I’m not trying to be overly negative, but someone needs to inject a sense of reality into the men’s basketball team and its fans. The 49-47 loss to Princeton on Saturday night was an absolute killer. I felt destroyed after the game, like my heart had been ripped out. It was devastating.
You wouldn’t know it from Monday’s newspaper articles. Headlines like “Elis hand fans treat” and “Intense games fuel hopes” almost convinced me that Saturday’s loss was just a nightmare. Unfortunately, it really happened. Did I get handed a “treat?” More like my heart on a platter.
And as far as “fueling hopes” — What hopes? Hopes of finishing in the middle of the Ivy League pack … again? This article claims the Bulldogs (6-10, 1-3 Ivy) are back in Ivy League contention, but that’s a tremendous reach. Cornell (9-8, 4-0), Princeton (9-6, 2-0) and Brown (7-10, 3-1) are in control of the field. Yale does not control its own destiny. These three leaders will have to beat up on each other in order for each to accumulate at least three loses. In a top-heavy Ivy League, the only other team that might be able to help the Bulldogs out is Penn. Harvard, Columbia and Dartmouth are worthless and are only capable of winning games against each other.
Of course, I’m assuming the Bulldogs win the rest of their games, which is another risky proposition. Running the table will require two wins against Cornell, who might be tough to beat because they have what Yale does not, a go-to player in Ivy League leading scorer Ka’Ron Barnes. If the Elis actually do sweep, the biggest challenges are still on the board — road games at Princeton and Penn.
At Princeton, the team will be forced to play in the Jadwin Gym, what I consider to be the worst place in the country to play in. It’s not a facility designed for basketball. Jadwin is a monstrosity of a domed sporting complex. The last time I was there — coincidentally the worst basketball game ever, a 59-46 Bulldog loss to the Tigers in 2002 — there were dining tables set up next to the track, behind the stands, which had been wheeled in next to the court.
I know this because the Princeton athletic department had so kindly supplied Yale students and the YPMB with seats so far from the court that the gargantuan facility was laid out before my eyes. Honestly, if our athletic department gave the Tigers similar seats, they would be on the fifth floor of Payne Whitney. That’s actually not such a bad idea. Then, we wouldn’t have to watch that band guy in the goofy hat dance like a moron. All right, I’m rambling, but you have to understand that I’m very upset.
Anyway, the point is that Jadwin is a huge place, and teams that play in small arenas (i.e. us) tend to shoot poorly in big gyms.
The Palestra is an entirely different ballgame. Penn has an incredible home court advantage because their fans, unlike Princeton’s, actually understand basketball and bring a ton of energy to the games. Two years ago, the Bulldogs were clinging to a lead late in the game, before the Palestra crowd took over and helped the Quakers pull away.
The other thing that really got me is that Yale head coach James Jones seemed very pleased with his team’s performance against Princeton. Well, the defense was certainly great, but what about making shots, foul shooting and clock management?
The Bulldogs had open looks on Saturday night but only shot 35 percent from the field, including an abysmal 2-13 from beyond the arc. Another definite killer was the fact that Yale missed nine second-half free throws that could have iced the game. And then there’s the fact that the team failed to run as much time as possible off the clock during its final possession. Is this a game to be happy about?
I have to disagree with Jones. Then again, I also disagreed with him when he switched to zone defense a couple of times and allowed the Tigers to knock down open 3-pointers.
Another supposed reason for the Bulldogs and their fans to celebrate is that the win against Penn last Friday ended the Quakers’ 23-game Ivy win streak. Yeah, that was some streak, but all the wins came when Penn had all-Ivy stars Ugonna Onyekwe and Koko Archibong. They graduated last year. Celebrating the end of this winning streak is like an NBA team congratulating itself for knocking off the 1999 Bulls after Jordan and Pippen had left.
Let’s be honest: there’s very little to be hopeful about after last weekend. So, what’s my point? Am I just being negative for fun?
The point is that this team needs a major change in mentality. A split at home against Penn and Princeton is not something to be happy about. Yes, these two teams have annihilated Yale for years, but this season is different. The Bulldogs were among the favorites in the league. A split, especially after dropping the first two games against Hunt-less Brown, is nothing to brag about.
I really believe that Yale has the best team. Princeton is good, but they really only have two truly talented players — Andre Logan and Judson Wallace, a.k.a. Rusty Griswold. I’d take Gamboa and Draughan over Ed Persia and Will Venable any day. And then, there are the role players. Guys like 5-foot-9-nine Scott Greenman — a.k.a. Frodo Baggins — and Max Schafer — 5-28 on the season, but keep shooting — are scrubs.
The Bulldogs are the best team in this conference, and they need to start acting like it. Yale should win all its Ivy games, which conveniently the team needs to do anyway.
There’s no reason to let a team like Princeton take the Ivy’s spot in the NCAA tournament because the Bulldogs actually deserve it. Also, if you can’t tell, I hate Princeton.