As the varsity men’s and women’s basketball teams begin to hit their stride in the midst of a young Ivy League season, another basketball team on campus has made its mark and earned an opportunity to play for a national championship.
Though it may not be quite the caliber of March Madness, the Yale men’s club basketball team will be traveling to North Carolina State University for the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association National Basketball Championship in April.
The club team, which often practices three times a week, earned the berth to Nationals thanks to Yale’s first-ever Regional Championship. According to forward Chadd Cosse ’17, the Bulldogs are not quite sure what to expect, but plan to make an impact at the National Championship.
“This is all [of] our first times,” Cosse said. “There are going to be a bunch of regional winners there … but I think we can make some noise.”
Competing at Boston University in regional play, Yale secured the title thanks to a 4–1 record and some thrilling championship game theatrics.
Yale avenged its sole loss to Penn State the very next day, when a rematch saw the Bulldogs beat the Nittany Lions. After a six-point victory over the hosting Terriers in the semifinals, Yale concluded its run with a heart-stopping championship victory.
Facing off against Boston College, regulation was not enough time to determine a victor. Neither was a first overtime. Only after a second overtime did the Bulldogs squeak out the historic win, coming out on top by a final tally of 59–56.
The win was not without some additional adversity. Captain Zack Miles ’14, whose stellar play earned him All-Tournament honors, fouled out prior to the end of regulation.
Fortunately, the Bulldogs tout a deep and experienced roster.
“Luckily our depth and well-roundedness on and off the court came through when we needed it most,” center Will Bartlett ’14 said.
Bartlett, who was also recognized as an All-Tournament player, was a member of the varsity squad before chronic headaches due to various head injuries caused him to forge a new path in his basketball career.
This unexpected path has provided Bartlett and Yale a puncher’s chance at a national title — a chance that point guard Hakeem “The Dream” Harrison ’15 does not plan on wasting.
“We’re going into it with the same mentality that we went into the regional,” Harrison said. “No point going to North Carolina without intentions of winning a championship.”
The club team, which Bartlett described in an email as “A Band of Brothers and a Club of Champions,” does not see itself as just any group of guys playing pick-up at Payne Whitney.
Nevertheless, when Harrison was asked what would happen if the club squad took on the varsity Bulldogs, he kept his expectations in check.
“They would win by a lot,” Harrison said.
Yale will have a couple of months to prepare for the three-day national tournament, which is scheduled to begin April 11.