#119 Princeton Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Princeton Tigers

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #119
Conference Rank: #2 Ivy

Princeton Team Page#119 Princeton Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Princeton Basketball Tickets

In the first four years of the Mitch Henderson era, Princeton has consistently been a good but not great team. They’ve made the CBI tournament twice, but have never won more than one game. Also, they’ve enjoyed a +.500 conference record all four years, but have never finished better than second place (2012-13). This kind of consistency can be good for a young player-coach like Henderson, but can be excruciatingly anguishing for fans looking to just get over the hump (the hump being Harvard in this case). The 2015-16 campaign could finally be the one that this feat is accomplished. They have enough returning talent to improve on last year’s 3rd place finish, and enough incoming young guys to put the pressure on the powerful Crimson of Harvard.

2014-2015 Record: 16-14, 9-5
2014-15 Postseason: None
Coach: Mitch Henderson
Coach Record: 74-46 at Princeton, 74-46 overall

Who’s Out:
Princeton was a good D-1 college basketball team last season; no one is denying that. However, they weren’t a particularly deep D-1 college basketball team. They played only four guys over 20 minutes per game and deployed only four other players for double digit minutes per contest. All four of the 20 minute+ guys are coming back, but two (Clay Wilson, Ben Hazel) of the other double digit players are not coming back. At first glance, Clay Wilson’s “job” for the Princeton Tigers throughout his three year career was simple: hit threes. And, for the majority of his minutes, that’s exactly what he did. The sharpshooter hit over 39% of his deep tries last year, a new career high. However, he wasn’t just purely a perimeter shooter. His work from the midrange greatly improved throughout his career (45.2% FGP) as did his perimeter defense. He was never a terrific slasher (1.2 free throw attempts per game last season) or passer (0.8 apg last season) but he was a reliable shooter off the bench that also held his own defensively. The other departing double digit guy is Ben Hazel. Hazel, much like Wilson, preferred to do the bulk of his damage from behind the arc. He wasn’t as effective behind the arc as Clay (33.3%), but he was still a decent shooter. He wasn’t as effective from the midrange as Wilson either (39.6% FGP) and for a team that prided themselves on high field goal percentage (46.3% as a team), it’s not shocking why Hazel got only 17.9 minutes per game. The Tigers aren’t losing a ton of talent, but they are losing two reliable, experienced shooters off the bench, which aren’t usually easy to replace.

Who’s In:
There is definitely quite a bit of talent to look for in this incoming class. Out of the four incoming freshmen, Elias Berbari is the rawest prospect. Listed as a shooting guard, Berbari is almost certainly going to have to get bigger if he hopes to survive at the D-1 level. He’s only 6-2 and 170 pounds, without elite handles or shooting. That, among other things, will most likely keep Berbari on the bench for his first season. The second recruit is small forward Noah Bramlage. Although not as talented as the ranked recruits coming in, Bramlage is a guy you want to see succeed. He’s a hard worker both in the classroom and on the court, and won numerous scholarly awards throughout his high school career. As a player, Bramlage is an interesting work in progress. He’s tall enough and strong enough to play power forward (6-7, 215 pounds) but has the shooting touch of a small forward. This sort of versatility will really help him gain some minutes early on in his college career. The problem with him, however, is that he’s not a very athletic guy. He’s not quick enough to guard the perimeter (especially at the college level) but not bouncy enough or strong enough to hang with the big boys down low. He’ll get playing time for his offense, but he’s going to have to figure out how to become a better defender moving forward if he hopes to play major minutes.

The first of two ranked recruits is two star shooting guard Myles Stephens from Pennington, New Jersey. There is a lot to like about Stephens game, but it’s his excellent size and athleticism that really has people excited. Fast, bouncy, and strong in the lane, Stephens is a tough man to stop in the open floor. He’s also a capable defender on the perimeter who’s tough to get by in one v. one situations. His shooting stroke needs some work, but he could be a double digit minute per game player next season who should only get better as his career rolls on. The last recruit (and the one with the highest ceiling) is three star point guard Devin Cannady from Mishawaka, Indiana. The one thing the Tigers were missing from last year’s squad was a dynamic point guard. Amir Bell (8.8 ppg, 2.6 apg) was good in his own right, but Cannady is a true point guard. Smart, athletic, talented and always seeing the whole floor, Cannady has the potential to unseat Bell as a freshman. There really isn’t anything not to like about Cannady’s game. He’s an elite athlete, a knock-down three point shooter, a great, head’s-up player and is always hustling around the floor. I’d be shocked if this guy didn’t start by at least his second year.

Who to Watch:
Very, very few mid-major teams had a trio more dangerous than Princeton’s last season. Spencer Weisz, Hans Brase, and Steven Cook were all All-Ivy second team caliber players (Brase was robbed of the award) who combined for just about half of the Tigers points last season (48.5%). Cook, a straight perimeter shooter in his first season with Princeton back in 2013-2014 (4.5 ppg, 46.4% three point percentage) obviously wanted to be something more after that season. And that he became. He still hit a lot of threes (39.3%) but the addition of a slashing game (3.1 free throw attempts per game) and an improved midrange game (44.2% FGP) changed him from a 16 MPG bench guy to a regular starter. It also didn’t hurt that he ramped his defense up quite a bit too, snagging a team high 1.6 steals per game and rarely getting caught in foul trouble (2.1 fouls per game). If he continues to put in the work (and all indications are showing he will), Cook could become the leading scorer for the Tigers next season. The second of the power trio is senior big man Hans Brase. Brase, an All-Ivy League second teamer in 2013-14, didn’t receive the award last season even though he basically improved in all major categories. Still, that doesn’t mean he had any worse of a season. He was second on the team in scoring (11.5 ppg), first in rebounding (7.5 per game) and second in minutes (31.1 mpg). Coach Henderson obviously has a ton of faith in Brase to get in his work down low. And although Brase does the majority of his damage from in the perimeter, he has enough size to be a force in the paint, making him a really tough guy to cover. With one more year of eligibility, and probably a little extra motivation after being robbed a spot on the second team, Brase could be a scary guy to cover in 2015-16. The final player, junior guard Spencer Weisz, was the MVP of the Tigers last season. Talented, versatile, athletic and smart, Weisz dictated how the games would go for Princeton. When he was on, they were a tough team to stop. When he was struggling, the Tigers became very vulnerable. Brase and Cook can help, but there’s no denying this is going to be Weisz’s team in 2015-16, which is absolutely a good thing for Henderson and his team.

Final Projection:
Yale got close last year, but once again it was the Harvard Crimson escaping with the NCAA bid for the Ivy League. With Yale presumably taking a step back, it’s going to be Princeton’s turn to give the mighty Crimson a run for their money. With an exceptionally talented core trio returning (Weisz, Cook, Brase) and a few nice recruits to fill in the holes, the Tigers are certainly talented enough to challenge Harvard. However, the question now becomes is Henderson ready to take that next step? He’s proven to be a talented regular season coach in his first four seasons, but rarely gets the big win for the program. The talent is there, now it’s time for Henderson and his team to execute.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Devin Cannady, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Steven Cook, Junior, Guard, 10.4 points per game
Spencer Weisz, Junior, Forward, 11.6 points per game
Hans Brase, Senior, Forward, 11.5 points per game
Pete Miller, Junior, Center, 5.8 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.9 (136, 1)
Scoring Defense: 65.7 (145, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.3 (53, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.7 (210, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.4 (23, 2)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.7 (50, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.1 (100, 4)
Rebound Margin: -1.4 (249, 7)
Assists Per Game: 13.0 (140, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.2 (142, 4)


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