Introducing Cinderella: Yale’s going to upset someone again this season

AP Photo/Jessica Hill
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Miye Oni is Yale’s superstar, and with 14 minutes left in the second half of the Ivy League title game, Oni left the floor having picked up his fourth foul.

That, however, did not matter.

The Elis were immediately go on a 20-4 run, opening up a 73-59 lead that eventually turned into an 97-85 win.

The star of the afternoon for Yale was point guard Alex Copeland. He finished with 25 points and seven assists, and while he did not outplay Harvard’s Bryce Aiken — Aiken went for 38 points on 11-for-21 shooting — he did make every big play and every big shot in the second half, picking up the slack for Oni.

This is the second NCAA tournament that Yale has reached in the last four seasons, and to put that into context, they had not been to the NCAA tournament since 1962 prior to 2016’s trip. The job that James Jones has done turning that New Haven school into a Ivy powerhouse should not be overlooked.

CONFERENCE: Ivy League

COACH: James Jones

RECORD: 22-7, 10-4 Ivy (1st)

RATINGS

  • KENPOM: 84
  • NET: 86

PROJECTED SEED: There’s a chance that Yale can sneak up to the No. 12 seed line, although I do think that is is more likely they end up being a No. 13 seed when the brackets are released.

NAMES YOU NEED TO KNOW: Miye Oni is this team’s star. He’s a 6-foot-6 combo-guard with a 7-foot- wingspan that is going to be an NBA draft pick. He struggled on Saturday, but he absolutely took over down the stretch in the semifinals as Yale landed a come-from-behind win over Princeton.

but he’s far from alone. Copeland, as we saw Saturday, can take over a game. Jordan Bruner is the kind of skilled four that makes Yale so hard to guard — he averages 10.2 pints, 8.4 boards, 3.0 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals as a 6-foot-9 athlete. Blake Reynolds can play. Trey Phills is really good. Azar Swaim is a guy that can pop off for 15-20 points from time to time. This is a good, talented team that will be a threat to beat whoever they draw in the first round.

BIG WINS, BAD LOSSES: Yale has a handful of wins that sound better than they look this season. They beat Miami on a neutral court. They won at Cal. They beat Iona and Albany at home, and also took Memphis to overtime in Memphis. The problem is that every one of those teams is in something of a down year this year, which is why we’re looking at Yale as more of a 13 seed than a borderline at-large like Lipscomb, Belmont and the like.

STATS YOU NEED TO KNOW: The strength of this Yale team is on the offensive side of the ball. They were far and away the best offensive team in a pretty good Ivy League. They have guys that will play in the NBA. They can shoot it from three and they have multiple players that can create in the halfcourt. They’re just a good, well-coached team.

HOW DO I KNOW YOU?: Yale went out and beat Baylor in the 2016 NCAA tournament, which is memorable for two reasons: 1. Makai Mason going for 31 points and becoming an Ivy League legend. 2. That game led to this March moment:

FINAL THOUGHT: James Jones is a heckuva coach. Yale had no basketball history to speak of when he took over in 2000, and while it took a while for him to get here, he has this program absolutely rolling. The Bulldogs are heading to their second NCAA tournament in four seasons, and if it wasn’t for some unfortunate injuries that they had dealt with in recent seasons, that number might have been higher. Some high-academic school at a bigger level — Tulane? George Washington? Cal? — would be smart to give him a long, long look.