Game Preview: Yale

Blowouts of hapless opponents make me anxious. The early portion of our schedule was expertly crafted to indoctrinate new players to real life, full speed (wink emoji) Virginia basketball, but I felt as though the team was spinning their wheels a little by the end of the demolition of St. Francis of Brooklyn. Don’t get me wrong: blowouts are fun, multi-minute stints for the Green Machine are even more so, and CTB using lineups dispensed by a Bingo machine more still. I’m just ready to see what this roster can do when presented with a little resistance.

It’s hard to get a read on our players from big wins over bad teams, but here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Marial Shayok is confident and comfortable. You can craft an argument that he’s been our best player on both ends and find ways to credibly back it up.
  • It doesn’t matter that he only played in one of our first two games or that he only played 14 minutes in that one: Mamadi Diakite is our most exciting player through two games. Read my text chains with various friends for proof. The dude is electric.
  • London Perrantes has been quiet because we haven’t needed him. Conserving energy is a cagey veteran move. I applaud it even if it hurts the points per game numbers that get players love in the postseason award beauty competition. Isaiah Wilkins falls into the same camp.
  • I would like to see more from Devon Hall. I think it’s there. I still don’t understand what Darius Thompson is.
  • Some players move in a way that suggests natural ability. Kyle Guy is one. The way he goes straight into his jumper off of the catch, releases a layup a second early to evade a defender, or deftly leads the player he’s passing to present a player beyond his years.
  • Jack Salt is much improved at going straight up on defense (just two fouls called in 43 minutes) and in slowing down and taking stock of the situation on offense. He still needs to stop bringing offensive boards down below his waist, which is a habit that can linger forever.
  • Jarred Reuter is drawing contact around the rim and devouring offensive rebounds (he’s corralled 28.8% of our misses when he’s out there).
  • The speed of things has given Ty Jerome problems so far, but he countered with a couple of sweet assists vs. SF-B.
  • I expected Austin Nichols to be faster and more fluid. 11/18 EDIT: I also expected him to stay on the team long enough for me to finish this post.

The tests I desire are coming soon, in the form of Iowa (57th via KenPom), Ohio State (29th) and West Virginia (24th) before the exam break. Yale is not on their level (121st as I write this), but they’re a step or even two above what we’ve seen so far.

Last year’s Bulldogs went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 54 years, logged their first ever victory in the Dance (an upset of Baylor) and then gave Duke a run in the round of 32 before losing. Unfortunately for them, they return just two of the top eight guys from that team and no starters after Makai Mason, senior point guard, leading scorer and distributor (16.8 ppg, 3.8 apg), hero (31 points) of the Baylor upset, and all-around everything for Yale basketball broke his foot in a preseason scrimmage. The bad news didn’t stop there. Heralded recruit Jordan Bruner (who picked Yale over Clemson and was supposed to be their main man this season) missed their first two games with a knee injury and should miss Sunday as well.

With all that in mind, things are going pretty well for Yale. The Bulldogs are hanging. They crossed the continent and soundly upset Washington, hanging a 1.31 offensive rating on the Huskies and keeping a double digit lead for almost the entire game. A return home saw them eke out an OT win over Lehigh, who is pretty OK despite what we saw last year. All five Yale starters are averaging between 19.5 and 12 points per game, they’re hitting the offensive glass hard (nabbing 37.9% of their misses), and they do not turn the ball over (11.1%, or seven vs. UW and 10 in 45 minutes vs. Lehigh). Their offense relies on a ton of down screens and baseline action, which is the kind of thing typically muddied by the Pack Line.

Sam Downey has been their nominal go-to guy so far, scoring 22 vs. Washington and 17 vs. Lehigh and leading the team in shot attempts in both. Downey is not particularly physically gifted or overly talented at 6'9'’ (this preseason preview hailed him simply for his hustle), so he doesn’t do much inside (just 18.8% of his shots come at the rim despite being their “big”). Instead, most of his shots come from 12–18 feet, and he’s making hay there: his 53.8% mark from the midrange to start the season is good enough to make those shots OK to take if it’s sustainable. Downey’s midrange game is joined in the starting lineup by two volume shooters in 6'6'’ freshman Miye Oni and 6'7'’ sophomore Blake Reynolds (who have combined to take 23 of the team’s 36 threes and hit 56.5% of them), a steady hand in sophomore point guard Alex Copeland (no turnovers in 53 minutes), and senior Anthony Dallier.

