What’s the exact opposite of the remarkable 5-0 start the Tigers are enjoying this season? And the opposite of an eight-game winning streak, with victories against the likes of Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown? Well, if we are looking in the Ivy League, Penn comes about as close as it gets.
While the Tigers are at the top of the Ivy League, the Quakers sit at the bottom. While Princeton is 5-0, Penn is 0-5. And wait, which team won the last six meetings and nine of the last 10? The answer, if it isn’t immediately obvious, is Princeton. Can a team basically out of title contention really be considered as Princeton’s rival?
A list of the greatest basketball rivalries of all time typically includes Lakers-Celtics, Duke-UNC, and until recently, Penn-Princeton. Of late, however, the term rivalry has become more or less a misnomer, an asterisk of the past. With Tuesday night’s victory, the gap between the two teams will only widen even further. One might even liken the “rivalry” between Penn-Princeton to that between Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman: there are talkers, and then their are winners.
For those who do not regularly follow Ivy League basketball, Tuesday night’s game would be analogous to an NBA match between the Spurs and the Pelicans (without Anthony Davis, of course). For those of you who don’t follow basketball, it’s like the rivalry between Tom and Jerry. Or, if you don’t like references, try picturing an egg and a very hard surface.
On one hand, you have a balanced, mature offense; Princeton has become a team that stands for consistency and selflessness. On the other, you have a young team that might be interesting in a few years, but is still figuring things out in the time being. For now, the only statistic the Quakers have led the league in is losses.
Don’t believe us? Here are the numbers: Princeton leads Penn in field goal percentage (44.7 to 43.2), three-point percentage (37.2 to 32.7), assists (14.1 to 13.6), rebounds, and free throw percentage. In summary, Princeton is only better on the boards, at the line, and beyond the arc (and inside the arc for that matter). Surely, Penn can make do with all that space in the middle of the court.
For Princeton fans who cannot travel to Tuesday night’s game, it might be helpful for us to preview the environment inside the Palestra tonight. The stadium will be packed with students thrilled and excited to celebrate the Palestra’s 90th. Chants of “Puck Frinceton” will fill the air. And then Princeton will open with a 6-0 start, before blowing the game open for a 34-17 lead by halftime. If that seems oddly specific to you, it’s because that is exactly what happened the last time these two “rivals” met. In short, it might be like that awkward moment when LeBron and the Cavs won Game 7 in Golden State.
Despite the odds, Penn will likely dismiss all of the above, undermining the Tigers’ accomplishments in the process. In response to the unwarranted comments, we can only defer to none other than James Franco. As Franco noted in the Interview: “they hate us cause they ain’t us.”
If we haven’t belabored the point already, it is pretty clear that the Tigers are favored tonight. And while the young Penn squad will certainly put up a good effort to reach for that ever-elusive Ivy League win, the Tigers will end the night 6-0. In the wise words of the great Uncle Drew: “Don’t reach young blood”.
DAVID XIN and DAVID LIU are the Head Sports Editor and Head Sports Editor Emeritus of The Daily Princetonian. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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