The men’s basketball team will get a taste of the best and the worst the Ivy League has to offer this weekend.
The Elis (9-8, 1-1 Ivy) will look to boost their league record back above .500 this weekend when they host Harvard (10-5, 2-0) and Dartmouth (2-13, 0-2). The two visiting teams are opposites in more ways than one. Harvard, as yet unbeaten in conference play, dominates opponents with an exceptionally strong post presence. Dartmouth, which has won just one game since November, boasts a solid group of perimeter players averaging 36 percent from behind the arc. But despite the differences between the two teams, the Bulldogs will need to be wary when each team visits this weekend.
“We can beat anyone in the Ivy League,” captain Josh Greenberg ’06 said. “The bad thing is that we can also lose to anyone. I don’t think there are going to be any easy games for us this season.”
The Bulldogs open their weekend against Harvard Friday night, welcoming not only the Crimson’s winningest coach in Frank Sullivan, but also two pre-season first team All-Ivy players in center Brian Cusworth and power forward Matt Stehle. And as if two of the league’s top post players were not threatening enough, the Cantabs also have the second-highest scorer in the conference in junior guard Jim Goffredo (14.9 points per game). There seems to be no weak position for this season’s squad.
“It starts with their big men, then they have a guard with a very good outside shot,” forward Jason Abromaitis ’07 said. “They play hard, they pressure the ball, they do a little bit of everything very well.”
If Harvard’s game starts with their post players, then that will be where the focus of Yale’s tenacious man-to-man defense will fall. Center Dominick Martin ’06 and forward Sam Kaplan ’07 are the Elis’ two leading scorers, and the Bulldogs will look to them to contain the seven-foot Cusworth and versatile Stehle. Martin on Cusworth and Kaplan on Stehle were both called “great matchups” by Yale head coach James Jones, but the Elis will not have one line of defense against the Crimson’s post players. When the starters get winded, center Matt Kyle ’08 and forward Ross Morin ’09 will sub in for the Bulldogs and pressure the post.
“The thing you also have to understand is that our strength is the depth of our team,” Jones said. “When you have Matt Kyle and Ross Morin come off the bench in those spots, that just adds to our potential to be successful down low.”
But if the Elis thought containing the post would be the only key to stifling Harvard’s explosive offense, they would be very wrong. Goffredo joins senior point guard Michael Beal and freshman guard Drew Housman on the perimeter to complete the Crimson’s starting lineup. Beal leads the team with a .472 shooting percentage and averages six rebounds per game, the most of any Crimson guard. Housman and Goffredo both shoot over 30 percent from three-point range and Goffredo leads the league in free throw percentage (.921).
“We have to be upbeat and intense,” Greenberg said. “We have to defend very well in the half-court, keep up the ball pressure, and make sure we help each other out on defense.”
After playing Harvard, the Bulldogs might be able to find some breathing room against Dartmouth on Saturday night. But the Big Green’s outside shooters may pose some difficulty to the Elis if they do not pressure the ball on the perimeter. All of Dartmouth’s starters shoot over 30 percent from beyond the arc, and two shoot 40 percent or better. But the Big Green may not be able to match up against Martin and Kaplan on the inside. Neither of Dartmouth’s post players, forward Calvin Arnold and center Paul Bode, average more than six points per game, and the Big Green are out-rebounded by an average of four rebounds per game.
“I think that they shoot the ball very well from outside,” Jones said. “Their biggest problem is they lost their center and they haven’t replaced him with someone scoring under the basket and running the team on the offensive end. If you don’t come to play and defend them, they’re able to make shots.”