Checking in with Yale men’s basketball

Record: 8-9 Overall and 1-0 Ivy (4-2 Home; 4-7 Away)

Rankings: KenPom #196; Bart Torvik #212; TeamRankings #152

What’s Hot

Sharing the Rock, Defensive Rebounding and Two-Point Shooting

Over the previous three seasons, Yale has been in the top 100 for assists. After the first half of the 2017-18 campaign, the Bulldogs are tops in the conference averaging 18.4 assists a game and their 67.2 percent rate is second in the country.

The Elis have a defensive rebounding rate of 73.0 percent, which is fourth in the Ivy League and top 90 nationally. While it may not be as high as the program’s 75.7 percent rate in its historic ‘15-‘16 season (top 10 nationally), it is on pace to be the second-best performance in the last 10 years.

With regards to two-pointers, Yale has gone from a 45.5 percent rate (291st nationally) in ‘13-‘14 to 51.7 percent (75th nationally) in ‘16-‘17.  This year, the squad is in the top 10 with a 58.9 percent rate. Their top four scorers inside the arc, Paul Atkinson, Blake Reynolds, Miye Oni and Alex Copeland, are shooting 70.8, 65.5, 62.5 and 54.0 percent, respectively.                                   

Trey Phills shot 6-for-9 from two-point range in Yale’s 78-72 win over Brown Friday, which marked the 18th anniversary of his father and former NBA guard Bobby’s death.                                                 

What’s Not

Field-Goal Defense and Injuries

The Bulldogs are allowing their opponents to shoot 46.4 percent overall, which is sixth-highest in the league. Teams are shooting 35.6 per event from three, which is the highest amount since ‘13-‘14.  Fortunately, teams are only making 6.7 treys a game since they have taken less than a third of their shots from behind the arc. From inside the arc, teams are scoring at a 51.7 rate, which would be the highest number since the ‘06-‘07 team allowed 51.5 percent.

Fully healed from last year’s knee injury, Jordan Bruner looked to build upon his rookie season production of 8.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 22.4 minutes per game.  Unfortunately, a torn meniscus in a preseason scrimmage ended his sophomore season.  This has been a big blow for a team that regularly plays two bigs in the front court.  Without Bruner, Yale has only three forwards averaging double digit minutes with one a first-year (Paul Atkinson) who was thrust into the starting lineup ahead of schedule and another a senior (Noah Yates) who only played 5.5 minutes a game in his one previous year with the team.

Makai Mason lost his junior season to a preseason left foot injury.  After being cleared to play in late October, hopes were high that the former first-team All-Ivy guard would approach his ‘15-‘16 numbers – 32.7 minutes, 16.0 points, 3.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds a game, while shooting 42.7 percent from the the field, 35.7 percent from three and 80.6 percent from the charity stripe.  A stress fracture to the same foot contributed to him being on the shelf for the first several months of this season.

Mason’s absence, along with Bruner’s loss, has resulted in Oni’s workload being increased (+ 6.1 percent in Possessions and + 8.0 percent in Shots) and his efficiency decreased (- 4.5 ORtg).  It was reported by Jon Rothstein of FanRag Sports Monday that Mason will return within the next three weeks.  With 15 months away from game action and a pending graduate transfer to Baylor in ‘18-‘19, it is difficult to know how great a factor the captain will be in the 2018 Ivy title chase.

What’s Meh

Three-Point Shooting and Offensive Rebounding

The Elis are hitting 8.6 three pointers a game, but are shooting at a 33.9 percent rate   They are also taking 44 percent of their overall shots from beyond the arc. When looking at the last 16 years of Yale basketball, this would be the lowest success rate since ‘’13-‘14 and  the highest percentage of treys taken by just over 9 percent.  Looking at the roster, Azar Swain, Eric Monroe and Yates have come off the bench to collectively hit 65 threes at a 37.6 percent rate. However, starters Oni, Reynolds, Copeland, and Trey Phills have combined for 78 made threes at a significantly lower 31.9 percent clip.

Yale’s offensive rebounding rate is 28.9 percent, which is second in the conference and top 190 nationally. While these numbers would be very good for many mid-major teams, it represents a noticeable drop off for a Bulldogs program that is one of the strongest rebounding teams in Division 1.  The last time they were under 30 percent on the offensive glass was ‘10-‘11, when they had a bottom 50 rate of 25.3 percent.

What’s Next:

After holding on to beat Brown last Friday, Yale will look for the season sweep when they travel to Providence this Friday night. The Bulldogs then welcome Harvard and Dartmouth to New Haven on the 26th and 27th for their first back-to-back Ivy weekend.  The next weekend will see the Elis heading south to take on the Tigers and Quakers on Feb. 2 and 3.

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