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.

Read moreTracking Yale’s rise to championship history

Weekend Recap: Feb. 1-2

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A two-team race has developed pretty quickly in this year”s 14-game tournament, though the path that Harvard has taken to get to the top has been anything but easy.

The start of back-to-back Ivy weekends did not disappoint as we

were treated to some thrilling contests last night. Storylines abound at all levels of the league, so let”s just jump right in.

  • The biggest story of the weekend was Columbia crashing out of the title race after getting swept by the Ps, just like old times. The Lions put forth a valiant effort on national TV against Princeton, but couldn”t convert late and went down 72-66 at Jadwin, falling to 1-3 on the young season. Despite a career night from Maodo Lo (16 pts) and only three team turnovers, the Lions couldn”t stop a hot shooting Tigers squad. Princeton shot 51% from the field and a scorching 73% (8-11) from three. Hummer was just 2-8 from the field, but made his impact in other ways, getting to the stripe and knocking down 12-14, and dishing out seven assists to go with seven rebounds. TJ Bray had another great performance, hitting 6-10 including 3-3 from deep and committing zero turnovers. Brendon Connolly, who has seen his minutes dwindle as of late, knocked down a pretty running hooking shot to put the game away late. Princeton continues its perfect homestand and moves to 3-0. Brown and Yale visit Jadwin next weekend.

Read moreWeekend Recap: Feb. 1-2

Checking in on Yale

The young Bulldogs have had a tough start, but there are reasons for optimism in New Haven and they can be found in the frontcourt.

While it may be tough to see in terms of results, especially after today”s eight point loss to New Hampshire, this young Yale Bulldogs team is making progress. So far, the biggest problem has been getting good shots and taking care of the ball. The Bulldogs rank near the bottom of Division I in shooting percentage and turnover rate. Today”s loss was a perfect example: 1-14 shooting from three (7%) and 18 turnovers.

The reason for the low shooting percentage has simply been a lack of dangerous offensive weapons. Opponents have keyed on Austin Morgan and have kept him mostly quiet. Other than Justin Sears, no one has demonstrated the ability to score. And Coach James Jones sure has given everyone a chance. Besides Morgan, there isn”t a player on this roster playing more than 60% of the team”s minutes. Yale has been going with the old 11 man rotation.

Read moreChecking in on Yale

Weekend's Best: 11/10

The opening two nights of the college basketball season gave Ivy hoops fans a lot to celebrate. On Friday night, Harvard got the kinks out against a solid D-III squad in MIT and Penn mounted the greatest comeback in program history (!) to knock off UMBC at the Palestra.

On Saturday, the League kept rolling, as Cornell got great production from their guards, beating Western Michigan 80-75, and Princeton won a tight one on the road thanks to some late-game heroics, 57-53 over Buffalo. Yale came out firing against Sacred Heart in a late-afternoon matinee in West Hartford, and looked like they would

cruise to an early victory, but the Pioneers stormed back to force OT and dealt the Bulldogs a painful defeat, 85-82.

In the nightcap, Dartmouth won their first season opener since 2005, slowly pulling away from Maine in the second half at Leede Arena, 67-54, while

Columbia annihilated Furman in South Carolina, 68-47, behind a backcourt barrage. Here are the weekend”s best performances:

Read moreWeekend's Best: 11/10

Season Preview: Yale Bulldogs

A win-probability chart of Yale”s most exhilarating victory last season, a 20-point comeback at Columbia. Yale will need more of that magic this year after losing Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite to graduation. (Chart from KenPom.com)

In 2011-12: 19-10, 9-5 in “11-12, 4th place.

A Look Back: The 2011-12 season was a year that Yale had been building towards for quite a while with all-league big man Greg Mangano becoming a senior and a strong supporting cast having formed around him. A successful run through the non-conference slate and the emergence of Reggie Willhite as a team leader and all-around stat stuffer made this Bulldogs team a trendy dark horse pick entering the Ivy season. A comprehensive dismantling of a good Vermont team and a victory at Rhode Island had Eli fans dreaming of dancing for the first time in Coach Jones” tenure. The Bulldogs got safely through the home-and-home with Brown unscathed, setting up perhaps the most highly anticipated hardwood version of “The Game” in decades. A raucous atmosphere awaited the Crimson favorites as they entered John J. Lee on January 27th, 2012. Unfortunately for Yale fans, Harvard put forth an utterly dominating defensive performance, holding Yale to 35 points and coasting to a 65-35 thumping. The Bulldogs were not yet ready for primetime it seemed.

