Checking in on Yale

The young Bulldogs have had a tough start, but there are reasons for optimism in New Haven and they can be found in the frontcourt.

While it may be tough to see in terms of results, especially after today”s eight point loss to New Hampshire, this young Yale Bulldogs team is making progress. So far, the biggest problem has been getting good shots and taking care of the ball. The Bulldogs rank near the bottom of Division I in shooting percentage and turnover rate. Today”s loss was a perfect example: 1-14 shooting from three (7%) and 18 turnovers.

The reason for the low shooting percentage has simply been a lack of dangerous offensive weapons. Opponents have keyed on Austin Morgan and have kept him mostly quiet. Other than Justin Sears, no one has demonstrated the ability to score. And Coach James Jones sure has given everyone a chance. Besides Morgan, there isn”t a player on this roster playing more than 60% of the team”s minutes. Yale has been going with the old 11 man rotation.

Jeremiah Kreisberg seems to be improving game-by-game after his back surgery this past summer. His presence on the floor is so important to this Yale team. After failing to make much of a difference in the first eight games of the season, Kreisberg has had 14 points in each of the last two contests, including 8 rebounds today against New Hampshire. When Kreisberg demands more attention down low, it”s going to start opening things up for Austin Morgan on the wing.

As expected,

Morgan has struggled to find open looks as opponents have focused game plans on him consistently without Greg Mangano to worry about. Morgan”s impact is greatest when he”s getting open looks and knocking them down, though he”s also a good distributor and defender.With Kreisberg getting back to form and freshman Justin Sears continuing to look like one of the team”s best weapons, Morgan should become more of a productive scorer. Thus far, he”s shooting just 31% from the field.

Things continue to be unclear at the point. Senior

Mike Grace has the experience and the poise, but he”s only getting 19 minutes a game. Sophomore Javier Duren has gotten 23 minutes per game thus far and has also proven to be a good distributor of the ball, though his turnover rate is higher than Grace”s. Duren does have four inches on Grace and is a bit more active on the glass, but I”d expect Grace to start getting the lion”s share of minutes at the point soon.

Justin Sears has earned his own paragraph here. The freshman has been the Bulldogs” most productive player so far this year. He”s been an impressive scorer and a ferocious rebounder. His 18.1% Offensive Rebounding rate ranks him 11th in the country. Sears” biggest offensive rebound of the year came with just tenths of a second remaining at Bryant when he corralled a miss and laid it home for the game-winning points in a 64-62 victory. Combine Sears” production with that of the rest of the frontcourt: an improving Kreisberg, a defensive stalwart in sophomore Brandon Sherrod, a long athletic wing in sophomore Armani Cotton (All-Ivy First Team Name), and another long body in sophomore Matt Townsend, and there”s reason to be optimistic in New Haven.

Yale won”t play another D-I opponent until after Christmas, when the Bulldogs go out west to face off against Nevada and St. Mary”s before the New Year. The first week of 2013 will be a real test for the Elis with away games at Iowa State and Holy Cross, before hosting 7-0, 6th-ranked University of Florida at John J. Lee on January 6th (awesome scheduling coup). About two weeks later, Yale will open up the Ivy slate with the familiar home-and-home with Brown, and you have to think that Coach Jones will have settled on a more refined rotation by then.

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