Men's Basketball Included in ESPN's "50 in 50" Series
ESPN.com counted down the top 50 men's basketball programs of the last 50 years, and Princeton checked in at No. 22.
Since the 1962-63 season, the period the ESPN.com ranking considered, the program has made a Final Four appearance (1965), has had NCAA Tournament berths 20 times and was credited with 21 Ivy League titles by the ranking's measure.
The last 50 years began with the college career of the leading scorer in Ivy League history, Bill Bradley '65 (2,503 points), who won All-America honors in each of his three seasons. It continued by encompassing the entire career of Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Pete Carril (1967-96), whose teams introduced the "Princeton Offense" into the basketball lexicon. While also winning the 1975 NIT title, Carril's teams made their numerous NCAA Tournament appearances count. In 1989, Princeton came as close as any No. 16 seed has to knocking off a No. 1, falling to Georgetown 50-49, and seven years later, the Tigers pulled one of the greatest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, defeating defending champion UCLA 43-41.
In 1998, Princeton achieved the highest NCAA Tournament seed in Ivy League history, entering the tourney as a No. 5 and defeating UNLV before coming up short against fourth-seeded Michigan State in the Round of 32. That team, which finished 27-2, was ranked in the Associated Press poll from December 1997 through the end of the season, finishing at No. 8.
Since then, some of the current Tigers added to program lore in 2011, taking soon-to-be Final Four team Kentucky, one year prior to its national championship win, to the final play in the NCAA Round of 64.
As part of the project, ESPN.com put together an all-star team of Tigers since 1962-63, selecting Bradley, Geoff Petrie '70, Craig Robinson '83, Brian Taylor '84 and Armond Hill '85 as its starting five and Kit Mueller '91, John Hummer '70 and Frank Sowinski '78 as its three reserves.
Carril, of course, was named the program's top coach, while two other mentors, Butch van Breda Kolff '44 and Bill Carmody, led the three teams named as Princeton's top three over the last 50 years. Van Breda Kolff coached the 1965 Final Four team in Bradley's senior year as well as the 1966-67 team that went 25-3, was ranked No. 5 in the final AP poll and took No. 3 North Carolina to overtime in its second NCAA Tournament game. Carmody led the 1997-98 team, on which current head coach Mitch Henderson '98 played.
ESPN.com released teams ranked No. 36-50 Tuesday and No. 21-35 Wednesday. The list will continue here with No. 11-20 Thursday and the top ten Friday.
The ranking gave Princeton 289 points based on more than a dozen factors, including its high number of conference titles and NCAA Tournament appearances, six seasons with a winning percentage of better than .800 and 29 more seasons with a winning percentage better than .600, its NCAA Tournament wins in 1983, 1996 and 1998, its NIT title in 1975, Bradley's All-America honors and Petrie's and Hill's top-10 NBA Draft selections.