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This week in the Ivy League: Defending-champion Princeton to play ranked DePaul, Syracuse in Cancún Challenge

Plus, other tough games ahead for Ivy League teams, including who’s going where this Thanksgiving weekend.

Princeton sophomore guard Carlie Littlefield is averaging 14.3 points per game for the Tigers this season. She also leads the team in steals and assists.
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Last season, it took the Princeton Tigers nine games to hit three losses. This season, it’s taken them just four.

It’s not the start that the defending Ivy League champions wanted, especially as they’re returning four of five starters from last season’s team. But some early roster shakeups affected the Tigers early: 2018 Ivy League Player of the Year Bella Alarie broke her arm in an October practice, while Abby Meyers was forced to take a year off from the team after a “misunderstanding” with one of her courses that violated university policy.

Still, Princeton is pushing on without two of their top scorers, and although they’re taking a 1-3 record into the Thanksgiving weekend Cancún Challenge, they should gain some good experience playing such high-caliber teams that can only help them when Alarie returns from her injury.

Last season, the Ivy League finished ninth in the NCAA RPI standings and won four games against teams from Power Five conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC). Facing top competition and pulling off some exciting wins along the way is just how preseason works in this conference. And with some early ranked action in No. 16 DePaul and No. 14 Syracuse heading the Tigers’ way this weekend, the potential for an upset can’t be ruled out, nor can a win against yet another Power Five opponent in their third tournament game against Kansas State.

More about the Tigers

Princeton was picked to finish first in the Ivy League this season and defend their regular-season and tournament championships, winning 14 of 17 first-place votes. They open their conference season by hosting the preseason (and 2017-18) second-place team, Penn, on Jan. 5. While Alarie’s return from injury doesn’t have a date attached yet, the word from the team is along the lines of “soon,” but not too soon.

Last season, the Tigers skipped the Thanksgiving tournament circuit, instead competing in the Gator Holiday Classic, where they won games against Saint Joseph’s and Chattanooga and Alarie was named tournament MVP.

In Alarie’s stead, the Tigers are led in scoring this season by Gabrielle Rush and Carlie Littlefield, each averaging double figures in the team’s first four games.

Tigers in action

Princeton Tigers (1-3) vs. No. 16 DePaul Blue Demons (1-1)

When: Thursday, Nov. 22 at 11 a.m. ET

Where: Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, Cancún, Mexico

How to watch: College Sports Live (paid subscription)

Notes: The Blue Demons were picked alongside Marquette to win the Big East this season. Their one loss so far came to No. 1 Notre Dame on Saturday, so they’ll be looking to regroup against the Tigers and get back in the win column.

Princeton Tigers (1-3) vs. No. 14 Syracuse Orange (3-1)

When: Friday, Nov. 23 at 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, Cancún, Mexico

How to watch: College Sports Live (paid subscription)

Notes: Like DePaul, the Orange’s one loss this season came to a top team in No. 3 Oregon, and it was just a two-point decision. Syracuse knocked off another top-25 opponent in the following game, beating No. 20 Texas A&M.

Elsewhere in the Ivy League:

  • Penn — picked to finish second in the conference behind Princeton — is off to a 3-1 start behind the hot shooting of senior guard Ashley Russell, who leads the team in both points (14 per game) and rebounds (6.5 per game). The Quakers’ one loss came in an away contest to No. 1 Notre Dame.
  • Besides the Tigers, another Ivy League team to play a Big Ten opponent to a close loss this past weekend was Columbia, who was edged out by Illinois 76-69.
  • In Wednesday’s action, Harvard couldn’t hold on to a one-point lead against Hartford and were outscored 31-17 in the fourth quarter en route to a 73-60 loss; Columbia let a close halftime score slip away as they fell to Houston 83-72; and Yale just couldn’t find the bottom of the net in a 66-52 loss to Cincinnati, shooting just 34.9 percent.
  • Cornell begins a four-game road trip when they take on No. 23 Minnesota on Friday (4 p.m. ET, BTN+) that also includes games at Colorado State, Lehigh and Stony Brook.
  • Other Ivy League teams participating in Thanksgiving weekend tournaments: Penn (Navy Classic), Harvard (Warner Center Marriott Thanksgiving Basketball Classic), Dartmouth (Lady Rebel Round-Up) and Brown (Brown University Turkey Tip-Off).

Ivy League schedule and results