The bus doors closed, and the 6-hour trek began.
The anticipation was building the entire week as Yeshiva prepared to face the Yellowjackets. A perennial DIII contender on a national level, the Macs would need to execute their game plan to perfection to come out victorious. Having put up about 100 points in each of their last two games, Yeshiva was geared up to face a top defense playing at one of the slowest paces in DIII. It was billed across the DIII basketball world to be a must-watch contest.
Last season’s trip to play the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets ended in agony--the tournament was cancelled with the team half an hour from the hotel parking lot in Virginia. But we’re not referring to Randolph-Macon here.
Today, the Macs are headed 6 hours north to face off against the University of Rochester Yellowjackets. The highly-anticipated matchup, which will tip off at 4 PM, will give the Macs an opportunity to showcase their talent against one of the best teams in the UAA Conference, considered across the DIII spectrum to be a top five hoops league.
The Macs come into this matchup with a 31-game winning streak--the longest in the country, across all levels--after coming out victorious in both games of a season-opening home-and-home against the Manhattanville College Valiants. Last week, Yeshiva demonstrated their offensive prowess from the get-go, as they put up 90-plus points each game, led by Ryan Turell’s 31 and 36, respectively.
Last week’s offensive success demonstrates that Yeshiva’s motion offense is eliciting similar results to last year. Even with the loss of some of last season’s key contributors, including Simcha Halpert and Dani Katz, the offense continues to lead to high-scoring outputs, schematically creating high-percentage shots nearly every time down the floor.
On the other side of the court, the Rochester Yellowjackets will look to kick-off their 2021 campaign by knocking off the 8th-ranked Macs. The Yellowjackets are more than capable of getting the job done as their team plays a very disciplined game and has the tools on both sides of the ball to match up with Yeshiva.
Offensively, the Yellowjackets like to get the ball into the post, specifically to Ryan Algier, a 6’10” senior forward who averaged 14.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game during the ‘19-’20 season. Furthermore, they like to play a complex form of basketball focusing on their guys under the rim and opportunities in the paint. In order for Rochester to pull off the mini-upset, they need to win the battle in the post and use their size to create opportunities near the basket, thereby allowing them to do what they do best: pound the ball to the hoop.
The Yellowjackets also have the ability to beat you beyond the arc with guys like Kailan Lee, a senior who averaged 11.6 points per game and shot 38.3% beyond the arc last season. If Rochester wants to win on Sunday, they’ll need to win in areas where the average viewer might not expect them to, and that includes beyond the arc. Giving guys like Kailan Lee the opportunity to catch the Macs off-guard and knock down a few treys here and there will force the Macs to adjust their gameplan. If Rochester catches the Macs off-guard and forces them to account for all areas of the court at all times, look for more opportunities under the rim for guys like Algier, who will most likely be heavily guarded to begin the game.
The Yellowjackets are led by Coach Luke Flockerzi, who has quite the coaching resumé. Flockerzi has led two UAA-winning teams throughout his tenure as Head Coach, one in 2011 and the other in 2013. Additionally, under the tutelage of Flockerzi, the Yellowjackets have appeared in the DIII NCAA tournament 4 times. Last season, Flockerzi surpassed the 200-win mark as a Head Coach while leading the Yellowjackets to a 16-9 record (7-7 in conference play). 4 starters return for a team which was expected to be a preseason borderline top 25 team before numerous schools canceled their seasons.
Make no mistake, the Yellowjackets will present the Macs with quite the challenge on Sunday evening. Yeshiva will have their hands full defensively with Algier to watch all game long. Furthermore, on offense the Macs will need to execute their cuts and screens perfectly as the Rochester defense loves to take away the baseline drive and force ball carriers into tough situations against their big men. So, constant movement and cutting on offense will hopefully confuse the Yellowjackets defense and open up driving lanes and opportunities under the basket and beyond the arc.
Here are the keys to Sunday’s matchup:
Keep the Yellowjackets out of the paint
Rochester is a big team that loves to give the ball to their forwards under the hoop. The Macs need to take away the inside shot and force the Yellowjackets to shoot the ball, whether it’s a simple jumper or the 3. In doing this, however, the Macs must stay out of foul trouble while also making sure to box out effectively in order to win the rebound battle.
Finish better at the hoop
The Macs NEED to finish at the rim on Sunday. Yeshiva has not shot the 2-point shot particularly well as of late and they’ll need to rely on the inside shot on Sunday in order to win. Rochester is a team that loves to take away the mid-range and 3-point shot, the latter which Yeshiva relies heavily on. So, in order to come out victorious on Sunday, the Macs will need to execute offensively under the rim and make the Yellowjackets pick their poison.
Draw the big man out of paint
It is imperative that the Macs draw the big man out of the paint in order to win this game. As stated above, the Yellowjackets like to take away the 3-point shot, so a point of emphasis come Sunday will be post-ups and other shots inside the point. In order to win the offensive battle in the paint, the Macs will need to execute their motion offense to perfection in order to draw guys like Algier out from under the rim, thereby giving players like Gabe Leifer opportunities near the basket.
This contest will tip off from Blue Cross Arena--capacity 11,215, but with official attendance of 0--at 4 PM. Rochester will be broadcasting the game; click here to watch. Be sure to check back later on for our recap and for other Macs-related updates.