Yale’s Makai Mason out for season

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Photo Credit: New Haven Register

Yale starting point guard and star of last season’s historic NCAA tournament run, Makai Mason will miss the entire 2016-17 season with a foot injury.

Mason was injured in a scrimmage this weekend and will need to undergo surgery to repair his foot. It’s unclear at this point whether Mason will withdraw from Yale to preserve the year of eligibility.

The news is a crushing blow to James Jones’ Bulldogs who will kickoff their title defense this coming weekend at Washington.

The injury was first reported by Erik Dobratz of News 8 in New Haven.

If Mason does not withdraw from school this semester, the junior will lose a year of eligibility at the program, per Ivy League rules. If he does withdraw this semester, he can return for fall 2017. If he decides to stay in school, then he would graduate in spring 2018 and have a year of eligibility as a graduate transfer.

Tracking Yale’s rise to championship history

 

The Yale basketball team celebrates its selection in the 2015-16 NCAA Tournament, in which it defeated Baylor in the first round in Providence, 79-75. It was Yale’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1962. (Hartford Courant)

It would be easy to point back to last season’s heartbreaking collapse and say that this year’s title run started simmering from the moment Javier Duren’s runner rimmed out at the Palestra on March 14, 2015. Certainly, that would be a convenient starting point for this narrative of redemption that culminated in this year’s seeding upset of the Baylor Bears. But anyone who’s been following the Bulldogs knows that this journey towards a title to call our own started long before that.

How did we get here?

There have been countless close calls since James Jones took the reins back at the turn of the century: the three-way tiebreaker in ’02 with Penn and Princeton, the thrilling up-tempo ’07 squad led by Eric Flato and Casey Hughes that started 9-2, beating undefeated Penn and sparking the only (non-Princeton) court storming I’ve ever witnessed at John J. Lee, the dangerous Greg Mangano-Reggie Willhite-Austin Morgan trio that raced out to fast start in ’12. But it wasn’t until Justin Sears arrived in New Haven that following summer that Jones could finally build around a true superstar in blue. And while getting to the Promised Land required contributions from everyone on this year’s squad from Blake Reynolds to Khaliq Ghani to Makai Mason, this was clearly Sears’ team.

But first, let’s go back to where it all began, back to a time when Yale basketball conjured up images of January hope and February despair, not the March ecstasy that we’ve come to know.

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Yale clinches first NCAA Tournament berth since 1962

The wait is over for Yale. After 54 long years without a NCAA Tournament appearance, including last year’s heartbreaking finish, the Yale Bulldogs put on their blinders, ignored the off-court events of this tumultuous week and buried the Columbia Lions with a focused 40-minute performance that left no doubt that they are finally the kings of the Ivy League.

Makai Mason started off hot with 13 first-half points, nailing his patented elbow jumper while Columbia looked for an answer. The Bulldogs threatened to run the Lions out of the building as Brandon Sherrod had his way on the glass inside, but Maodo Lo and Alex Rosenberg fought hard to keep the game tight going into the half at 41-27.

The second half was a back-and-forth affair as Columbia cut the lead to single digits and came within four at 49-45 before two huge corner threes from Mason and Khaliq Ghani (who had a huge weekend off the bench for the depth-depleted Bulldogs) stretched it back out to a 10-point margin.

It never got closer than eight points the rest of the way, as Yale, poised and determined to Dance for the first time in over a half century, closed out the Lions on the road.

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Brown Season Preview – Get Out and Run

Coach Mike Martin enters his fourth season at the helm for the Bears, looking to improve on last season’s 4-10 Ivy record. With Martin’s early recruits coming of age and the addition of some under-the-radar talent, there’s reason for optimism in Providence.

First and foremost, this is Cedric Kuakumensah’s team, as the imposing senior center and captain looks to build upon the greatest defensive reputation in the league. Outside of Kuakumensah, the Bears will look to replace the contributions of reliable big man, Rafael Maia, and they’ll look to a young cast to do so. Watch out for Travis Fuller, the 6-9 freshman from Encinitas, Calif.  The early returns are positive on Fuller, as the skilled big man looks to fill Maia’s void in the frontcourt.

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Yale-Harvard: The matchups that matter most

It used to always be this simple. Two teams — archrivals head and shoulders above the rest of the league — battle through the long slog of a 14-game tournament, rising above the Other Six to meet in an epic finale. With condolences to the P’s, this season, we return to that reliable formula under the New World Order as, for the second consecutive year, Harvard and Yale enter the final weekend as the only two teams still with a shot at the Ivy title.

