When the men’s basketball team takes the court Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Sacred Heart in its season opener, they will look to prove that they will reload — not rebuild — in the 2009-’10 season, following the loss of one of the most accomplished graduating classes in recent history. The Bulldogs, who finished tied for second in the Ivy League (13–15, 8–6 Ivy) and knocked off eventual league champion Cornell at home last season, are ranked fifth in the preseason media poll.

The game kicks off the inaugural Connecticut 6 Classic, which includes six Division 1 teams in the state — Yale, Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac, Central Connecticut, Hartford and Fairfield.

Led by newly elected captain Alex Zampier ’10, who was selected to the preseason All-Connecticut 6 team and is the only remaining starter from last year’s squad, the Elis will have to overcome a significant lack of experience if they hope to duplicate last year’s success.

Friday’s game will be the first for guards Sam Martin ’13, Austin Morgan ’13 and Michael Grace ’13, who will look to help fill the void left by the class of 2009.

“The freshmen are maturing into college basketball players,” head coach James Jones said. “They have great energy and are hard workers — they’ll definitely be able to help us at some point this year.”

Joining them in helping the Elis to reload will be guard Porter Braswell ’11, and forwards Jordan Gibson ’10, Mike Sands ’11 and Paul Nelson ’10, all of whom averaged over 10 minutes a game last season.

The Pioneers are hoping to prevent the Bulldogs from starting 2009-’10 off with a win. They will pose a major challenge for the Elis, having finished with a 17–14 record last season.

Friday will be Yale’s first indication of whether the Bulldogs can develop and duplicate the success of last year’s squad.

“My goal for my teams is to reach their potential — whatever that potential may be — and not leave anything on the table,” Jones said. “We have inexperienced guys and new leadership. It’s hard to know what our potential may be.”

Jones and the Bulldogs will get a better idea of that potential Friday at 5:30 p.m. when the Elis take on the Pioneers at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport.