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Gameday Preview-- NCAA First Round: #13 Men's Basketball vs. WPI-3/6/20

11:15 AM, Baltimore, MD: BREAKING NEWS-- Today's game has been pushed back an hour. Tip off will now be at 2:00 PM.

12:30 PM, Baltimore, MD: UPDATE-- The game will begin at 2:20.

After four months of practically non-stop action, the #13 Yeshiva University Maccabees have accomplished the base objective of the 2019-20 season: participate in win-or-go-home basketball. The 27-1 Macs, who currently own the best record in all of Division III and have not lost in 117 days, must extend their winning streak to 28 should they want this historic campaign to continue.

This is Yeshiva’s second tournament appearance in program history, and their first round opponent is no stranger to the dance: Worcester Polytechnic Institute. WPI lost in the NEWMAC Championship Game to Coast Guard, as they blew a 25-point second-half lead. Despite failing to secure an automatic entry into the tournament, the Engineers received their 9th Pool C bid in the last 14 seasons; this is also the team’s 10th overall appearance in the same time span.

The entire WPI offense is reliant on Garrett Stephenson, their 6’7” center. While his range is somewhat limited, Stephenson is an absolute force in the low post, and he is hitting 62.7% of his shots from the field this season. Colin McNamara is excellent at penetrating the paint and creating space. 6’4” senior forward Jake Wisniewski is the glue guy for the Engineers, as his presence on the defensive end and basketball IQ is largely what makes WPI one of the most efficient teams in the country on the less glamorous side of the ball. PG Kahleb Downing takes nearly 2/3 of his shots from downtown, and has the potential to become the hot hand for the Engineers.

Other players who receive big minutes for WPI include Loe Doherty, John Lowther, Jake Needleman, Reid Walker, and Dakota Wheeler. Needleman may just be 5’8”, but he can go off; his game is similar to Farmingdale State’s Anthony Miller Jr. Lowther and Wheeler are big bodies with completely different styles; the former’s game revolves around post ups, while Wheeler is a fantastic three-point shooter who hits at a 38.2% clip from behind the arc. Doherty also likes to pull from deep, and is a top-notch defender. Walker is a tough defender, who is excellent at capitalizing on second chance opportunities.

WPI plays through the post and Stephenson, and they run a 4 out 1 in motion offense. Similarly to the Macs’ Skyline Conference opponents, the Engineers ball screen a lot. They typically play man-to-man defense, and with Yeshiva’s ability to burn a zone, I wouldn’t expect this to change for today’s matchup.

This will be a historic game for multiple reasons, and unfortunately, very few will be able to witness it in person. Johns Hopkins has prohibited spectators from attending matchups held in the Goldfarb Gymnasium over the weekend. See this press release for more information.

Keys to the Game:

1) Contest Shots

  • While WPI may not be, per se, a three-point shooting team, they have numerous players who can punish opponents when left open

  • It is imperative that the Macs contest the Engineers’ shot attempts, and not let them get clean looks from deeps

2) Get Out on Break

  • WPI is a very disciplined team, and they like to play the game slowly, as indicated by their adjusted tempo sitting at 385th in the country (out of 422)

  • The Macs should push the ball in transition and look for fast break scoring opportunities throughout the game, both in an effort to speed things up and with the goal of capitalizing on WPI’s slow tendencies

3) Don’t Let Stephenson Get Comfortable

  • Garrett Stephenson is where it all starts and ends for WPI

  • He lives in the post, and once he gets comfortable, opponents are in for a long night

  • The Macs should do whatever necessary to make Stephenson uncomfortable and decrease his effectiveness

Today’s Yeshiva vs. WPI game will tip off at 1 PM. HopTV will be broadcasting the game, and Connor Newcomb will be on the call along with MacsLive’s Akiva Poppers. Click here to watch the live stream. After the game concludes, we will publish a shortened recap, in an effort to allow fans on the east coast to read it before Shabbos begins.

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