Yale just cannot seem to get enough of Quinnipiac these days. Down 1–0 to the Bobcats in a best-of-three series in the ECAC men’s hockey playoffs, Yale will be squaring off against Quinnipiac yet again in the postseason in just a few days time – not on the rink, but on the hardwood.
Fresh off a heartbreaking close to the Ivy season that saw the Bulldogs very nearly earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1962, the Yale men’s basketball team (15–13, 9–5 Ivy) has accepted an invitation to compete in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) and vie for its first postseason crown against 31 non-BCS schools. This year’s CIT will be Yale’s sixth postseason appearance and the second time in three years that the Bulldogs get to play beyond the conclusion of the Ancient Eight slate.
Yale’s first test, on Wednesday night, will be against none other than those familiar Bobcats (20-11, 14-6 MAAC) from down the street. Quinnipiac had a standout season of its own, falling two games short of March Madness eligibility despite battling injury after injury as the year played on.
The Bobcats, Yale’s neighbor along Whitney Avenue, mirror Yale considerably, as both squads rely on brute force down low and the play of their nationally recognized forwards – Ike Azotam for Quinnipiac and Justin Sears ’16 for Yale.
Both forwards have collected national honors in the past week and were each selected, for their respective districts, to the National Basketball Association of Coaches All-District First Teams. Azotam averaged a double-double this season with 16.5 points and 10.2 rebounds a game. He spearheads an offensive attack ranked 27th in the nation, with four Bobcats in total averaging more than 13 points a game.
Sears, meanwhile, earned First Team All-Ivy honors thanks to his spectacular play all season long, specifically in conference competition. He led the league in points per game (19.5) and rebounding (7.9). Point guard Javier Duren ’15 also earned conference honorable mention recognition despite being forced to miss key games down the stretch due to a high ankle sprain.
All awards and honors aside, the Bulldogs will now have to focus all their attention on the Bobcats. While Yale prides itself on its rebounding ability and interior play, Quinnipiac holds the edge in that department, at least according to the statistics. In fact, the Bobcats are the number one rebounding team in the country in both offensive boards (16.8 per game) and total rebounding margin (+11.8 per game).
Wednesday night’s opening round action will be the first postseason game in Yale history to be hosted at John J. Lee Amphitheater. But the Bulldogs’ home court advantage will be dampened by the fact that most of the Yale student body will still be away for Spring Break. Quinnipiac, on the other hand, will be back in school next week and likely shuttling in students (donning those bright yellow “Beat Yale” shirts) to support the Bobcats.
This will be the fifth incarnation of the young rivalry, with Quinnipiac possessing a 4–0 edge, including a 68–62 squeaker in the last meeting between the two back in 2011.
Wednesday night’s action from Payne Whitney Gymnasium tips off at 7 p.m.