This winter break, the men’s basketball team faced challenges over the course of their seven games far exceeding those of their fellow Ivies. While the Elis finished the break with a record of 3–4, the team squared off against a number of nationally recognized powers, including No. 10 Florida. According to USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin, the Bulldogs have had the 27th toughest schedule in the nation; no other Ivy competitor is ranked in the top 80.
Yet as the Elis (6–11, 0–0 Ivy) return to campus, they ready themselves for a new challenge: conference play. That journey will begin Saturday night, as the team travels to Providence to take on the Brown Bears (6–8, 0–0) at the Pizzitola Sports Center.
“I told the guys that this is my last year, and we haven’t won a title since I’ve been here,” team captain Sam Martin ’13 said.
This contest in particular will hold increased significance for Martin, a Rhode Island native. The captain’s extended family plans to attend the game on Saturday.
The Elis’ streak without a title extends much further back than Martin’s time with the program, however. Yale has not captured an Ivy League championship in basketball since grabbing a share of the title in 2002, and the program has not won outright in over 50 years.
Yet the Bulldogs, in facing Brown, appear to have a strong shot at opening their conference schedule with a victory. In a preseason poll, Ivy sportswriters projected the Bears to finish seventh in the conference, above only the abysmal Dartmouth. Furthermore, the Bulldogs defeated the Bears in the teams’ two matchups last year, with a 68–64 victory at home followed by a 73–60 win on the road.
Still, Yale’s squad knows better than to look past the Bears. Martin noted that 6-foot-8-inch Brown junior forward Tucker Halpern will be a concern for the Bulldogs. Guard Armani Cotton ’15 said that Brown likes to clog the paint on defense and that the Eli big men will have to be ready to pass out of pressure situations.
“Our bigs have to be willing passers if they don’t have a catch and score,” he said.
Cotton also emphasized that the Bulldog guards must be aware of their spacing and be ready to catch and shoot.
But Martin did mention an area in which he believes the Elis have a clear advantage: depth.
“Four of their five starters play 30 minutes a game. We can wear them down in waves,” Martin said. “I think we’ve got the best depth in the league. … We’ve got 10 or 11 guys who play.”
With the beginning of league play, Bulldog players have begun to notice that not much time is left in the season.
Martin, especially, has started to feel the urgency associated with conference play.
“We’ve only got 30 practices left, so whatever your role is, we just need to work hard and we can do something special in the league,” he said.
The game will tip off at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Providence.