Let’s take a look at the key matchups in this winner-take-all grudge match (though Brown and Dartmouth may have a few things to say about that on Saturday):

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Takeaways from Yale's loss to Quinnipiac

The Yale Bulldogs tipped off their season in Hamden last night, falling in a 88-85 double overtime shootout to the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

The matchup was a valuable early-season barometer for the Elis, allowing us to see which players are ready to step up and where the team will look to improve in the coming months before conference season. Let’s start with the good news:

Javier Duren came out firing. Yale’s starting point guard had 19 points at the half and finished with 26 points before fouling out in the first overtime. He calmly directed the offense all night, limiting his turnovers to just two, and shooting 50% (9-18) from the field.

Jack Montague shot the ball with confidence and filled in admirably for the injured Nick Victor who is reportedly sidelined for 3-4 weeks. Montague figures to be first off the bench once Victor returns. His clutch three-point bomb at the end of the first overtime extended the game for the Bulldogs.

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Yale Roster Preview – 2014-15 Edition

Optimism abounds in New Haven as the Yale Bulldogs return most major pieces from a team that advanced all the way to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT) final last March. Let there be no mistake: led by Ivy League Player of the Year favorite Justin Sears, the 2014-15 Bulldogs have their best shot at an Ivy League title in the last decade. Despite the media’s unanimous crowning of the Bulldogs’ arch-nemesis up in Cambridge, Yale was voted second in the preseason poll and already proved last year that it can hang with the big boys in Lavietes, notching a dominant, league-rattling 74-67 victory over the Crimson in the midst of a seven-game winning streak that brought dreams of March glory to southern Connecticut. Coach James Jones has done a remarkable job of keeping Yale competitive consistently during every season he’s had at the helm, but he’s still looking for that elusive NCAA berth to hang his hat on. If it’s going to happen, it will probably be this year with his hard-working point guard Javier Duren in his senior season and the team building off the momentum of last year’s thrilling postseason run. After exploding in 2013-14, Justin Sears will get a lot of defensive attention this year, so it remains to be seen if the rest of the squad will be able to take advantage of their opportunities.

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Interview with Yale’s James Jones

Yale's James Jones has led the Bulldogs to 15 consecutive top-half Ivy finishes. This past season's 9-5 team will return most of the rotation and may be Harvard's biggest competition once again.
Yale’s James Jones has led the Bulldogs to 14 consecutive top-half Ivy finishes. This past season’s 9-5 team will return most of the rotation and may be Harvard’s biggest competition once again. (Photo credit: yalebulldogs.com)

Friend of IHO and author Richard Kent– whose basketball work includes Big East Confidential and Lady Vols and UConn: The Greatest Rivalry— sat down this week with Yale head coach James Jones to chat about next season for the Bulldogs. Some of the highlights from their conversation are below.

Richard Kent: The Ivy will be tough next year. Can you envision two NCAA bids?

James Jones: That will be tough, but could happen if two teams tie and have a playoff. We will certainly have some strong teams who will be in the postseason.

RK: Any defections or losses from this year’s team next season?

JJ: Well, Brandon Sherrod is taking a year off to sing and travel with the Whiffenpoofs. He will be back after that.

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Yale’s Season Ends with a Hard-Fought Defeat in CIT Finals

Murray State 65, Yale 57. Without Justin Sears, the Bulldogs battled hard, dominating the boards as usual. But cold shooting was too much to make up for as the Racers claimed the CIT title at home.
Murray State 65, Yale 57. Without Justin Sears, the Bulldogs battled hard, dominating the boards as usual. But cold shooting was too much to make up for as the Racers claimed the CIT title at home.

Yale put forth a valiant effort with high-usage star forward Justin Sears sidelined with a hand injury, but the Bulldogs were unable to create enough offense to keep up with the Murray State Racers, falling 65-57 on the road in the CIT championship.

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Behind Physicality and Poise, Yale Advances to CIT Championship

Yale 75, VMI 62. The Bulldogs lost Justin Sears to a scary injury in the second half, but managed to hold on to advance to the CIT Final.
Yale 75, VMI 62. The Bulldogs lost Justin Sears to a scary injury in the second half, but managed to hold on to advance to the CIT Final.

The way this postseason has gone, the Yale Bulldogs probably wish they could play into the month of May. After winning the program’s first ever game in April on Tuesday, the Elis will play for a postseason trophy on Thursday at Murray State in the championship of the CIT.

Javier Duren was masterful again, taking the reins for the Bulldogs in the game’s nervous final minutes. With Justin Sears back in the locker room nursing a right hand injury suffered during a violent mid-air collision, the depth of the Bulldogs paid off again, as the poised squad held on despite the full-court pressure of the Keydets and the noise of their supporters.

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