Little did anyone expect Yale and Duke would meet for a second time after the Blue Devils handed Yale an 80-61 loss in November. But that exact scenario is taking place Saturday afternoon in Providence in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Duke beat Yale on that night, 80-61, but the game was much closer. Yale raced out to a 9-0 lead and trailed 38-36 at the half.
Duke was playing with its big star Amile Jefferson, who is now out for the year with a broken foot. Yale stars Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod got into big foul trouble, perhaps as a result of quick road whistles.
Yale has a new star in March and he’s Makai Mason, a 31-point scorer against Baylor who this writer voted to be Ivy Player of the Year in Ivy Hoops Online’s 2015-16 All-Ivy Awards.
Mason will create problems for Duke, as will the veteran nature of Yale, which boasts the 21st-most experienced team in the country, while Duke ranks just 330th in that category.
Yale has been susceptible to pressure defense, but Duke does not pressure the ball comparatively much.
Veteran Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski feels that a key will be the ability of Duke to “limit them to one shot.” Yale is one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation, so that will be difficult. They outrebounded a far more physical team in Baylor Thursday.
Yale’s help defense must be in full form and Sears and Sherrod need to limit their fouls, especially when playing against a big like 7-foot Marshall Plumlee. Grayson Allen will present problems driving to the basket, given his body control and Brandon Ingram, perhaps the top pick in the upcoming NBA draft, will be tough to stop.
If Mason is hitting from the outside and Sears and Sherrod are tough inside, both offensively and defensively, the Devils can be had. Yale has the ability with its offensive sets to control
tempo, even though Yale proved against Baylor that it could run with anyone.
Look for the Elis to win a close one at the buzzer and advance to the Sweet 16, for the first time in school history.