Blue Madness: what to watch

Captain Makai Mason '18 will return this year after missing last season with a foot injury.

Basketball returns to John J. Lee Amphitheater on Thursday, as the Yale men’s and women’s teams open their seasons with Blue Madness. The event—scheduled for 7 p.m.—is Yale’s rendition of Midnight Madness, a college basketball tradition in which schools transform a preseason practice into a pep rally.

Although no Grammy Award-winning rappers are scheduled to perform—Drake routinely appears at Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness—Thursday will be the first time Bulldog fans will see their teams in action, and the event may answer questions on their minds just two weeks ahead of both team’s season openers.

Who will threaten from the perimeter?  

With the graduation of guards Lena Munzer ’17 and Meghan MacIntyre ’17, head coach Allison Guth is looking to replace lost production on the outside. Munzer and MacIntyre were the lone Bulldogs to average more than one three-pointer per game last season. With both gone, the three-point shooting contest may help illuminate who will pick up the slack from the outside.

The Bulldogs posted their best win total since 2011–12 last year, but were seventh in the Ivy League in three-point percentage. With several young guards, Yale looks to improve on that mark in 2017–18.

Who is the Elis’ top dunker?

The dunk contest will likely be Blue Madness’ marquee event, with guard Trey Phills ’19 and forwards Jordan Bruner ’20, Noah Yates ’18 and Jameel Alausa ’21 expected to compete. Phills has dazzled in previous dunk contests and is the favorite heading into the event. The 6-foot-9-inch Bruner does not have far to jump to get to the hoop, and if his slams in pregame layup lines last year are any indication, will be looking to knock off Phills. Yates, a former Yale football player, and the rookie Alausa have the athleticism to compete with Phills and Bruner, making it an open competition.

But the wild card for the dunk contest is not on Yale’s roster. Recently hired assistant coach Tobe Carberry was a finalist at the National Slam Dunk contest at the 2000 Final Four. Carberry told the News in August he has already shown the team highlights of his moves from back in the day. Blue Madness will show who has been studying up.

How healthy is Mason?

After scoring 31 points in Yale’s first round victory in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, forward Makai Mason ’18 missed all of the 2016–17 season with a foot injury. Head coach James Jones said at last week’s preseason media teleconference that Mason’s foot is 100 percent healthy, but that the captain is recovering from a back strain that he suffered in the weight room. Jones said that Mason a “full go” at practice and will be healthy in time for the season opener.

Assuming Jones does not hold Mason out of the event, Blue Madness will let Yale fans see if the team’s leading scorer from 2015–16 is back to full strength.

Both teams open their schedules on Nov. 10, with the women hosting Long Island and the men traveling to Creighton. The men’s home opener will be Nov. 14 against South Carolina State.