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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Top 10 Ivy players of the past five years

The past five years have been incredible for the Ivy League. Two forever memorable Ivy playoff games, two NCAA Tournament wins, nine top 100 KenPom finishes and a clear uptick in athleticism throughout the conference.

But who have been the greatest players in the league in that timespan? A countdown, with the caveat that only players who played at least two seasons from 2010-15 were considered.

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Penn Advances in CBI; Yale Falls in CIT

Penn moved on to the quarterfinals of the CBI Thursday night, with a convincing 74-63 victory over Quinnipiac in front of a small crowd of 1,268 at the Palestra. Quinnipiac went ahead 5-4 five minutes into the game on a Zaid Hearst jumper, but Steve Rennard answered with

a quick three and the Quakers would never trail again. Penn”s backcourt had a monster night with Miles Cartwright dropping in 23 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing out 6 assists. Zack Rosen added 16 points and 9 assists. Perhaps most impressively, the two guards tallied only one turnover between them. Penn moves on to host Butler on Monday. A win against one of March”s winningest teams of the past few years would push the Quakers into the CBI semis, where they could be matched up against, you guessed it, the Princeton Tigers.

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CIT 1st Round: Yale heads to Fairfield

Greg Mangano leads the Bulldogs into the CIT against Fairfield before heading off to the Portsmouth Invitational in April. (Photo Credit: yaledailynews.com)

The Bulldogs finished the Ivy League season in disappointing fashion, meekly dropping their final games against Princeton and then Penn. Fortunately for Yale fans, Yale’s body of work as a whole (19-9, 102 RPI) was good enough to allow them a shot at redemption. Having made it through a selection committee that for some reason included Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson, Yale will travel to Fairfield at 7 PM on Wednesday night to take on the Stags in the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament. The Bulldogs will be just the second Ivy League team to compete in the tournament in its four-year history (the first to play in the new 32-team field, up from 24 in 2011 and 16 the two previous years) and

the first since Jeremy Lin’s Crimson went one-and-done in 2010.

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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.

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Game Preview: Yale at Columbia

Meiko Lyles was en fuego Friday night at Levien. He'll look to continue the hot streak Saturday against Yale. (Photo Credit: gocolumbialions.com)

Yale vs. Columbia usually provides fans with a good show. Sometimes the games are meaningful, other times they are for nothing more than bragging rights among two teams separated by a 15 dollar Metro-North ticket which usually leads to a good crowd. This one does mean something. Despite the overtime loss in Ithaca, the Bulldogs are within two games of first place with Harvard still on the schedule one more time.

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Game Preview: Yale at Cornell

Shonn Miller and Co. will try to move to over .500 in conference when Cornell takes on Yale on Friday night in Ithaca. (Photo Credit: cornellsun.com)

Yale may not come into Ithaca with the fanfare and national following that

will surround Harvard’s visit in three weeks, but James Jones’ squad is quietly getting things done. The Bulldogs have not won even a share of the Ivy League title since the 2001-2002 season, but are one of three remaining legitimate contenders to this year’s crown. The Bulldogs come into Newman Arena Friday night as hot as any Ivy team. Yale, winner of seven of its last eight, enters the weekend straight off its first sweep of Penn and Princeton since the 2006-07 season. Cornell on the other hand is right about where we expected. The Big Red sits at 3-3 in the league play, a half game up on Princeton for 4th in the Ivy standings. A solid showing at home against Yale and Brown will keep the Big Red in the upper half of the league, where Bill Courtney believes his squad belongs.

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POY/ROY Tracker

Zack Rosen is currently the favorite to win Ivy League Player of the Year, while Greg Mangano, among others, give chase. (Photo Credit: penn12.com)

At the suggestion of commenter BrianEarl4Prez, now that we are nearly halfway through

the Ivy season, we are going to be monitoring the Ivy League Player of the Year/Rookie of the Year race via this weekly feature.

Player of the Year

The Contenders

1. Zack Rosen- Penn”s point guard has been superb so far for the Quakers. Logging the most minutes in the league and still managing to put up the most efficient offensive rating among go-to players says everything you need to know about this guy. Rosen”s passing ability is unmatched in a league full of impressive point guards this season, but the senior is also shooting 41% from deep and 48% from the field. Against rival Princeton, Rosen put up a performance for the ages, scoring 28 points and dishing out five assists with only two turnovers in 39 minutes. This is not a most valuable player award, but think about where Penn would be without Rosen? Certainly not in the thick of a title chase halfway through the season.

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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.

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Friday's Best: Yale knocks off Penn

Greg Mangano carried Yale to a big victory over Zack Rosen's Penn Quakers tonight at the John J. Lee Amphitheatre. (Photo Credit: ivyleaguesports.com)

Quick hitters from Friday night”s games

Best win: Yale. Tonight”s biggest victory has to go to the Yale Bulldogs. Penn had a lot of momentum late in this game, and the Bulldogs could have let it all slip away when they started to get sloppy with the ball in the second half. Yale”s guards turned it around though and Mangano decided that the Elis weren”t losing this one, grabbing two offensive rebounds off missed free throws (one was his own) in the final minute to seal the win. Turnovers continue to trouble this team as Reggie Willhite, Austin Morgan, and Mike Grace combined for 13 giveaways, but besides those lapses in judgement (which need to be corrected soon), the Yale guards were impressive. Morgan hit three critical three pointers under pressure; Willhite showed his typical hustle on both ends, grabbing key rebounds and knocking down a huge late-game jumper; and Mike Grace had his best game of the season. The North Carolina native was 5-6 from the field with four assists, showing a propensity for the bank shot and looking more dangerous than he has all year. Mangano was pissed off at the referees all game, but he stopped whining and took the game into his own hands down the stretch, denying Rosen the chance at a game-tying three by getting those monster rebounds. The big man showed great touch around the rim all day, finishing with 23 points on 8-13 shooting and 10 rebounds. If this was Round One of the Player of the Year battle between Mangano and Rosen, the Bulldog came out on top.

Read moreFriday's Best: Yale knocks off Penn