At men’s basketball practice Tuesday, the phrase of the day was “crystal ball.”

Each practice, head coach James Jones chooses a term he uses to make a specific point clear to his players. With a mere four games separating his team from a potential Ivy League championship and the NCAA tournament berth that comes with it, crystal ball was the appropriate choice.

“If you start to think about what could happen, that is a recipe for disaster,” Jones said.

But at the same time Jones is emphasizing to his players to focus on the games at hand, media outlets are latching onto a potential Cinderella story in a Yale team that has the inside track to its first Ivy League championship in 40 years.

Last week, the sports editor of The Associated Press’ Hartford Bureau was at practice. Today, it was Jack Cavanaugh of The New York Times taking a look at the team.

“There’s a different person showing up everyday,” said captain Ime Archibong ’03, who added that it is not a distraction at practice. “Today we had two hours of practice that were pretty intense.”

At Yale’s game with Columbia Saturday night, press row included AP national basketball writer Jim O’Connell, Albert Chen ’00 of Sports Illustrated, and even a reporter from the New Yorker.

Yale travels to Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania this weekend, and the media is following — literally. Tim Bennett of Yale’s sports publicity office said a reporter from Basketball America magazine will be riding the team bus, while local television station WTNH will be sending its satellite truck to the games.

At the Penn game, Sports Illustrated and the Washington Post have requested media credentials, Penn Sports Information Director Carla Shultzberg said.

In terms of crystal balls, there are a number of Internet sites that predict the NCAA tournament field. Some players like to avoid this speculation, but not big man Josh Hill ’04.

“Every Monday, I check out who they have where, try to get a gauge on what the rest of the country thinks,” Hill said. “[The national attention] is something that we like, but it is also something that we are trying to block out.”

Not all the media coverage is focused on the team, though. Jones has recently been the subject of a New York Daily News story and was plugged by ESPN’s Dick Vitale in the broadcaster’s online column. Tuesday, Jones was on the cover of Courtside, a weekly college basketball section in the Hartford Courant.

“I see everything, but it is hard to continue to read all this stuff,” Jones said. “I really haven’t given it much thought. The only thing I am concerned about right now is beating Princeton.”

Yale’s performance against Princeton and Penn this weekend will go a long way in determining how much of this media attention will translate into actual coverage.

“If you are doing well, people jump on the bandwagon. If you are doing badly, people are going to jump all over you,” reserve guard Scott Gaffield ’04 said. “You have got to have confidence in yourself, and right now we are playing with a lot of confidence.”

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”19984″ ]