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.

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Game Preview: Dartmouth at Yale

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Last year, Dartmouth took the Bulldogs to overtime in New Haven before falling 79-75. Will this season yield another tight game? (Photo Credit: yaledailynews.com)

The Bulldogs are coming off of an embarrassing 65-35 beatdown to archrival Harvard in one of the most anticipated games to take place in the John J. Lee Amphitheater in quite a while. (Or at least one of the most anticipated games that Yale has played in.) Yale now has less than 24 hours to recover from the devastating loss to face another New England opponent eager to knock the Bulldogs off.

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Game Preview: Yale at Brown, Saturday 2PM

Reggie Willhite helped carry Yale to a comeback 68-64 victory at home last weekend against Brown. Will the Bulldogs get the critical sweep this weekend in Providence? (Photo Credit: yalebulldogs.com)

A week removed from their thrilling come-from-behind 68-64 victory over Brown in New Haven, the Yale Bulldogs will travel to Providence tomorrow for part two of this home and away against the Bears. Neither team has taken the court since last weekend, and while one could intuit that the rest has certainly benefited Brown’s point guard Sean McGonagill, who played all 40 minutes last Saturday and fueled the Bears’ impressive offensive effort, it would be foolish to think that the Bulldogs have not had more to gain from the week of practice.

Brown really pushed the Bulldogs to the edge in their first meeting. However, despite the fact that the Bears did almost everything they could have hoped for—shooting the lights out (12-23 from

downtown), containing star center Greg Mangano (15 pts, 4 rbs), and carrying a lead into the final minute of play—they still lost. The problem, moreover, is that it would be hard to imagine Brown playing Yale much better than they did at John J. Lee.

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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.

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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)

Yale Mid-December Evaluation or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bulldogs

Yale fans may have been frustrated after the loss to Quinnipiac, but the Bulldogs have pulled it together and chalked up five wins in a row behind Mangano, Willhite, and Morgan.
“……if we was flying any lower why we'd need sleigh bells on this thing… but we got one little budge on them Rooskies. At this height why they might harpoon us but they dang sure ain't gonna spot us on no radar screen!”

When Major T.J. King Kong said those words back in 1964, it's likely he wasn’t referring to the 2011-12 Yale men's basketball team. That said, if any team is flying way under the radar, but quietly performing up to the high expectations presented to them, it is Coach Jones' Yale Bulldogs.

Read moreYale Mid-December Evaluation or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bulldogs

Jeremiah was a Bulldog and Other Thoughts on Yale-Seton Hall

Reggie Willhite and Yale played solidly for much of Tuesday night's game against Seton Hall, but were done in by sloppy play and turnovers in the second half. (Photo Credit: northjersey.com)

At one point during a break in the action at tonight’s Yale-Seton Hall matchup at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, a 7-year old lined up against a 13-year old to compete in the classic put-on-these-oversized-clothes-and-run-down-the-court-and-score contest. A 7-year old really has no business competing with a 13-year old, but there were so few people in the stands, they may not have been able to find two kids of a similar age (kidding, but barely). After a few missed lay-up attempts by the older child, there was the 7-year old, shuffling to the elbow and launching a prayer.

The shot fell far short and the older child made his lay-up to win the prize.

I could use that as a tidy little metaphor for the game that played out between Seton Hall and Yale, but it wouldn’t really be accurate. The Bulldogs had every opportunity to win this game, and it certainly wasn’t because Seton Hall was bigger and more experienced. On the contrary, there were quite a few times tonight when you would have thought the Bulldogs were the 13-year old, forcing Seton Hall into bad decisions on defense and finishing on clever passes at the rim. Yale is still a work in progress, though, and they let a big opportunity slip away during a seven-minute scoreless stretch late in the game. As an Ivy fan, it was frustrating to watch because the Bulldogs were talented enough to win this game. Here’s what Yale needs to improve upon if they want to eventually challenge Harvard and Penn, who look like the class of the league right now.

Read moreJeremiah was a Bulldog and Other Thoughts on Yale-Seton Hall

The Morning After (11/12/11): Last Night's Best Performers

UConn's Jeremy Lamb went up and over Columbia's Mark Cisco during last night's 70-57 loss for the Lions. Lamb's showstopping dunk was good for the Top Play on SportsCenter. (Photo Credit: ESPN.com)

Brown, Sean McGonagill: The Bears’ sophomore point guard picked up where he left off last season with an impressive 20 point (7-12 shooting), 10 assist performance in a 86-66 victory against D-III Johnson & Wales.

