Season Preview: Yale Bulldogs

Yale looks to improve upon last season's surprising 3rd place finish as Justin Sears and the Bulldogs open up against Central Connecticut State before traveling up to Storrs to take on UConn on November 11th.
Yale will try to improve upon last season’s 3rd place finish as Justin Sears and the Bulldogs look to resume their domination of the glass in an Ivy gym near you.

In 2012-13: 14-17, 8-6, 3rd place, No Postseason.

A Look Back

After the first weekend of February 2013, it looked more likely that Yale would finish in last place in the Ivy League than 3rd place. The Bulldogs were coming off of a throttling in Hanover at the hands of lowly Dartmouth, and only had an overtime home victory over Brown to show through four league contests. At 1-3 and heading south to face the P’s, the Elis were staring 1-5 right in the face. But something special happened on that trip: Yale developed an identity as a physical, glass-crashing basketball team. Behind 32 offensive rebounds in two nights, the Bulldogs swept the Penn-Princeton road trip for the first time since 1987. That weekend propelled the young team, which was largely considered to be in a rebuilding year, back into the top half of the Ancient Eight for the 13th consecutive season. Freshman Justin Sears emerged as one of the league’s best rookies, crashing the offensive boards as well as anyone in the conference, and showing a knack for getting to the line and scoring. Sophomore Armani Cotton also made a splash, going for a career high 20 points and 12 rebounds in a win against Holy Cross, and earning a more central role as the season progressed. The Elis finished the year with three straight victories, including another sweep of Penn and Princeton, this time in New Haven–shaking up the title chase and sending old Blue into the offseason with some serious momentum for 2013-14.

Players to Watch

Justin Sears, Sophomore– The 6’8″ Sears is the motor that makes this team go. A beast on the glass who is developing into an All-Ivy scorer, Sears put his game to the test this summer in the very competitive Nike Pro City League in New York. Those experiences should help the Bulldog forward this season, as he will be expected to carry the team again this year after being the team’s highest usage player in his rookie season. 

Matt Townsend, Junior– The Chappaqua native came on strong at the end of the year, scoring in double figures in four of the last five games, including a 19-point performance in a win at undermanned Cornell. He should get a lot of frontcourt minutes, especially with Kreisberg out.

Javier Duren, Junior– With Mike Grace graduating last year, Duren will be the Bulldogs’ only true returning point guard. Duren has been a bit of a frustrating player to watch at times because his quickness and court vision hint at quite a backcourt talent. What has held him back is his turnover rate. Of the 46 players in the league who played 40% or more of their team’s minutes last season, Duren ranked 44th, turning the ball over on 30% of his personal possessions.

Anthony Dallier, Freshman– The prize of Jones’ Class of 2013, Dallier looks to be the most game-ready of the four Yale freshmen. Dallier is a pure shooter with range, though he isn’t afraid to put the ball on the floor and has solid passing touch to boot. Look for the Northfield Mount Hermon product to contribute early in his Yale career. 

Question Marks

Three Point Shooting- With the departure of Austin Morgan and Sam Martin, the Bulldogs lose their two best snipers, leaving them with a lot of shots to replace. 

Post Defense- Jeremiah Kreisberg should be the anchor of the interior Eli defense in his senior campaign, but back surgery will keep him off the court for the entirety of the year. Yale will be undersized against some of the league’s bigger teams without a rotation player over 6’8″ returning.

Senior Leadership- Two years ago, this was Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite’s team. Last year, it was Austin Morgan’s. There is a leadership void that needs to be filled this season. It will be interesting to see who steps up in that role, whether it’s rising seniors Greg Kelley and Jesse Pritchard, or the younger up-and-coming talents like Cotton and Sears.

Prediction

There is young talent in New Haven, but not enough to take down the Goliath of Ivy basketball this season up in Cambridge. That said, the league is wide open behind Harvard, and Yale has a legitimate chance to finish 2nd and earn a postseason berth. The Bulldogs will struggle to match up with a few teams, like Penn with their backcourt speed and interior size, but Coach Jones successfully found a way to gameplan for the Quakers last season with virtually the same roster, so who’s to say he can’t do it again? My pick is that Yale will finish 3rd at 8-6 in Ivy play. Fans at Payne Whitney should feel comfortable counting on yet another top half finish, Yale’s 14th in a row.

4 thoughts on “Season Preview: Yale Bulldogs

  1. Happy, but surprised, to note that Denton Koon, the Tigers’ 6’8″ junior swingman, has received at least one preseason nod for All-Ivy first team. Justin Sears, on the other hand, was mentioned honorably. Based on the times I saw Sears play, two crushing defeats for Princeton, I might be inclined to reverse these ratings. Sears will be a first teamer in his career, probably more than once. I dearly hope Koon reaches that level. The talent level in the league must be close to an all-time high, at least since 1965. Problem is, like 1965, most of it is on one squad,

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