Justin Sears

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No. 12 Yale picks up first-ever NCAA tournament victory

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West region No. 5 Baylor entered the NCAA tournament looking to erase the memory of last season’s early NCAA tournament exit, with a veteran group having designs on playing deep into this season’s event. Unfortunately for Scott Drew’s Bears they drew ran into Ivy League champion No. 12 Yale, and throughout most of the contest James Jones’ Bulldogs outplayed Baylor.

And despite some nerve-wracking moments late the Bulldogs pulled out the 79-75 victory, picking up the first NCAA tournament win in program history.

Makai Mason was the star for the Bulldogs, scoring 31 points (a school NCAA tournament record) as he managed to go just about wherever he wanted against the Baylor defense. Baylor’s standard matchup zone was no match for what Yale threw at them offensively, as the Bulldogs were able get through for quality looks inside the arc. The game reached a point to where Baylor had to come out of the zone and play man, and that didn’t work all that well either.

Normally in upsets the underdog gets hot from three, but that wasn’t the case in Providence. Yale shot 5-for-16 from three but made 63.6 percent of their two-point attempts. And to be fair to the Bulldogs, they looked nothing like an underdog for most of this game.

There were moments of frustration for Baylor, most notably an argument between Rico Gathers Sr. and Taurean Prince (28 points) during a second half timeout, and Yale had a lot to do with that. The Bears made a late run thanks in large part to Prince, and defensively they forced turnovers with full-court pressure to close the gap to one in the game’s final minute.

But they were unable to get any closer than that, and down two with 6.8 seconds remaining a Lester Medford turnover resulted in Baylor not getting off a shot to either tie the game or take the lead.

Baylor’s ability to control the glass has been key for them throughout the season, and they did managed to grab 14 offensive rebounds Thursday. But Yale is a good rebounding team in its own right, as they entered the game ranked in the top ten nationally in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Thanks to the presence of players such as Justin Sears, Nick Victor, Sam Downey and Brandon Sherrod (in total seven Bulldogs average at least 2.5 rebounds per game), won the battle on the boards Thursday afternoon. Add in Yale’s superior offensive execution, and Jones’ Bulldogs were able to advance.

Next up for Yale is No. 4 Duke, which beat No. 13 UNCW in the first game of the day in Providence.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.

 

Ranking the #CBTtop100 players in the country

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We’ve kicked off our countdown of the top 100 players in the country. 

You can read through all of the picks below. You can also follow along with it live by following @cbtonnbc on twitter or by scrolling through the #CBTtop100 hashtag. 

Here is our top 100 up to date:

[MORE: Top backcourts | Top frontcourts]