Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No. 6 Yale Bulldogs

Following a rough start to the season, Yale coach James Jones rallied the troops in Ivy play - he always seems to - as the Bulldogs scrapped their way to a solo fourth place finish, despite failing to hit the .500 mark for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

Times are going to keep getting tougher for Yale, which graduated the leading possessions eater in the league (and 36th nationally) in guard Alex Zampier as well as swingman Jordan Gibson and post Paul Nelson. With two of the three teams which fell a game short of the Bulldogs last year potentially taking a huge step forward (Penn and Brown), a 7-7 league campaign or fourth place finish would be Jones' finest accomplishment yet.

There's enough returning talent, especially down low, that it's possible, but first Yale must find solutions for the gaps left by last year's senior class.

Last Season: 12-19, 6-8 Ivy
Pomeroy Ratings: .2445 Win Pct (255th), 95.1 Offense (262nd), 105.0 Defense (241st)
Key Losses: G Alex Zampier, G/F Jordan Gibson, C Paul Nelson

Player Outlook:

As has been the case for years, Yale is built from the inside out. Michael Sands is one of the best offensive big men in the Ivy League, while Greg Mangano provides a dominant interior defensive presence. Mangano hasn't seen a ton of action during his first two years in New Haven, but has consistently grabbed in excess of 20 percent of the defensive boards and blocked an astounding 11 percent of opponents' shots while on the floor. Sands also rebounds at a good clip defensively, but his ability to get to the line and convert has made him an invaluable weapon offensively.

On the other hand, the perimeter is almost completely unsettled for Yale. Porter Braswell returns at the point guard position and could be a steadying force for the Bulldogs, if he can cut down on his 23.2% TO Rate and get more involved with the offense. Austin Morgan, Reggie Willhite and Raffi Mantilla all have the potential to be solid contributors with Morgan the most likely to have the breakout season necessary to fill some of Zampier's shoes. Freshman guard Isaiah Salafia will also get a chance to prove himself as someone who can help contribute some scoring on the perimeter.

Despite the All-Ivy talent being located in the post, Yale's success or failure this season will be determined by how far its guards can take it.

Team Outlook:

Expected Record: 11-17, 5-9 Ivy (T-6th)
Expected Efficiency Stats: .2944 Win Pct, 95.5 Offense, 104.6 Defense

There may never have been a tougher start for an Ivy League team than the one that Yale put together this year. After a neutral court game against Quinnipiac, the Bulldogs travel to Providence, Boston College and Illinois in an eight-day span. While the schedule gets much easier from there, a trip to Stanford still awaits after Christmas.

The six home dates sprinkled in there are quite manageable, which should allow the Bulldogs to get close to a .500 non-conference record despite the four BCS schools on the docket.

After starting with 3-of-4 league games on the road, Yale gets 6-of-8 at home, which is when its fate as an upper or lower division team will likely be decided. Ultimately, the Bulldogs inexperience at the guard spot will keep it from realizing the consistency necessary to make a run at the title, but it has the talent to pick off one of the contenders at The Church on any given Friday or Saturday night.

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