Without Morris and Bruner, there are some signs that Yale will find the sledding to be very tough against teams with more physical talent. Yale has had almost 20% (17.6, to be exact) of their shots blocked over the first two games, have been very foul prone (opponents take 41.5 FTs per 100 shots), and have surrendered a 58.8% mark on two pointers, which are all stats that mark a team as deficient in important things like size and athleticism.

The Yale offense is patient (70.3 possessions per 40, 288th in the country) and well-designed (an assist rate in the top 50), so we will be challenged to remain sound for entire possessions, which is something I’m looking forward to seeing. When we’re at our best, opponents struggle to run their offense and turn to one on one play to score. I don’t think Yale has the guys to do that. If we avoid glaring defensive mistakes, then depth, talent, and athleticism will carry us home.

G: London Perrantes — 6'2'’ sr #32

London is 2–9 on threes and 0–2 from the line so far this season. I’m ready for him to thaw. 
G: Devon Hall — 6'5'’ jr #0
Devon has looked out of sorts on offense through two games, like he doesn’t know where he fits with both London and Darius on the floor duplicating various parts of his skill set. 
G: Darius Thompson — 6'4'’ jr #51
DT had six boards and three assists against SF-B, showing that he can make all-around contributions when not scoring. 
F: Isaiah Wilkins — 6'7'’ jr #21
Was invisible against St. Francis. It wasn’t bad. It didn’t matter. 
F: Jack Salt — 6'11'’ so #33
Jack doesn’t have to be great this season. He has to keep grabbing offensive boards, finishing, defending without fouling, and being big without obviously hurting people. So far, so good. 
G: Kyle Guy — 6'3'’ fr #5
This is just selfish fanboy talk, but I want to see Guy shoot more threes. 
F: Marial Shayok — 6'6'’ jr #4
Consider this a call for Marial to perhaps replace Devon in the starting lineup if he once again shows he’s in peak form. 
F: Jarred Reuter — 6'7'’ so #31
Reuter isn’t smooth, but he’s patrolling the inside when he’s in the game because it feels like there isn’t room for anyone else in the paint. It’s like trying to squeeze into a sedan next to a giant, portable car seat.


G: Alex Copeland — 6'3'’ so #3
33.6% assist rate is really nice. He’s attempted 18 FTs to 17 FGs through two games, which is a curious stat and suggests he at least attempts to get to the rim. 
G: Anthony Dallier— 6'6'’ sr #1
Yale’s most experienced active returnee (50% of their minutes last year as a reserve). Scored double figures in three of their last four games last season and hit 8–16 threes over that span. 
G: Miye Oni — 6'6'’ fr #24
Followed a 4–6 effort on threes vs. Washington with 3–5 vs. Lehigh. Curious: grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked five shots against Lehigh at 6'6.’’ 
F: Blake Reynolds — 6'7'’ so #32
Reynolds is 6–12 on threes (good) and has eight fouls and seven turnovers in 59 minutes (less good). 
F: Sam Downey — 6'9'’ sr #44
It’ll be interesting to see how we guard Downey. His midrange life makes me wonder how Salt will fare, or if we instead go smaller with Marial as a starter. 
F: Austin Williams — 6'8'’ fr #22 
Grabbed three offensive boards in game one, two defensive ones in game two, and committed four fouls in both. He’s averaging 15.2 fouls per 40. 
G: Trey Phills — 6'2'’ so #13
Four assists and one turnover in 47 minutes as a backup point guard. 
G/F: Eric Anderson — 6'7'’ jr #10
Five points, seven rebounds in 24 minutes. He’s not aggressive on offense, but scraps for rebounds and loose balls.

It’ll be interesting to see what our team’s body language is like after the big Austin Nichols news. This would have been a more interesting game with one or both of Bruner and Morris in uniform for Yale, but them’s the breaks. A couple of years ago, I thought Harvard would provide us a test and we won by 50. I don’t see that happening tomorrow, but I also don’t think that the Bulldogs have enough to hang with us for 40 minutes even with this whole Nichols situation. ‘Hoos by 18.