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March Madness: Princeton becomes fourth No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16

The Tigers easily beat No. 7 Missouri 78-63

A No. 15 seed is in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season.

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

Princeton is just the fourth No. 15 seed to make the Sweet 16. St. Peter’s was the third in 2022 and became the first No. 15 to make the Elite Eight when it beat Purdue in the third round of the tournament. Oral Roberts was the second No. 15 to make the Sweet 16 in 2021.

The Ivy League champions were just 4-of-25 from the 3-point line in their upset win over No. 2 Arizona on Thursday. That performance was atypical of an NCAA tournament upset. Massive underdogs usually win because they shoot well from behind the arc.

Princeton progressed back to the mean on Saturday. The Tigers hit 12 3-pointers and picked apart Missouri’s zone in the second half. Blake Peters came off the bench to hit five 3-pointers while Ryan Langborg had 22 points to lead all scorers.

Missouri finished fourth in the SEC during the regular season and was at its best when it scored more than 65 points. Fewer than 65 points usually meant 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 got dominated on the boards by Princeton. Mizzou was out-rebounded by 16 as Princeton got a ton of second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass.

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

Biggest win by a No. 15 in the second round

Florida Gulf Coast became the first No. 15 to make the Sweet 16 when it won two games in the 2013 NCAA tournament and was joined eight years later by Oral Roberts before the Golden Eagles started this three-year streak.

Princeton’s margin of victory was the biggest of any No. 15 seed in the second round by five points, too. 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 made it to the Final Four that season after they won three games to win their region 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 ranked fourth in the nation in defensive rebounding and 11th in overall rebounding and that strength was one of the biggest differences on the court even though Princeton doesn’t have a significant contributor over 6-foot-8.

Missouri, meanwhile, ends the season with a 25-10 record after a strong first season under coach Dennis Gates. The Tigers were picked to be one of the worst teams in the SEC but scored six Quad 1 wins, according to the NCAA’s NET rankings.