Yale, Quin­nip­iac ready to tip off their sea­sons in style

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - SPORTS - By David Borges

Who says Con­necti­cut isn’t the cap­i­tal of the bas­ket­ball world?

Over the next cou­ple of days, Yale will kick off its 2018-19 sea­son in China, while Quin­nip­iac will start things off against the de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pi­ons.

Oh, and Jim Cal­houn re­turns to the side­lines as a head coach again, too, when he leads Divi­sion 3 Univer­sity of Saint Joseph into its first-ever game on Fri­day at 7:30 p.m. against Wil­liam Pater­son Univer­sity at Trin­ity Col­lege’s Ray Oost­ing Gym­na­sium.

On Fri­day at 11 p.m. (noon in China), Yale will face Cal­i­for­nia in the an­nual Pac-12 China Game in Shang­hai, China. The Bull­dogs have been in China for about a week, beat­ing a Chi­nese Univer­sity All-Star team 93-84 (de­spite be­ing out­shot at the foul line, 38-9!) and learn­ing as much as they can about the coun­try’s cul­ture.

“They’re see­ing things they’ve never seen be­fore,” said coach James Jones. “The univer­sity did a good job in pre­par­ing them with four classes talk­ing about Chi­nese cul­ture, learn­ing dif­fer­ent words, mean­ings. There’s a lot of learn­ing go­ing on.”

On Sat­ur­day at 8 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Cen­ter in Philadel­phia, Quin­nip­iac will face de­fend­ing na­tional champ Vil­lanova in both teams’ sea­son-opener. Sec­ond-year Bob­cat coach Baker Dun­leavy played at Vil­lanova and was Jay Wright’s as­so­ciate head coach for sev­eral years, in­clud­ing in 2016, when Vil­lanova also won the na­tional ti­tle.

Vil­lanova lost four play­ers to the NBA draft, but still have some key vet­er­ans back along with a highly-rated re­cruit­ing class com­ing in. The Wild­cats are cur­rently ranked No. 9 in the na­tion.

“Any time you’re play­ing the de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion,

whether they’ve lost guys or not, it’s a chal­lenge,” Dun­leavy said. “We have to em­brace it, en­joy it. It’s prob­a­bly the great­est test we can get. We’ll mea­sure our­selves not on the fi­nal score, but on the whole 40 min­utes — stay ag­gres­sive, keep go­ing at them, play hard and let’s see what hap­pens at the end. We’ll be glad we played Vil­lanova, be­cause it’ll get us bet­ter and more pre­pared for the rest of our sched­ule.”

Here’s two sea­son pre­views for the price of one:

YALE

The Bull­dogs were picked to fin­ish third in the Ivy League pre­sea­son coaches’ poll. Har­vard (which re­cently beat UConn in a closed-door scrim­mage) was tabbed to win the league, fol­lowed by Penn. Prince­ton rounded out the top four.

As usual, Jones doesn’t pay much heed to the pre­sea­son “ex­perts.”

“We’ve out­kicked our cov­er­age, fin­ished higher in the stand­ings (than picked) in 12 of the last 13 years, some­thing like that,” the 20th-year head coach noted. “I don’t give much thought to the prog­nos­ti­ca­tors. Once you hit the court, you see how good you are.”

Yale has the chance to be very good, Makai Ma­son may now be a grad trans­fer at Bay­lor, but just about ev­ery­one else is back, along with the re­turn of tal­ented for­ward Jor­dan Bruner, who missed all of his sopho­more sea­son last year with a knee in­jury.

Miye Oni, a 6-foot-6 ju­nior guard, is a le­git Ivy League player of the year can­di­date. He led the Bull­dogs in scor­ing (15.1 ppg), re­bound­ing (6.0) and as­sists (3.6) a year ago, and could some­day be play­ing at the next level.

Se­nior Trey Phills, a sec­ond-team all-Ivy pick last sea­son, also has the abil­ity to take over a game.

“He’s our quiet as­sas­sin,” said Jones. “He just goes about his busi­ness, but there were stretches last year where he was our best player.”

Bruner, a 6-9 ju­nior, was one of the most high­lytouted re­cruits in pro­gram his­tory a few years ago. He’s still shak­ing off some rust.

“He gets bet­ter ev­ery day,” said Jones. “He’s had some spec­tac­u­lar mo­ments in prac­tice, but he’s work­ing on be­ing con­sis­tent. The speed of the col­lege game, he hasn’t had that in a year or so. He’s just start­ing to get him­self back. My ex­pec­ta­tion is that be­fore long, he will be back to what he’s ca­pa­ble of.”

Alex Copeland and Blake Reynolds, who both scored in dou­ble fig­ures last sea­son, are also back, along with Paul Atkin­son, Azar Swain and Eric Mon­roe. And the Bull­dogs wel­come a strong fresh­man class led by Matthue Cot­ton, who scored a team-high 19 points in the ex­hi­bi­tion-game win.

Yale will play its typ­i­cally tough non-con­fer­ence sched­ule, in­clud­ing at Mem­phis on Nov. 17 and at Duke on Dec. 8. And, of course, if the Bull­dogs fin­ish in the top four and make the Ivy League tour­ney, they’ll be play­ing at home. This year’s tour­na­ment will be played at Lee Am­phithe­ater.

QUIN­NIP­IAC

The Bob­cats got great news over the sum­mer when Cameron Young, who set a school record for most points in a sea­son last year as a se­nior, was granted a waiver by the NCAA for an­other year. Young barely played his ju­nior year, though not be­cause of in­jury, pun­ish­ment or any­thing else.

Quin­nip­iac also brings back its sec­ond-lead­ing scorer, Shel­ton’s Rich Kelly, a MAAC All-Rookie team hon­oree last sea­son. Kelly hurt his MCL in a scrim­mage with Prince­ton re­cently and may not play against Vil­lanova, but the in­jury isn’t ex­pected to keep him side­lined too long.

Other key re­turnees in­clude Ja­cob Rag­oni, An­drew and Aaron Robin­son and Ab­du­lai Bundu, the con­sum­mate “glue guy” who was sec­ond on the team in re­bound­ing (5.8) a year ago.

“He’s kind of the iden­tity of the team,” Dun­leavy said. “He’s the tough­est guy on the court, and he’s bought into ev­ery­thing we’ve tried to in­still.”

The Bob­cats will also wel­come a pair of play­ers, Kevin Marfo and Travis At­son, who had to sit out last year af­ter trans­fer­ring from Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton and Tulsa, re­spec­tively. The top fresh­man should be Tyrese Wil­liams out of Philadel­phia.

“Sta­tis­ti­cally, we bring back key pieces and add a bunch of new ones, through trans­fer or fresh­men,” Dun­leavy said. “Through­out he coun­try, even at Ken­tucky, when you add pieces, ex­pect­ing things to be sharp from Day One is a lit­tle un­re­al­is­tic. We hope to be at the point in our pro­gram soon where we get five or six guys back and can be very good from the start. That’s what we want to build.”

RIM RAT­TLING

⏩ Quin­nip­iac re­cently got a com­mit­ment from Bren­dan Maguire, a 6-7 wing/for­ward from St. Thomas More.

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