In 1975, Princeton won four games in March at New York’s Madison Square Garden to win the prestigious National Invitation Tournament (NIT). To this day, the Tigers are the only Ivy League team ever to win a major postseason tournament.
The Tigers, led by team captains and All-East selections Armond Hill and Mickey Steuerer, scorer Barnes Hauptfuhrer and the unheralded Tim van Blommesteyn, won their final 13 games and finished the season ranked No. 12 in the final Associated Press poll.
After a one-point loss at Brown sent the Tigers to 9-8, Princeton didn’t lose again. That included eight Ivy wins and a stellar win out of conference at Virginia. Still, the Tigers’ 12-2 Ivy finish was one game behind Penn, so Princeton headed to the NIT.
Though Princeton was somewhat of a lock to make the NIT field, few gave the Tigers much of a chance to make it to the semifinals. The Tigers had played in just one NIT prior to 1975, three years earlier, and had been eliminated in the quarterfinals.
This year would be different, however, beginning with a 21-point win over Holy Cross in the first round behind Hauptfuhrer’s 19 points and Bob Hartley’s 16 off the bench.
In the second round Princeton faced powerful South Carolina from the ACC, who had beaten the Tigers by 18 points earlier in the season. But a turnaround was in order this time. Hill scored 18 points in the first half, and the Tigers stunned the New York crowd of 11,425 by taking a 42-24 halftime lead. The final was 86-67, with van Blommesteyn leading Princeton at the end with 24 points.
The Oregon game in the semifinal was Princeton’s closest of the tournament. Hill made two free throws to put the Tigers ahead 58-57, then blocked a final attempt by the Ducks’ Ron Lee to seal the win.
Steuerer then controlled the pace for Princeton in the title game against Providence, and the Tigers’ four-guard rotation began a run that put the game away. The final was 86-67 Princeton, and the Tigers had completed their improbable run to the title.
Princeton 84, Holy Cross 63
Princeton 86, South Carolina 67
Princeton 58, Oregon 57
Princeton 80, Providence 69