Kansas may play in the Big 12, but apparently the conference is not too big to host the Ivy League this winter.
For the third straight year, the Yale men’s basketball team will take on a perennial March Madness contender, this time travelling to Lawrence, Kan. to play the Jayhawks on Jan. 4. The Elis fell to then-No. 1 Wake Forest last November, 99-72. In 2003, the Bulldogs held a one-point lead at halftime over No. 1 and eventual NCAA Champion UConn before losing, 70-60.
“I think it’s going to be a great experience,” guard Eric Flato ’08 said. “Playing at Allen Fieldhouse is like playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s one of the great college basketball arenas around.”
The Elis are coming off of a disappointing 11-16 mark in 2004-05, with a 7-7 league record that was good for a three-way tie for third. They head into the 2005-06 season with a very young squad, including four sophomores and five freshmen, and without former captain Alex Gamboa ’05 at the point and team scoring leader Edwin Draughan ’05 at shooting guard.
Despite the losses, the matchup with Kansas is just the highlight of an already tough schedule that also includes Louisiana Tech, Nebraska and Providence.
“I think Coach Jones is saying we’re not going to take any games off,” Flato said. “We’re going to be young, but we’re going to play through it.”
Kansas had a disappointing NCAA Tournament last spring, coming in as a No. 3 seed after a 23-6 season only to lose in the first round against Patriot League champion Bucknell — a team the Bulldogs lost to in overtime last year. The Jayhawks lost power forward Wayne Simien to the NBA Draft, as well as guard J.R. Giddens, who transferred to New Mexico.
But Kansas is in no danger of leaving the top echelon of college basketball. The Jayhawks return senior starter Christian Moody at forward, and welcome a pair of potential impact players. Guard Rodrick Stewart, a sophomore transfer from USC, performed well in summer league play and Brandon Rush, a 6-foot-6 swingman who was rated the 13th best player in the 2005 NBA Draft before withdrawing, is set to begin his rookie campaign.
The matchup will have particular significance for sophomore twins Caleb and Nick Holmes ’08. The brothers are from Olathe, Kan. — half an hour from the KU campus in Lawrence.
“I have a lot of friends and a lot of family there, so it’ll be great to play so close to home,” Nick Holmes said.