Columbia, Blaise Staab: Staab came out of nowhere to be the bright spot for Columbia on a night when Agho and Barbour couldn’t finish at the rim. Staab, who played a grand total of 70 minutes in his first three years in New York, finished with a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds) and looked comfortable mixing it up with the nation’s best in Storrs, CT during the Lions’ respectable 70-57 loss.

Penn, Zack Rosen: Rosen had a monster night for the Quakers, tallying 26 points on 10-16 shooting, including 4-6 from range. The Quakers put UMBC away early in the second half behind some shutdown defense en route to a 59-45 triumph.

Yale, Greg Mangano and Reggie Willhite: The Bulldogs held off a late charge from CCSU to win their opener 73-69 behind 23 points and 13 rebounds from their senior star, Mangano. Captain Reggie Willhite also had a big night, dropping in 21 and adding six steals and six boards.

Season Preview: Yale Bulldogs

Junior Ivy League POY candidate Greg Mangano will lead the Yale Bulldogs on their championship quest this season. (Photo Credit: ivyleaguesports.com)
The 2011-2012 Bulldog squad comes into this season with significant hype and expectations. Yale returns arguably the league’s best player in Greg Mangano (feel free to check out his Twitter if you want to hear his opinion on the subject) and is losing only one major contributor from last year’s squad in point guard Porter Braswell. In fact, the preseason optimism in the Elm City feels quite similar to four years ago, when the team found itself in a somewhat similar place as it does now.The 2007-2008 Yale squad was coming off a surprising 10-4 season the year before, in which junior point guard Eric Flato had a breakout (though not quite 2011 Mangano-esque) season, as that Bulldog team rode its junior class and underclassmen to 10 league wins, including a home upset win against Penn, which resulted in an amorphous mob of Ivy title dreaming fans at center court after the final buzzer. Things were looking up for Yale, and with Princeton down and Penn losing Zoller and Jaaber, there was an opening for a program that was not traditionally a powerhouse to step up and take control of the conference. That program was… Cornell. I won’t go too much further into the 2007-2008 season, as that isn’t the point of this piece, and moreover, it wasn’t a particularly exciting season for Yale and its supporters. Let’s just say the preseason buzz proved a bit unwarranted.

Anyway, this Yale team shares some similarities with the squad that returned in the fall of ‘07: a couple of players who had breakout seasons the year before (‘11: Mangano, Morgan; ‘07: Flato, Pinick), a split with the previous season’s champion or co-champion, and high expectations. It seems, though, that the resemblance ends there and history may not repeat itself.

Here is a close look at who the Bulldogs are going to put on the hardwood this year.

Backcourt:

When the Bulldogs traveled to Chestnut Hill to face BC in the third game of last season, junior guard Austin Morgan quickly became a household name (at least among the households of people who read this blog… Or households of BC fans maybe). It was quite a performance: Morgan dropped 25 with six threes and the Bulldogs led the game from start to finish. Austin went on to average 12.6 points per game last year and provided backcourt stability and balance for the team. This balance was critical to combat opponents who started to game plan against Yale’s interior strengths. This year, Morgan looks to play a major role for the Bulldogs once again.

Reggie Willhite, the senior captain this year, will be an interesting player to watch. Reggie played limited minutes as a freshman and started just four games the next year, but began to develop a penchant for getting steals, nabbing 27 during his sophomore campaign. When he worked his way into the starting lineup this past year, he continued his work on the defensive end, finishing third in the league in steals with 40, while also shooting just under 45 percent from the field on the year, good for top ten in the Ivy League. Willhite made the leap last year, starting all 28 games for the Bulldogs. This Yale team doesn’t need to replace significant scorers, and the Bulldogs will look to Reggie to average around ten points per game once again, while continuing to be a force on the defensive end.

One player who will play a large role in whether this team can challenge for the league title will be junior Mike Grace. Grace saw significant playing time as a freshman, finishing third on the team in assists, but was hampered by an injury through much of last year. He could step into the role of starting guard with the graduation of Porter Braswell, and form a strong backcourt with Willhite and Morgan. Given this team’s strength in the frontcourt, some consistency at the guard positions could bump this team from slightly above average to legitimate challenger for a league title.

