Despite a weekend of travel woes, Yale swept the always challenging Columbia-Cornell trip and now sits at 17-4 and 7-1 in the Ivies. The Elis maintain first place alone.
Is it too early to ask how this team compares to the Ivy champion and winner in the NCAA Tournament over Baylor from 2015-16? Coach James Jones would say yes. Other Ivy coaches and former players have opinions which are all over the map.
The 2015-16 team was certainly a more veteran group. From a statistical standpoint, this year’s team is averaging 81 points per game while the previous team finished at 74.9. This year’s Yale opponents are scoring 72.9 points per contest and in 2015-16, 63.8.
The 2018-19 squad is narrowly outrebounding them (40.5 to 40.3 boards per game) and registers 2.2 more assists per outing (17.3 to 15.1).
Yale’s top scorers Miye Oni, Alex Copeland and Jordan Bruner register 41.3 points per game, just behind Makai Mason, Brandon Sherrod and Justin Sears at 44.4. Paul Atkinson registers 10.3 ppg on 71.7 percent shooting. No one on the previous team could match that, but no one on this team can match the intangibles which Nick Victor, Mr. Everything, brought to the table. Oni and Mason are both potential NBA players.
The 2015-16 team lost its marquee out-of-conference games to SMU, Duke and USC, although the loss at SMU was a narrow one. That edition of the Bulldogs also played Duke close twice (particularly in the NCAA Tournament). This year’s version beat Power 5 teams Miami and Cal and narrowly fell in triple overtime – and in a controversial manner – to a strong AAC squad, Memphis, which sits at 15-11.
This season’s Elis play at a much faster pace – 53rd nationally in average possession length versus 316th in 2016, according to KenPom.
The question is fascinating, but the verdict is unclear and the whole story probably won’t be written until this year’s Ivy League Tournament is over. We’ll all have a front row seat to see whether the Elis are Big Dance-bound and whether they have one or two NCAA wins in their fabric. It is certainly possible, but Harvard could have a lot to say about the issue. Only time will tell.