) Missouri State||(4) Clemson||Summit League||Charlie Spoonhour||Round of 64||Atlanta, GA||W, 65-60|
|03/12/1987||(13) Xavier||(4) Missouri||Horizon League||Pete Gillen||Round of 64||Indianapolis, IN||W, 70-69|
|03/15/1985||(13) Navy||(4) Louisiana State||Colonial||Paul Evans||Round of 64||Dayton, OH||W, 78-55|
If that doesn't give you pause, it should. These guys do not care that Kentucky is supposed to be great, they only care about the final score, and how they can wind up on the long end of it.
Princeton Tigers Basketball Roster
|Will Barrett||24||F||Starter, reserve minutes
|Chris Clement||14||G||Rarely plays||183||6-2||freshman|
|John Comfort||15||F||Rarely plays||198||6-8||junior|
|Brendan Connolly||44||C||Major reserve||252||6-11||sophomore|
|Mack Darrow||32||F||Major reserve||225||6-9||sophomore|
|Doug Davis||20||G||Starter,% 3-pt
|Daniel Edwards||41||F||Rarely plays||232||6-8||freshman|
|Bobby Foley||11||G||Rarely plays||198||6-5||senior|
|Ben Hazel||12||G||Minor reserve||191||6-5||freshman|
|Ian Hummer||34||F||Starters, 2nd leading scorer, 2nd leading rebounder||226||6-7||sophomore|
|Kareem Maddox||2||F||Sixth man, leading scorer, leading rebounder, lead OR||230||6-8||senior|
|Dan Mavraides||33||G||Starter, third leading scorer||210||6-4||senior|
|Tom Noonan||25||F||Rarely plays||228||6-9||freshman|
|Patrick Saunders||22||F||Starter, 4th leading scorer||200||6-8||junior|
|Jimmy Sherburne||3||G||Minor reserve||190||6-3||sophomore|
As you can see, Princeton is a very balanced team, scoring-wise. Four of their players average double digits, and 3 of them shoot 38% or better from the 3-point line. Princeton is, overall, a very good shooting basketball team. What they are not is a good offensive rebounding or a particularly good defensive team.
Four Factors Analysis
As you can see, the Princeton Tigers are a very good shooting team, nearly as good as Kentucky. They are not a particularly good offensive rebounding team,and Kentucky handles the ball better than just about any body. The Tigers do get to the line quite a bit, and are deadly from the free throw line, shooting almost 74% as a team. We don't want to put them them there.
There are no known injuries for Princeton.
Kentucky has both Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins battling mild ankle sprains. Liggins seem to be fine. Lamb is between 85 and 95 percent.
- Brandon Knight vs Dan Mavraides: Mavraides is taller than Brandon Knight and like Knight can score, pass, and rebound. This will be one of the few backcourts that Kentucky has played lately that has a size advantage at this position. But Knight is too skilled and too fast for Mavraides, generally. Advantage: Kentucky
- Doron Lamb vs. Doug Davis: Like Knight and Lamb, Mavraides and Davis are both combo guards with one switching tot the point when the other is out. Davis is quick, but too small to guard Lamb or Knight. Advantage: Kentucky
- Darius Miller vs. Patrick Saunders: Darius Miller is much more capable than Saunders. Advantage: Kentucky
- Terrence Jones vs. Ian Hummer: Hummer is smaller, but is a very good shooter and rebounder. Still, he should be no match for Jones. Advantage: Kentucky
- Josh Harrellson vs. Brendan Conolly and Kareem Maddox: Conolly is bigger and taller, but he plays reserve minutes. The bulk of the minutes will go to Kareem Maddox, who is the team's leading scorer and rebounder. Advantage: Push.
- Bench: Princeton has the deeper bench, but Kentucky's is more skilled. Advantage: Push
While this might look like an easy game for Kentucky, this Princeton team is more talented than you think. But unlike many Princeton teams of the past, this is a much more traditional type of team than you might expect from the Tigers.
Princeton always plays very good, very tough team offense, and you will still see the back-door cuts Pete Carill made famous at Princeton. But this Tigers team does not have the same kind of composition as Carill's best teams, and they don't have a lot of big people who can shoot from the perimeter. In fact, most of Princeton's big players shoot only inside the arc.
But don't be fooled into thinking this will be a walkover, either. Princeton is a very efficient offensive team. They pass the ball well, get a lot of assists, and are very experienced and pretty long and tall for an Ivy League school. They don't match up that badly with us position-wise.
Still, I like Kentucky's chances in this game. Kentucky is more talented and shoots the ball even better than Princeton does, even from three. Kentucky is particularly strong at guard, and the extra size of the Wildcats guards will be a problem for the Tigers.