Coming into the season, the men’s basketball team faced many uncertainties: Who would fill the shoes of a decorated but departed graduating class? How would several key players come back from injury? Just how high was the team’s ceiling?

As the Bulldogs enter conference play with a 6–11 record, all but one of those questions have been answered. Centers Paul Nelson ’10 and Greg Mangano ’12 and forwards Josh Davis ’10 and Mike Sands’ 11 have assumed bigger roles, and freshmen guards Austin Morgan ’13 and Mike Grace ’13 have logged significant minutes to fill the void left by the class of 2009.

Mangano, Nelson and Davis, along with guards Jordan Gibson ’10 and Alex Zampier ’10, have all battled — and bounced back from — injuries during the course of the season. The only question left unanswered, then, is of the team’s potential.

The answer will begin to develop this weekend, as the Elis open their tough Ivy League schedule with a visit from the 6–11 Brown Bears. On paper, the teams are very evenly matched. In addition to identical records, Yale averages 68.4 points per games, while Brown averages 68 per game, and Yale yields 71.1 points per game to opponents, while Brown yields a comparable 74.2.

The Bears, like the Bulldogs, have relied heavily on underclassmen to carry the load. Tucker Halpern, last week’s Ivy League rookie of the week, is coming off a 26-point performance against Quinnipiac and has averaged 20.3 points over his last 3 games.

The Bears’ leading scorer (15.8 points per game), rebounder (5.7 rpg) and blocker (28 in 17 games), 2009 Ivy League first-teamer Matt Mullery, missed the Quinnipiac game with an injury, and his status is uncertain for Friday night’s contest.

Whether Mullery takes the court or not, it’s safe to say that Yale captain and leading scorer (18.7 ppg) Zampier will. He needs just 80 points to reach 1,000 for his career, and 11 steals to become Yale’s all-time leader.

With the beginning of Ivy League play comes the beginning of a new, more important season for the Elis — it is by conference record that the Ivy League champion, and NCAA tournament representative, is determined.

“Our play was pretty disappointing for the non-conference schedule,” guard Porter Braswell ’11 said. “We lost a few games that we should have won. That being said, we have used some different lineups, and people are still getting used to playing with one another. We have been building our team, and with league play beginning, it is now time to show who we are.”

The Ivy League season tips off Friday at 7 p.m. in the John J. Lee Amphitheater.