I must commend the Yale student body for one of its most impressive showings in my three years here.
Over 1,500 students filling half the gym for Midnight Madness reassured me that the excitement that filled the campus last winter and spring had not faded. For two hours last Friday night, Yale did not really feel like Yale.
Even an hour and fifteen minutes before the women’s and men’s teams stepped onto the court, an empty seat was nowhere to be found. I was expecting maybe four or five hundred students and was taken completely by surprise.
Everyone remembers the atmosphere during the men’s basketball Penn and Princeton weekend, and for that matter, the Harvard and Dartmouth weekend, too. The student sections for those games were completely filled, and the noise created was a factor in disrupting opposing offenses.
Now I know that it is the middle of October, practice just started last week, and their first game of the year is a month away, but it’s never too early to get excited for Yale sports. So I present some reasons why students should be excited for Yale basketball this year:
1. The main factor that breaks college teams apart, obviously, is graduation, and it’s a common theme in college basketball to talk about the loss of key seniors and their leadership. But Yale graduated nobody last year.
2. Defending champs: For the first time in 40 years, the Yale basketball team enters Ivy League play with a crown on its head, no longer the Ancient Eight doormat. Every team will look to dethrone the champs.
3. Quality of competition: The Bulldogs start their season with three away games against teams that nobody would have given an earlier Yale team a chance to beat. Yale starts Nov. 22 against Oklahoma State, then they have Wake Forest and Penn State within the following two weeks. On Dec. 30, Yale may have their toughest contest of the year when they travel to Stanford. Who knows how many wins will come out of these trips, but remember: Yale managed to beat Penn State (Big 10), Rutgers (Big East), Clemson (Atlantic Coast Conference), and Rhode Island (Atlantic 10) last year — all big conference schools.
4. Coach James Jones is the reigning Ivy League Coach of the Year by Basketball America and CollegeInsider.com, and also was named coach of the week last year by ESPN’s Dick Vitale.
5. Depth: Ten players on this year’s squad averaged over 13 minutes on the floor each game last year, which means plenty of fresh legs.
6. Rivalries: The Yale-Princeton and Yale-Penn rivalries were inflamed last year. All three teams dueled in a playoff last winter to decide the NCAA tournament automatic Ivy League bid. The bitterness between the three schools should be no different this year; Penn, like Yale, retains many of its key players, including Ivy League Player of the Year Ugonna Onyekwe.
7. Josh Hill
8. Schedule: Out of its 33 game schedule, Yale only has nine home games. But instead of having the Penn-Princeton weekend early this year, it is the last home weekend, giving Yale the possible chance (knock on wood) to wrap up a second consecutive Ivy League Title at home against the Quakers and Tigers, who, like every year, are sure to be near the top of the standings.
Yale Basketball. It’s fantastic.