Last year, the Elis won their first outright Ivy title since 1962 and their first NCAA Tournament game ever. They narrowly lost to Duke in the round of 32 in Providence. This year’s version will present more of a challenge to heralded head coach, James Jones, who enters his 18th year as Elis coach and the dean of all Ivy coaches. Jones won the coveted mid-major Coach of the Year honor last year, along with a host of other honors.
Yale loses 60 percent of its scoring and 62 percent of its rebounding. The loss of Ivy Player of the Year Justin Sears, will be felt the most. Sears averaged 15.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a senior. He is one of the top five players in Yale basketball history. Yale also lost rebounding machines Brandon Sherrod and Nick Victor to graduation. Khaliq Ghani, a steady three-point shooter at the end of last season, is also gone. (And Jack Montague exited in February following his expulsion.)
The good news is that leading scorer and preseason Ivy Player of the Year, Makai Mason returns. He led the team in scoring at 16 points per game and in three-pointers with 55. The star junior guard played in Europe over the summer and put on his frame a lot more muscle. Mason is poised to be one of the most prolific scorers in Yale history. Who could forget the 31 points in the upset win over Baylor?
Joining Mason will be Sam Downey and Anthony Dallier, both of whom saw starting action last season for the Elis. Downey is a tenacious defensive rebounder and very efficient on offense. Trey Phills, 6-foot-2 and lightning quick, will see a great deal of reserve duty at guard and 6-foot-7 bulky Blake Reynolds, a Kevin Love type should start at forward. He can both score from inside and out, as exemplified by his performance at Blue Madness and he rebounds, as well.
Jones brings in perhaps, his more heralded recruiting class ever. It is headlined by 6-foot-8 Jordan Bruner from South Carolina, who chose Yale over in-state Clemson. Bruner, sporting a 7-foot-11 wingspan, should start once the Ivy wars begin. He can score from inside and out and has a high basketball I.Q. He carried a 4.8 GPA in high school. Miye Oni, a 6-foot-6 freshman guard, has tremendous potential, especially on the offensive end. So does 6-foot-8 Austin Williams, a strong rebounder. Jones calls, “major contributions from the freshman class” as one of the keys to the season.
Depth will be an issue for the Elis, especially on the perimeter. It was last season as well, but they still won the Ivies.
Yale was picked preseason No. 3 in the Ivies, behind Princeton and Harvard, by the Ivy writers. With a postseason Ivy tournament, Yale should be well situated for yet another NCAA or an NIT run.