As first reported by NBC Sports, Yale has lost sophomore forward Jordan Bruner and Yale senior guard Makai Mason to injury, Bruner for the entire season and Mason for up to two months.
Mason is reportedly dealing with a stress fracture in his right foot, the same foot that was broken in a scrimmage against Boston University before the start of the 2016-17 campaign, causing him to miss the entire season.
Mason was wearing a device in his shoe to take pressure off the area that he hurt last year, the New Haven Register reported, adding that he likely wound up putting more pressure on the rest of his foot, where he developed the stress fracture.
Defense and offensive rebounding have been the calling cards for Yale head basketball coach James Jones ever since his arrival in New Haven in 1999. Right now, he sits as the dean of Ivy basketball coaches, the winningest Yale coach in history and the only Yale coach to guide the Elis to an NCAA win, a victory over favored Baylor in Providence in 2016.
Last year, Yale finished at 18-11 and 9-5 in the Ivies and just a game away from another NCAA tourney. In the first season of the Ivy postseason tourney, the Elis won a thrilling game over Harvard before falling by 12 to Princeton at the Palestra as the Tigers capped a 16-0 run through Ivy competition.
Makai Mason made a name for himself on a national level by posting 31 points in a NCAA Tournament Round of 64 win over Baylor in 2016, Yale’s first-ever win in the Big Dance.
Now Mason has decided that if you can beat ’em, join ’em.
Several sources announced Thursday that Mason would join Baylor as a graduate transfer in the 2018-19 season following one more season at Yale in 2017-18.
Mason was a standout during Yale’s NCAA Tournament run in 2016 but was injured in a scrimmage in November, reportedly needing to undergo surgery to repair his foot. Yale bowed out to Duke in the Round of 32 in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
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.
So very close.
No. 12 Yale came up just short in its bid for the first Sweet 16 appearance in program history, falling to No. 4 Duke, 71-64, in front of a pro-Yale partisan crowd at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
Yale made history just by showing up. Then the Bulldogs made a whole lot more.
In Yale’s first NCAA Tournament game since 1962, the Bulldogs won their first contest in the tourney ever, besting the Bears, 79-75, after leading most of the way in front of a Yale partisan crowd at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence.
Here we are.
Yale makes its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1962 Thursday at 2:45 p.m., a virtual home game for the No. 12 Bulldogs against the No. 5 Baylor Bears. The Bears will be attempting to gain revenge from a first-round upset at the hands of upstart Georgia Southern last year. The Bears have enjoyed success in the Big Dance under 13-year coach Scott Drew, going to the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012. But then-No. 3 Baylor got upset by No. 14 Georgia State in Athens, Ga. in the Bears’ first NCAA contest last season, an eerily similar virtual road matchup with an underdog foe to the threat posed by Yale in Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this season.
The game should be low-scoring, which will favor the Elis. Both teams turn the ball over too much (Yale ranks 296th in the country in turnover percentage, Baylor ranks 228th), but Yale has shot the ball better, especially from two-point range against high-major competition.
No. 12 Yale (22-6, 13-1 Ivy) will play No. 5 Baylor (22-11, 10-8 Big 12) Thursday at 2:45 p.m. in the West Region in Providence in the Bulldogs’ first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1962. The game will be televised on CBS.
The site of the game is most favorable to Yale, which has only a 100-mile distance to Providence, where the Elis trounced Brown in January, 90-66.
If Yale were to upset Baylor, it would likely face No. 4 Duke in the second round four months after the Blue Devils defeated Yale at Cameron Indoor Stadium, 80-61, even after the Bulldogs grabbed an early 9-0 lead and impressed Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski enough for him to say that Justin Sears would start for his team.