What's Up with Yale?

Before Yale's win over D-III Baruch, the Bulldogs had lost four straight games. What's ailing Yale?
Before Yale’s win over D-III Baruch, the Bulldogs had lost four straight games. What’s ailing the Elis?

Before this season, followers of the Ivy expected a lot out of Yale in ’13-14. This was a team that won seven of its last ten games last season, sweeping both Princeton and Penn twice.

So far though, the Bulldogs have been a disappointment. At 6-8, Yale’s best win is on the road at Hartford, a five point victory against the country’s 263rd best team according to Pomeroy. Opportunities for BCS wins were squandered at Rutgers and at Providence; stinkers were laid against average squads such as Bryant and Albany. So what’s going on? What’s keeping this Yale team from being as good as it should be?

1. Lack of speed on defense

The Bulldogs are getting shredded by opponents shooting the three. On the season, Yale is giving up 42% shooting from distance– 65% vs. UConn, 63% vs. Vermont, 52% vs. Mercer… it goes on. From a tactical standpoint, the Dawgs simply can’t recover from drive-and-dishes, court reversals, and quick ball movement. Players are consistently late getting to the corner and the wing to contest shooters. It appears to be a combination of defensive over-helping inside and a lack of quickness and athleticism, and it’s going to be exploited in Ivy play by teams like Princeton and Columbia that love to shoot the three.

2. No replacement for Austin Morgan’s and Sam Martin’s shooting

While their opponents are teeing off, the Bulldogs are struggling to shoot the rock. Last year, seniors Austin Morgan and Sam Martin carried the offense with their pinpoint shooting. This year, Jesse Pritchard (42% 3PT) is the only rotation player shooting over 34% from deep.

3. No playmakers besides Sears and Duren

Justin Sears is Yale’s go-to scorer. The sophomore finds a way to put the ball in the basket, simple as that. Against Providence, Sears lit up Ed Cooley’s team to the tune of a career-high 31 points on 13-16 shooting. He scored in double figures in the first ten games of the season. But Sears has been mired in a slump since mid-December, failing to reach double figures in four straight games now. When Sears doesn’t bring his A-game, Javier Duren is forced to carry a heavy load. The junior point guard has done a nice job pushing the pace and guiding the offense. For a team that really struggles to create scoring chances, Duren’s aggressive play has been critical during Sears’ recent struggles. Though the losses continue to mount, solid point guard play is essential to success when you get into the conference slate, and with Duren, Yale is in good hands.

But who is going to make the big plays behind these two? Townsend and Sherrod have logged some solid big man minutes, but can’t be described as dangerous offensive weapons. Armani Cotton’s shooting and rebounding have dropped off considerably since last season. Nick Victor has looked good at times, but he’s shooting 8-24 from the line on the season. Jesse Pritchard has shot it well, but has been getting only fringe rotation minutes. Anthony Dallier, the heralded freshman, came in with high expectations, but simply isn’t ready yet.

Now, Jones always seems to stray from an established rotation (especially early in the season), which helps make Yale a tough team to scout in Ivy play. So there’s reason for mild optimism there. But if Sears can’t snap out of it and the Bulldogs’ role players fail to step up when their names are called, it could be a long season in New Haven.

If I were a betting man, I’d expect Yale to be competitive in the top half but nothing more, hovering unthreateningly around .500 yet again.

5 thoughts on “What's Up with Yale?”

  1. Jones’ team usually underperforms early and overachieves in the League. Seems like the last time the Tigers won in New Haven was against Harvard! Hate to say it after one game, but the “pundits” who suggested the big race in the Ivy League was going to be for second place may have been right. Six teams may be capable of beating each other but not Harvard. Sears has far too much talent not to resume scoring in double figures consistently. We might have six teams between 8-6 and 6-8.

    • Put me down as a pundit predicting the only race in the League to be for second place. Harvard will win the title by three games.

      BTW, love the line, “The last time the Tigers won in New Haven was against Harvard.” C’mon, ladies and gentlemen, that’s Ivy basketball humor at its finest.

  2. I don’t think Yale is a title hopeful. I do not think they have the depth or overall talent level to knock off Harvard. However, I do like their grit, the way they defend, rebound and their aggressive style of play. Now if you could somehow transfer that attitude to Penn’s depth and talent you might indeed have yourself an Ivy League Champion team.

    Tell me, did I just blow your mind?

    The AQ

  3. Interesting match up against Brown this weekend.

    While Yale has been solid on the offensive boards, Brown is the best rebounding team in the league and has been much better than their opponents on the defensive end.

    If Yale is vulnerable against three pointers, Brown can certainly hit them, Sean McGonagill takes about half of their three’s, hits over 40% and rarely has an off night, so it is hard to think that the Bears will go ice cold from beyond the line on Saturday.

    Brown, however, seems vulnerable to pressure defense, turns it over a bunch and does not hit free throws well.

    With the game in New Haven, the Bulldogs do have a fighting chance. In the end, however, I see McGonagill as the best player on the court and doing whatever it takes to get his team the opening victory.

    • So much for those thoughts………

      Brown seemed very sloppy and uninspired throughout the game. Too many many fouls (26-16), too many turnovers (19-9) and too few free throws (14-17, 27-37). Credit to the Bears, though, for actually getting it close within the last few minutes.

      Very good game for Yale. Maybe the difficult non-conference schedule helped them out.

      The Bulldogs definitely improved on the issues brought up in this post. I thought their defensive pressure was solid all game. They had 7 threes and spread the offensive wealth around. Duren and Cotton were great in the first half, then Sherrod and Sears finished it off in the second.

      Good to see Duren recover from his injury late in the game.

      We’ll see what adjustments the Bears make for next week…..


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