Read moreSeason Preview: Yale Bulldogs

Game Preview: Yale at Harvard

Yale needs to take care of the ball and get more out of its bench if the Bulldogs want to hang with Harvard at Lavietes tonight. (Photo Credit: thecrimson.com)

The last time that Harvard lost at Lavietes was February 19, 2010, a 79-70 loss to Cornell almost two years to this day. Since then, the Crimson has racked up—after last night’s comfortable 69-42 win over Brown—26 consecutive wins at home, and they now trail only Kentucky (49 wins) for the longest home winning streak in the country (D1). In short, as Yale’s season lies in the balance tomorrow—Yale must win to continue any hopes of seizing an Ivy League title—the Bulldogs are traveling into one of the toughest road environment’s imaginable to make or break their season.

Read moreGame Preview: Yale at Harvard

Game Preview: Princeton at Yale

Brendan Connolly and the Tigers are in a must-win situation tonight as they go up against Greg Mangano and the Yale Bulldogs. (Photo Credit: nj.com)

After a crucial 60-53 win last night against Penn (11-10, 3-1 Ivy), the Bulldogs (14-5, 4-1 Ivy) have the chance to make a serious statement about their title aspirations with another win today against Princeton. The good news is that the Bulldogs have some momentum coming into this game. In their last two outings, since suffering a humiliating 65-35 loss at the hands of Harvard, the Bulldogs have been absolutely stellar on the defensive end, having allowed only 53 and 52 points respectively.

Read moreGame Preview: Princeton at Yale

Game Preview: Penn at Yale

Zack Rosen has been unstoppable this year. The way Yale's backcourt has struggled, the Bulldogs have their work cut out for them Friday night at home. (Photo Credit: pennathletics.com)

This game contains the weekend's biggest title implications. Of course, a loss would be less dire for undefeated Penn, as the Quakers would still technically control their own destiny with a loss, but I think even the most optimistic of Penn fans are seeing a Harvard season sweep as a significant long shot.

Given the heightened significance of this game, this one should be really fun to watch. Yale’s guard play this last weekend was highly inconsistent, and the turnover bug bit the Bulldogs about as badly as I’ve ever seen (ignoring Jake Delhomme’s 6 turnover playoff performance 4 years ago) in both games, resulting in 41 giveaways on the weekend. The Bulldogs have to feel fortunate to have come away with even the one win. I’m really interested to see if the Yale backcourt can rise to the occasion, particularly given the fatigue factor of the dozens of suicides they were likely required to run in practice this week.

Read moreGame Preview: Penn at Yale

Game Preview: Brown at Yale, Saturday 2PM

Yale's Greg Mangano has been on a tear lately with four consecutive double-doubles and two straight Player of the Week awards. (Photo Credit: yalebulldogs.com)

As we move into January, there are so many things to be excited about– the NFL playoffs, bowl season, Burmese Independence Day, and for those who are strict adherents to the teachings of the National Association of Fruits and Vegetables, Dried Fruit and Tubers month.

And while for many Americans, football and dried prunes may be the main focus of the first month of the calendar year, the Brown/Yale series typically produces at least one great battle between the squads every January. We have seen splits in 3 of the last 5 years, and two of those have involved both road teams claiming victory. In the Ivy League season, a single loss can be damaging to a team’s title chase, and two losses can be fatal. When any Ivy school comes into the season with dreams of a title run, a good start is so pivotal. Two losses to your travel partner can kill a season mighty quickly. For Yale in this year’s deep league, even a split would be extremely damaging.

Read moreGame Preview: Brown at Yale, Saturday 2PM

IHO Power Poll: January 9, 2012 (Full Poll)

Harvard remains on top in IHO's Power Poll despite the Crimson's loss at Fordham and struggles at home against a young Dartmouth squad. (Photo Credit: chron.com)

Welcome to the second IHO Power Poll (based on games through 01/08/12). Please note that these rankings are based off of our best guesses of how the Ivy League picture will sort itself out. We always love to hear your gripes and whines in the comments below.

1. Harvard (13-2), (1-0)- Harvard is still the class of the league, even though the Crimson have cooled off a bit since the rousing New Year's comeback victory over St. Joe's. A loss to lowly Fordham and 32 minutes of uninspiring ball against Dartmouth has brought this squad back to the pack a bit. A willingness to rely on the three when Casey and Wright are denied the ball in a zone has proved dangerous for the Cantabs, who surely will be confronted with more of the same going forward. The Fordham loss could be good for Harvard though, as any expectations of running through the league unscathed are a bit far-fetched. The league is deeper than ESPN and other major media sources have been letting on and with the Friday-Saturday grind of the season, players will inevitably get dinged up and legs will get tired. Harvard should still win the league, but chances are they'll be doing it with two or three losses in a conference where everyone is gunning for them.

Read moreIHO Power Poll: January 9, 2012 (Full Poll)