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Princeton's offense has new flavor for Kentucky basketball

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Princeton's offense has new flavor for Kentucky basketball

Post  BestdamnUKfanperiod on Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:33 pm

LEXINGTON, Ky. — If you follow college basketball, you probably have an impression of Princeton.

Patience and precision have long been the staples of the Princeton offense, a scheme so synonymous with the university — and so well-known in hoops circles — that it has its own Wikipedia page.

But the Tigers who will face the University of Kentucky on Thursday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament East Regional aren't quite as tame as their Princeton predecessors.

“It's not as much a controlled game as it has been in the past, but it's been a lot more fun from the players' perspective,” said Tigers guard Dan Mavraides, whose 13th-seeded team faces the No. 4 seed Wildcats at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.

This isn't your father's Princeton.

But it's not so far removed.

Coach Sydney Johnson is a 1997 Princeton graduate. He played on the 1996 team that upset UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and was coached by Pete Carril, the legendary coach credited with perfecting the Princeton offense.

It's a scheme based on constant movement of player and ball, a measured approach that typically runs plays deep into the shot clock, then looks for buckets on backdoor cuts.

And Johnson hasn't abandoned it.

The e-mail address listed for him on Princeton's website contains the word “backdoor,” and Johnson is rooted in the Princeton scheme as both player and coach.

He worked as an assistant at Georgetown under John Thompson III, a former Princeton player and head coach who employed a version of the Princeton offense. And when Johnson returned to coach his alma mater in 2007, he was using one, too.

“We were playing the more traditional version of the Princeton offense three, four years ago,” Johnson said. “I thought it was best-suited for those teams. We wanted to control tempo, we wanted to ensure that we were getting great possessions on offense, and quite frankly, we weren't able to defend as well.”

Steadily, though, the Tigers upgraded their athleticism. And as Johnson's teams tightened their defense, he loosened up the offense.
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