The men’s basketball team is doing better now that Ian Hummer ’13 is gone.
The first thing that comes to mind when you hear something like that is probably “correlation does not imply causation,” a favorite axiom of anyone who’s studied (or heard of) economics. Few would argue that this case, in which the Tigers lost last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year, is an exception to that axiom. Looking at how the team has done so far, however, I can’t help but wonder if losing Hummer didn’t have some positive effects. Princeton is 6-1 and was three points away from defeating Butler in its only loss this season, whereas this time last year the Tigers were 3-5. They were averaging 57.6 points per game; they’re now averaging 71.3. Something good must be happening.
Nobody’s matching Hummer’s 16.3 points per game this season. Nobody needs to. The top five are outperforming last year’s top five, combining to put up over 6 more points per game. Nobody’s over 15 points per game, but five Tigers are averaging in the double digits, something only Hummer and then-sophomore forward Denton Koon did last season.
With Hummer gone, this year’s stars are spreading the wealth. Hummer was never a ball-hog — he led the team in assists last season — but a certain amount of ball-hoggery comes with the territory when you’re really, really good. Now, the Tigers can’t dish it off to Hummer and hope for the best, and they’re having success taking things into their own hands. Sophomore forward Hans Brase is taking twice as many shots per game as he did last year and is scoring twice as many points, while the already-prolific shooter Koon is taking almost three more shots per game.
Nobody’s shooting as much as Hummer, but two players are out-performing his 51.7 shooting percentage of 2012-13. Senior guard T.J. Bray is shooting 57.7 percent from the floor despite missing games with a hand injury (which, I would imagine, could negatively affect some people’s ability to shoot) and this weekend’s Rookie of the Week Spencer Weisz is shooting 61.8 percent. Senior forward Will Barrett is shooting 43.8, but, given that he led the Ivy League in field-goal percentage last season, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to speculate that that number is going to go up quite a bit as the season goes on.
The Tigers are also shooting more threes with Hummer gone — eight more per game, in fact. Hummer took 120 more shots than the next most-frequent shooter on the team last season, but he took the fewest shots from beyond the arc of anyone who started a game for the Orange and Black. This year, the Tigers are about as accurate from three-point land as they were last year. The fact that they’re taking more long-distance shots, something which former Sports Editor and stats guru Kevin Whitaker ’13 says is more practical than shooting two-point jumpers, may account for a lot of that increased points-per-game number.
We don’t need to celebrate the fact that the second-highest scorer in Princeton history has moved on, but give this year’s Tigers some credit. None of them are trying to be Ian Hummer, and that may be why they’ve combined to fill his giant shoes so well.