Picked to be a strong Ivy league contender and possible NCAA tournament cinderella, Yale has largely disappointed so far this season, in large part due to injuries. To date, the Bulldogs have essentially beat up on the teams that they should and lost to the stronger teams on their schedule. The result? A 7-8 record going into Saturday night’s matchup with the Yellow Jackets.
After going into the season with so much hype, disaster struck right before opening night. For the second year in a row, star guard Makai Mason went down with a stress fracture in his foot, an injury that cost him the entire 2016-2017 season. College basketball fans will remember that name from his 31 point outing in the 2015-2016 NCAA tournament when Yale upset the fifth seeded Baylor Bears. So far this season, Mason has yet to play.
Mason wasn’t the only player Yale lost before the year even started. Sophomore forward Jordan Bruner was also lost for the season with a torn meniscus. A former top 150 recruit, Bruner averaged 8.4 PPG and 5.6 RPG as a freshman and was expected to play a major role for Yale this season.
After losing Mason and Bruner, most of the burden has fallen on sophomore Miye Oni. The 6-7 wing out of California started to garner some NBA hype after a strong freshman season that saw him average 12.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.7 APG. So far this season, Oni has only improved on his numbers from a season ago. Going into Saturday’s game, he is averaging just over 17 PPG and also leads the Bulldogs in rebounding at 6.2 per game. Oni is capable of having a big game at any time, producing five 20 point efforts so far this season and the Tech game plan will have to revolve around shutting him down.
While Yale likes to take a lot of threes, they haven’t been very effective when they do. Interestingly, the Bulldogs rank 38th in the country in 3PA/FGA, but rank just 222nd in three point percentage. The main player to watch on the perimeter is the previously mentioned Oni, who leads the Bulldogs in both three point attempts and three point makes. However, play too tight on the perimeter and Oni will make you pay inside the paint, where he is most effective. In fact, as a team the Bulldogs are extremely effective once they get inside the arc. They are shooting 58% on two point attempts, good for 16th in the country. Ben Lammers and the Tech defense are limiting teams to just 43% shooting on two point attempts (12th in the country) and this will be a key to watch in this one.
The Jackets are still going to be without Curtis Haywood for the seventh game in a row. Haywood was reportedly cleared to resume limited running yesterday and is expected to be back later this month. Sophomore guard Justin Moore is also expected to be inactive again. Against Miami, he did not dress due to coaches decision.
Vegas likes Georgia Tech in this one as they are currently nine point favorites Saturday night. If you’re in the Atlanta area, make sure to get out to McCamish Pavilion and cheer the Jackets on at 7pm!