Harvard and Yale have a lot of similarities. Both are among the nation’s least experienced teams, looking nothing like the squads that played in the last Palestra playoff two years ago. Both rely on athletic, highly touted underclassmen, and their best days are still ahead of them. But as they enter the first Ivy League Tournament, the rivals are going in very different directions. Continue reading
Yale seemed to finally have it figured out Friday night, climbing out of an early deficit to grab a three-point halftime lead that probably could have been bigger if not for some poor shot selection and turnovers toward the end. Most importantly, it held host Harvard to 0.84 points per possession, showing some of the defense that led them to the Ivy League title last season.
Alas, the second half was still to come, and streaking Harvard sent them back into the skid they came from, shooting 18-27 from the field (74.1 eFG%) and scoring 1.28 ppp en route to a fairly easy 77-64 win in front of a sellout crowd at Lavietes Pavilion.
Some tend to confuse playing slowly with automatically being poor offensively in basketball circles, but there are many, many teams (looking at you TCU, Virginia, and Saint Mary’s) who play deliberately, but are among the most effective offenses in the country. You can’t really put Yale in that category, but while most of the attention went to their defense (33rd and 70th the last two seasons), they have been a very solid offensive team the last three seasons.
Friday against Dartmouth, they again showed why. With the Big Green taking away the perimeter, Yale went to the basket, making 24-of-40 on two-point shots. While senior captain Anthony Dallier was held to 5 points (and only 3 shots), Alex Copeland stepped up with 14 points on 7-12 shooting. With Miye Oni held to 9, Trey Phills stepped up with 10.
The uniforms said “Yale” on the front, but you’ll be forgiven if the players inside them were unrecognizable to the fans at Jadwin Gym Saturday night. The defending champ Bulldogs again came in as possible Ivy League contenders, but did so like a Broadway show whose original cast had moved on to bigger and better things.
Yale’s only Ivy loss last season came on Feb.19 in Princeton, but of the 200 minutes used by James Jones in that contest, only 9 were on the floor Saturday, with Sam Downey being the only Yale player to participate in both games.
Yes, the Bulldogs were going to have to rebuild after graduating Justin Sears, Brandon Sherrod, Nick Victor, and Khaliq Ghani (who accounted for 122 of those minutes, and doesn’t even take into account Jack Montague, who was not on the team by then), but preseason Ivy Player of Year Makai Mason (37) broke his foot, and current captain Anthony Dallier (34) became ill after Friday’s game at Penn and did not play.
Alex Copeland officially played 4.2% of possible minutes last season as a freshman for Yale, and even that is generous, perhaps 99% of that came in blowouts or just as the final horn was about to sound in a game already decided (yes, that’s Copeland entering as James Jones emptied his bench in the Ivy League clinching win over Columbia in March).
This season, Copeland expected his role to be increased after four seniors graduated. But point guard Makai Mason still remained, as did Trey Phills and Anthony Dallier, the next two on the Yale depth chart when practice opened in October.
James Jones knew, even if he did have a healthy Makai Mason playing for him, that he was going to have an extremely inexperienced team this season. But Jones forgot a little how painful the process of gaining that valuable commodity can be. Yale ranked 27th and 21st nationally in experience the last two seasons and played a big part in their 45 wins, two Ivy League titles, and last season’s NCAA Tournament victory.
This season: 280th. So you get stretches like the second half last week at Bryant where the Bulldogs blew a big second half lead and lost. And the first half Thursday at Sacred Heart, where Yale couldn’t execute a basic pick and roll and turned the ball over 11 times in 34 possessions.