NYC Metro Preview: #4 Yale
Head coach: James Jones
Returning Starters: 4- G Eric Flato (senior): 6-1, 185; G/F Caleb Holmes (senior): 6-6, 205; F Ross Morin (junior): 6-7, 225; C Matt Kyle (senior): 6-11, 240.
Just like Columbia, it would be considered a disappointment if Yale weren’t in the thick of the Ivy League race this season. Four starters return, led by senior captain Eric Flato (15.3 ppg, 3.6 apg). Flato, who averaged thirty-four minutes per game last season, led the Bulldogs in both scoring and assists last season. He’s an outstanding leader who can flat-out get the job done on both ends of the floor. Joining him in the backcourt are twins Caleb (8.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg) and Nick (5.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg) Holmes, also seniors. Both look to be a part of the starting lineup with the graduation of Casey Hughes. Although Hughes was a forward, the Holmes twins can play the two and the three for Coach Jones, making this possible.
Other backcourt contributors this season include junior Travis Pinick (6.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg), sophomore Alexander Zampier (12 mpg in 06-07) and freshman Porter Braswell. While the two returnees can play at the off-guard spot, how well Braswell grows as a point guard will make a difference in just how good Yale becomes this season. For if Braswell proves he is able, Flato can get some rest. Not that he’ll need much, but it’s a good luxury to have.
The frontcourt will be led by upperclassmen Ross Morin (junior) and Matt Kyle (senior). Morin (8.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) is Yale’s leading returning rebounder, and Kyle (5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg) needs to step up his game with the graduation of Casey Hughes. And if the opener against Sacred Heart is an indication (22 points, 10 boards, 4 blocks), then Kyle should be just fine this season. Other players looking to contribute up front are sophomore Paul Nelson (1.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg) and freshmen Michael Sands (Franklin Square, NY) and Garrett Fiddler (Colorado Springs, CO).
In regards to the schedule, the Bulldogs have a tough non-conference slate that should have them more than prepared for Ivy League play. A four-game road trip (UMass, Stanford, UCLA, and Holy Cross) won’t be easy to navigate, and neither will later trips to Fairfield and Kansas. Home non-conference games include Vermont and Boston University. But if any team can channel the rigors of such a slate into a successful conference campaign then it’s this experienced group.
Replacing Casey Hughes will be tough, but there are plenty of options all over the floor for Yale. And in Flato, the Bulldogs have one of the best guards (if not the best) in the Ivy League. The tough schedule will offer up some of the country’s best programs, something that can’t be matched every weekend in the Ivy League. Yale is right there with Cornell at the top of the conference, and don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1962.