Season Preview: Yale Bulldogs

A win-probability chart of Yale”s most exhilarating victory last season, a 20-point comeback at Columbia. Yale will need more of that magic this year after losing Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite to graduation. (Chart from KenPom.com)

In 2011-12: 19-10, 9-5 in “11-12, 4th place.

A Look Back: The 2011-12 season was a year that Yale had been building towards for quite a while with all-league big man Greg Mangano becoming a senior and a strong supporting cast having formed around him. A successful run through the non-conference slate and the emergence of Reggie Willhite as a team leader and all-around stat stuffer made this Bulldogs team a trendy dark horse pick entering the Ivy season. A comprehensive dismantling of a good Vermont team and a victory at Rhode Island had Eli fans dreaming of dancing for the first time in Coach Jones” tenure. The Bulldogs got safely through the home-and-home with Brown unscathed, setting up perhaps the most highly anticipated hardwood version of “The Game” in decades. A raucous atmosphere awaited the Crimson favorites as they entered John J. Lee on January 27th, 2012. Unfortunately for Yale fans, Harvard put forth an utterly dominating defensive performance, holding Yale to 35 points and coasting to a 65-35 thumping. The Bulldogs were not yet ready for primetime it seemed.

The Bulldogs bounced back though, holding court at home with impressive victories over Dartmouth, Penn, and Princeton, and reviving their title hopes. An overtime loss in Ithaca pushed the Elis back to the brink of title irrelevancy, but the next night in Morningside Heights, the Bulldogs staged a truly remarkable comeback (the 3rd most unlikely comeback in all of Division I last season), coming from 20 down with less than ten to play. A week later, Yale had a chance to avenge the embarrassing loss to Harvard and played valiantly in Cambridge, ultimately falling 66-51 to the eventual league champs.

Yale took care of Columbia and destroyed Cornell on Senior Night to remain mathematically alive for a share of the title going into the season”s final weekend. It was not meant to be though, as the P”s exacted revenge for earlier losses, sending the Bulldogs to

a solo fourth

place finish at 9-5. Yale experienced a brief foray into the postseason in a CIT first-round loss against Sidney Johnson”s Fairfield team.

The Bulldogs will have to replace both of their top weapons this season, with Mangano beginning his professional career in Turkey () and Reggie Willhite having been selected by the Reno Bighorns in the fifth round of the D-League Draft last week.

Players to Watch: Jeremiah Kreisberg, Junior– The skilled big man was expected to make a big leap in his sophomore year, but too much of Yale”s offense flowed through Mangano for him to really leave his mark. Now, it”s his team. Kreisberg has a nice mid-range game and can play in the high or low post.

Austin Morgan, Senior– The sharpshooting guard knocks down most of his open looks. With less of an interior game this year, he”ll have to work harder to create those open looks this season. He”s also automatic from the free throw line (90% in “11-“12). He”ll carry the backcourt during his final 14-game tournament.

Brandon Sherrod, Sophomore– The 6″6″ athlete showed promise in his debut season, finishing well around the rim and pulling down rebounds. His role will be increased in Year 2.

Justin Sears, Freshman- The star recruit of this year”s class, the 6″8″ Sears will have an opportunity to see the court quickly. Sears was first-team all-state in New Jersey in his senior year of high school at Plainfield.

Key Non-Conference Games: November 12: at St. Joe”s, December 28: at Nevada, December 30: at St. Mary”s, January 1: at Iowa St.,

January 6: vs. Florida.

Prediction: This is a rebuilding year for Yale. They lost about 50% of their shots to graduation, and it”s going to take some time for younger players to grow into their roles. Coach Jones always seems to keep the Bulldogs competitive, but he has a lot of work to do with this squad if he wants to push the young Elis into the top half. A .500 conference record would be a great accomplishment with this team. With only two seniors and a lot of unproven talent, it seems more likely that they”ll be in the 5-6 win range.

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