Junior Sam Martin, who almost never saw the floor his freshman year, saw increased action last year, as he developed into a three point shooter. Martin shot the ball very well and earned a lot of praise for his play on the team’s China trip this summer, and Coach Jones has been vocal about how high he is on Martin’s shooting ability.

One guy I am interested in watching is sophomore Isaiah Salafia. He struggled a bit from the field in his limited minutes last year, but shined in helping Yale pull out a hard-fought overtime victory over Dartmouth. I’ll pick Isaiah as a sleeper contributor for the Bulldogs this year.

Frontcourt:

Greg Mangano has certainly been the talk of the town in New Haven, as the New Haven area native put forth a monster junior year, making him a serious candidate for Ivy League POY last year, averaging a double-double and also providing three blocks per game on the defensive end, highlighted by a seven block effort against Brown in an early conference victory. After declaring for the NBA Draft then retracting his name and playing with some of college basketball’s finest players on the World University Games team, Mangano comes in as the Lindy’s pick for this year’s Player of the Year, anchoring a Bulldog frontcourt that matches up favorably with every other frontcourt in the conference.

Mangano and sophomore Jeremiah Kreisberg give this team a lethal 1-2 punch down low. The 6-10 Kreisberg was the rookie of the year for the Bulldogs, shooting 55.6 percent from the field last year while averaging 7.2 points and 4.5 board while starting every Ivy League game. Kreisberg played on Israel’s U-20 team over the summer, getting some valuable international experience in the off-season. If these two can stay healthy and out of foul trouble, this team features two dominant players down low and at the high post who will be a very difficult matchup for other Ivy squads.

Aside from these two, the Bulldogs will likely rely on a pair of impressive freshman. One Bulldog who will be fun to watch is 6-6 forward Brandon Sherrod, who was Connecticut’s high school Player of the Year last year, sporting six triple doubles and averaging 16 points, 14.5 rebounds and 6 blocks. It could be fun to see if Coach Jones throws the three of these guys out on the floor together to see how high the blocked shot tally will go. Meanwhile, 6-11 freshman center Will Childs-Klein will also likely be called on to step in and provide some key minutes when the Bulldogs have their top big men on the bench. If the Bulldogs are in foul trouble down the stretch in key games this year, these two frosh may go a long way in determining whether this is a middle of the conference team or a legitimate title contender. In a league with effectively no margin for error, every league game will prove vital, and it’s almost a certainty the Bulldogs will turn to these two youngsters late in a close game during the Ivy campaign.

Yale’s depth is one of their greatest strengths this season. There are other names I haven’t yet mentioned here who could very well end up playing big roles for the ‘Dogs. Rhett Anderson stepped in early last year and started the team’s first seven games, and we could see the veteran big man play some important minutes off the bench. Freshman name of the year candidate Armani Cotton averaged over 20 points per game in high school. As a 6-7 guard, his length could be a disastrous matchup for some teams. Sophomore Greg Kelley will finally see the floor after missing his freshman year to an injury and if his game is half as good as his blog (midmajorchillin.blogspot.com), the Bulldogs will be extremely deep at every position except point guard.

The backcourt and perimeter play will be key for the Bulldogs. Will they be able to knock down the big shots when teams double down on Mangano? Can they keep up with a team that tries to push the pace? Will they be able to avoid the pitfalls of the 14-game tournament without dropping a game to team in the bottom half like they did to sharpshooting Cornell (and almost at home to Dartmouth)?

Final Thoughts:

This team is capable of winning the title. If Michael Grace (or someone else) develops into a consistent point guard, Mangano and Kreisberg stay healthy and one or more of the freshman bigs can step in and play right away, this team will be a nightmare matchup for most Ivy teams. It’ll be interesting to see the combinations that Coach Jones puts together when he wants to, for example, “go big”, and the pace that he employs (you have to assume he’s going to want to slow it down). The non-conference schedule will help us answer many of these questions.

Will the Bulldogs win the league and go to the tournament for the first time since that tough 1962 overtime loss to Billy Packer and the Demon Deacons? It’s certainly going to be a tough task for anyone to top Harvard. But if anyone is going to do it, it’ll be the boys from New Haven.