As just announced on the CBS Selection Show, the Tigers will take on No. 4 seed Kentucky on Thursday in the East Region in Tampa, Fla.
No qualms with the Ivy champ being a 13-seed. Seems about right, and this is definitely an interesting matchup. Two teams with great history, but from vastly different conferences. Both teams received automatic bids to the tournament, with Kentucky qualifying after beating Florida in Sunday's SEC conference tourney title game. Princeton, of course, qualified in dramatic fashion with Douglas Davis' buzzer beater in Saturday's one-game Ivy playoff against Harvard.
Luckily, there is some recent history that could provide some sort of insight into this matchup. Penn hung with Kentucky for a half earlier this year before getting blown away after the break to lose, 86-62. In last year's Sweet Sixteen, Cinderella Cornell also fell, 62-45, to a Wildcats team that featured five first-round NBA draft picks.
The initial reaction to most Ivy League tourney matchups is that the Ancient Eight champs will get bullied around by a team from a major conference. Typically, that's the most likely result. But don't be surprised if Princeton is picked this week as a potential candidate for a huge upset. The Ivies are gaining respectability after the Big Red's run and the Davis shot that led last night's SportsCenter. While the Wildcats are much more athletic, they don't have the size that would completely eliminate any chance of Princeton winning (i.e. DeMarcus Cousins is now on the Sacramento Kings). With no great big man on Kentucky, Princeton can hang with the Wildcats by playing their style of physical, lockdown defense. If this game turns into a shootout, the Tigers have very little shot. But the Tigers have the depth to hang with the Wildcats, in my opinion. The matchup to watch will definitely be Kentucky's Terrence Jones, a likely NBA lottery pick, versus Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Kareem Maddox. Both are 6-foot-8, versatile and athletic.