When the season began, few circled Saturday's showdown between Princeton and host Penn State on their calendars. The Tigers had been picked to finish fourth in the Ivy League this season while the Nittany Lions were pegged for 11th in the 12-team Big Ten, per the preseason coaches polls. While it's still only December, those coaches may want a recount, as Princeton and Penn State have emerged as two of the early-season surprises in college basketball.
The Tigers have won seven of their first eight for their best start since 1997, while the Nittany Lions have taken eight of 11 to mark their best season-opening stretch since 2008. Princeton has won six in a row, including a 78-73 win over Rutgers on Wednesday, when T.J. Bray returned from a one-game suspension to score 20 of his season-high 23 points for the Tigers. Princeton, however, hasn't beaten Penn State since 1970, with the Nittany Lions having won the last seven meetings in the series.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT PRINCETON (7-1): The Tigers are off to their highest-scoring start after eight games since 1971, averaging 72.1 points behind Bray, who is averaging 16 points and 5.8 assists. Denton Koon (12.4) and Hans Brase (11.9) are also scoring in double figures with Brase averaging a team-leading 6.5 rebounds. Princeton has been taking good care of the ball so far, leading the Ivy in assist/turnover ratio, with an average of 14.9 assists and a league-low 10.6 turnovers per game.
ABOUT PENN STATE (8-3): The Nittany Lions feature four players scoring in double figures for one of the program's all-time top offensive lineups. Leading the way is the nation's top-scoring backcourt of D.J. Newbill, averaging 18.5 points, and Tim Frazier (17.9), followed by Ross Travis (11.3) and Brandon Taylor (11.0). Allen Roberts came off the bench for a team-high 15 points in a 68-59 win over Duquesne on Wednesday while the Nittany Lions held the Dukes to just 27 percent shooting from the field.
1. Princeton has lost 11 straight games to teams from the Big Ten dating to a win over Wisconsin in 1985.
2. The game will be played at Penn State's historic (and sold-out) Rec Hall, where the Nittany Lions will tip off for the first time since 1996.
3. Ben Hazel leads the Ivy League in free-throw percentage at 95.5 percent, having made 21-of-22 from the foul line.
PREDICTION: Penn State 76, Princeton 73