Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 11
 
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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PICTURE THIS: The four seniors on the Princeton University men’s basketball team and head coach Sydney Johnson display the framed pictures given to the players as part of the Senior Day festivities when the Tigers hosted Penn on March 9. The four seniors, from left, Pawel Buczak, Nick Lake, Marcus Schroeder, and Zach Finley, helped the Tigers top Penn 68-56. The win improved Princeton to 20-8, a vast improvement on the 6-23 mark posted just two winters ago. The Tigers’ superb season landed them a bid in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) where they will host Duquesne (16-15 overall, 7-9 Atlantic 10) on March 17 with the winner advancing to a second-round contest on March 22.

PU Men’s Hoops Seniors Lead Renaissance; Reversal of Fortune Nets to CBI Appearance

Bill Alden

After the Princeton University men’s basketball team topped arch-rival Penn last week, Tiger head coach Sydney Johnson got emotional as he reflected on his quartet of seniors.

“We have had a heck of a turnaround,” said Johnson, whose team’s 68-56 win over Penn gave the Tigers a final regular season record of 20-8 overall and 11-3 in Ivy League play, a vast improvement on the 6-23 mark posted just two winters ago.

“We have had four seniors who have spearheaded it for the most part. They have been tremendous to the point where it makes you weep in terms of everything that they have gone through to get us to this point. I am really happy for them.”

Speaking for his classmates, senior co-captain and point guard Marcus Schroeder was proud of the program’s turnaround and hoped for the chance to go to the post-season to add some more wins to the ledger.

“This program has made a lot of progress,” said Schroeder, whose fellow seniors on the team include co-captain Nick Lake, Zach Finley, and Pawel Buczak.

“I am happy. The first two years and even a little bit of last year were very, very difficult. It was sometimes hard to go to practice. All four of us stuck it out. Having 20 wins is the benchmark for a good season in college basketball. We want to play more games in the post-season. Wherever we get put, we will compete.”

Last Sunday night, the Princeton seniors went through some more trial and tribulation, having not been chosen for any of the post-season tournaments as of midnight.

“We were nervous; we were sitting on the blog and hitting refresh every couple of minutes to see what teams were getting in,” said senior center Finley.

“We saw the tournaments filling up and we were just keeping our fingers crossed for one of those last spots in the CBI (College Basketball Invitational).”

Around 12:30 a.m. on Monday, the nerves turned to cheers as the Tigers learned that they had indeed been selected to compete in the CBI. Princeton will host an opening round game against Duquesne on March 17 with the winner playing the victor of the Hofstra-IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) clash in the next round of the 16-team competition on March 22.

Johnson knows that his team faces a major challenge in Duquesne (16-15 overall, 7-9 Atlantic 10).

“I have followed them a little bit over the last couple of years; they have won some big games and they come from a terrific league,” said Johnson, referring to the Dukes.

“There is a big number of A-10 teams playing in the post-season so there are a number of A-10 teams who have made it national.”

In Johnson’s view, his team is ready to shine on a national platform. “It is a big moment for us,” asserted Johnson. “We just want a solid effort against who we consider a worthy opponent.”

As a bonus, the Tigers get to make their first post-season appearance since a 2004 opening round loss to Texas in the NCAA tournament at the friendly confines of Jadwin Gym.

“I’d say we weren’t expecting to be at home; maybe there is a bit there about who we are as a program,” said Johnson, whose team finished second to Cornell in the Ivy standings.

“There is so much history here at Jadwin Gym. We are thrilled to be playing regardless. For these seniors to be acknowledged another time in front of the Princeton community is tremendous.”

Schroeder, for his part, is relishing the chance to keep going. “I think it is really cool; we get another opportunity to compete together,” said Schroeder.

“I think I speak for all of us here as seniors; I don’t think we really wanted this to end with our last game being Penn. I think we wanted to keep going; it is a great opportunity and we are looking forward to it.”

Co-captain Lake views the CBI appearance as the final step of the legacy the seniors will be leaving with the program.

“Hopefully, we showed them what it takes to win,” said Lake, reflecting on the influence his class has exerted on the program’s younger players.

“They were a big part of that; it wasn’t just us. This year we learned as a group what it takes to win. It’s not easy. Hopefully that will give them some momentum and experience leading into next year and they will keep it up.”

For Johnson, it is fitting that the Princeton seniors get to experience post-season action.

“I think it is just a confirmation of a lot of hard work, terrific chemistry, and some good fortune,” said Johnson.

“We have had some good luck and we have made some of our good luck. I think we have a pretty good basketball team and I don’t know if we could have said that a couple of years ago to be honest. I think right now we can say that; I think the nation knows to some degree that this is a good team and a respectable program.”

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