Princeton finished fourth at No. 15 to make the Sweet 16

Jacob O’Connell and his Princeton Tigers advance to the Sweet 16 after defeating Missouri on March 18, 2023 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

A number. The 15th seed is in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season.

Princeton easily defeated No. 7 Missouri 78-63 to advance to the Sweet 16 on Saturday. The Tigers from New Jersey led almost the entire game and pulled away in the second half after Missouri tried to make it a contest.

Princeton is the only fourth-ranked 15th ranked Sweet 16. St. Peter’s finished third in 2022 and became the first No. 15 to advance to the Elite Eight when it defeated Purdue in the third round of the tournament. Oral Roberts is the second No. 15 to make the Sweet 16 in 2021.

The Ivy League champions were just 4-for-25 from the 3-point line in Thursday’s loss against No. 2 Arizona. That performance is unusual for an NCAA Tournament loss. Massive underdogs usually win because they shoot well from behind the curve.

Princeton returned to average on Saturday. The Tigers hit 12 3-pointers and picked off Missouri’s zone in the second half. Blake Peters came off the bench to hit five 3-pointers, while Ryan Longborg had 22 points.

Missouri finished fourth in the SEC during the regular season and was at its best when scoring over 65 points. Below 65 points usually indicates a loss. Mizzou shot less than 40% from the field as a team and shot just 30% from deep.

Mizzou was also the worst rebounding team in the SEC and Princeton dominated the group. Mizzou went 16 because Princeton had second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass.

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A huge win from 15th place in the second round

Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament by winning two games, and was joined by Oral Roberts in eight years before the Golden Eagles began this three-year streak.

Princeton’s margin of victory is five points, the largest of any 15th seed in the second round. FGCU beat San Diego State by 10 in 2013, Oral Roberts beat Florida by three and St. Peter’s beat Murray State by 10 a season ago.

The win means Princeton is in the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1965. The Tigers advanced to the Final Four that season after winning their region in three games before losing to Michigan.

This Princeton team lost four games in the Ivy League regular season, but was one of the best rebounding teams in the country. The Tigers rank fourth in the nation in defensive rebounding and 11th in overall rebounding, and that strength is one of the biggest differences on the court even though the 6-foot-8 Princeton isn’t a significant contributor.

Missouri, meanwhile, finishes the season with a 25-10 record after a strong first season under coach Dennis Gates. According to the NCAA’s NET rankings, the Tigers were ranked as one of the worst teams in the SEC, but had six Quad 1 wins.

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