One of the benefits of having nearly two decades of experience in charge for Yale coach James Jones is to let other people do the worrying about his team for him.
Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs were 2-4 in Ivy League play and appeared to have a very good chance of missing the Ivy League Tournament, despite the fact Yale was picked to win the conference in preseason. Injuries to Makai Mason and Jordan Bruner changed those plans a bit, but Jones and Yale have finished in fourth or better in Ivy play for an amazing 17 straight seasons.
Yale has had plenty of opportunities to make excuses this season if it wanted. Loss of three starters (all post players) to graduation? Sure. Preseason Ivy League Player of the Year Makai Mason (who only scored 31 in an NCAA upset of Baylor last March) gone with a broken foot in the preseason? Yeah, that works. Teams and opposing crowds taking aim at the current kings of the Ivy League? Why not? Letdown after finally breaking through to the NCAA Tournament after 54 years? Could make a case.
Except Yale doesn’t just not want to hear it, they’re taking those potential alibis and shoving them down the throat of the Ivy League in 2016-17. With a hard-fought, but impressive 87-78 win at Columbia, the Bulldogs are not only 4-1 in conference play, but if it gets a win Saturday night in Ithaca over Cornell, would be 5-1 with six of their remaining eight regular season contests in the friendly confines of Lee Amphitheater, where all the Bulldogs have done is won 21 straight games.
If you’re surprised that Yale looks like it will be in the Ivy League hunt once again until the end, they’re not. And they’re curious why you would be.
Penn, as it has done for most of the season, battled hard Friday night against defending Ivy League champion Yale, winning a good majority of the loose balls and making the Bulldogs work for everything they got on the offensive end.
The Quakers also went more than 20 minutes without turning the ball over and had just nine for the contest.
But in the end, you only get points for putting the ball in the basket, and Penn just couldn’t do enough of it in a frustrating 68-60 loss at The Palestra.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – There was a time not long ago when the vaunted Yale offense was not so vaunted. In their last two games before Christmas break, the Bulldogs put up 0.94 and 0.89 points per possession in losses to Illinois and USC.
Yeah, those are BCS schools, you say? Well, in the game after finals, Yale posted 0.97 ppp against Central Connecticut, who has spent some time at No. 351 in KenPom this season and whose defense has been in the bottom five in efficiency nationally all season. The Bulldogs still won that game handily and were in the other two thanks to its defense, tops in the Ivy League last season, and by all accounts, the backbone of its Ivy challenge this season.
ALBANY, N.Y. – From his seat on the Yale bench, Justin Sears was constantly looking up the SEFCU Arena overhead scoreboard Sunday afternoon. Maybe he didn’t believe what he saw. Maybe he thought if he stared at long enough it would change. Or perhaps he just couldn’t watch what was actually happening on the court.
What was abundantly clear Sunday afternoon was that Yale is lost without him. Sears sat out with an ear and sinus infection, and Yale – who led SMU by eight at the half and hung with Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium last week – was absolutely dismantled by the reigning America East champs, 88-54.
It marks the most points Yale (3-3) has allowed in regulation since New Year’s Eve 2011 at Florida, and times when the Bulldog defense (ranked 55th in defensive efficiency last season) gave up 1.29 points per possession the last couple of seasons have been few and far between (if there are any).