Jim Morgan, Yale basketball ’71: After last year’s thrilling battle for the conference title and the heartbreaking loss to Harvard in the playoff, I’m both excited and apprehensive about Yale’s chances this year.
Yale’s selection as the preseason favorite to win the Ivy title has many Yale fans hopeful that we might finally see Yale in the NCAA tournament again in our lifetimes. However, several critical questions must be answered for Yale to fulfill this promise.
- Can Yale find an effective replacement for Javier Duren, whose maturation at the point and overall play was, in my opinion, the most significant factor in Yale’s success last season?
- Can Justin Sears carry the team after Yale lost four of its top seven players to graduation: Duren, (Armani) Cotton, (Matt) Townsend and (Greg) Kelley?
- How quickly and successfully can Yale integrate some talented newcomers and returning players (Victor from injury and Sherrod from Whiffenpoofs sabbatical) with the core of veterans from last year to form a cohesive, high-functioning unit?
Yale’s nonconference schedule is brutal, but deliberately designed to prepare the team for conference play. The nonconference record is far less important than Yale’s team development against very stiff competition. The speed and success of that development against nonconference opponents will, in large part, determine Yale’s chances of repeating as Ivy champions. Yale fans can’t wait to see how all of the variables play out.
Ashley Wu, Yale Daily News: Predicted to finish at the top of the Ancient Eight, Yale has plenty of firepower, returning last season’s Ivy League Player of the Year in Justin Sears and three-point threat Jack Montague. Yes, the Bulldogs graduated a strong core of seniors, but this is another veteran team that will be looking to make amends for the way last season ended. Remember, the Elis came less than a second away from their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1962 before watching Harvard battle North Carolina in the Round of 64. It’ll be exciting to watch Yale play with a chip on its shoulder as the Bulldogs maneuver a tough schedule, highlighted by a trip to defending national champions Duke, and look to surpass last year’s successes.
There is no doubt that the Elis have the talent and coaching to succeed in the Ivy League, and I think the Bulldogs finish at the top of the conference with a record of 11–3 (likely one loss each from Princeton, Columbia, and Harvard). It’s a wide open race for the top spot, and the media agrees giving Princeton and Columbia each six first-place votes, but I can’t help but be optimistic. Sears is staring at his last chance to reach the tournament and Montague will look to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke. Brandon Sherrod returns after a year of singing and Makai Mason may have a breakout year after a strong freshman debut. There are few holes on this team, and Yale will show that last year was only a glimpse of things to come in 2015-16.
Jonathan Marx, Yale ’17: For Yale, the obvious player to watch is Justin Sears – after dominating the league last season, can he repeat the performance that earned him the Ivy POY? Beyond that, however, I’m excited to see how the team rebounds from losing not just star point guard Javier Duren, but also the frontcourt depth provided by Cotton, Townsend, and Kelley. How will Brandon Sherrod perform in his return from singing with the Whiffenpoofs? How will Makai Mason and Montague work together (and can they stay healthy) as a starting backcourt? Can James Jones finally break through after last season’s heartbreak? Can the Bulldogs pull off a major win in its trips to SMU, Illinois or even… Duke?!? There’s a whole lot to watch beyond Sears, and whether it results in a tournament berth or a disappointing third-place finish, it should be an exciting ride. Let’s say Yale reverses last year’s tale of heartbreak, pulling off a miraculous comeback in the season ending game at Columbia and then knocking off Princeton or Columbia in another one-game playoff (the last one ever, as I also predict the Ivy will join the rest of America and move to a conference tournament format after this season).
@Hacibey, ’19: I’m looking forward to seeing how the ’14-’15 Ivy League MVP Justin Sears and the Yale men’s basketball Team will perform on the national level. For the first time in a long while, our team has been predicted on finishing atop the Ivy League. The transition from being the underdog, a position Yale has been far too familiar with, to being the favorite to win it all is something to look out for. On that note, the emergence of sophomore guard Makai Mason is also something you should keep an eye on. And don’t sleep on the 2019 class. From the looks of it, the Ivy League is in for a surprise with this year’s group.