For the first time in Yeshiva University history, the Maccabees have breached the D3hoops.com men’s Top 25. In the Week 8 poll, which took into account all games through January 26th, YU received 63 votes, and captured the 24th spot in the country.
“Another nice accomplishment for these guys, who have set out from the beginning to keep accomplishing firsts,” said Coach Elliot Steinmetz. "That said, while it's a reward for winning, it doesn't equal future wins."
“It’s great recognition for [YU],” sharpshooter Simcha Halpert acknowledged. “That being said, I’m trying not to think much of it. It changes week to week, and at the end of the day, we’re going to have to win the Skyline to accomplish our goals.”
The Macs were ranked as highly as 26th this season, and were 28th in the country coming into this past week. YU went 2-0 in their first games since December, winning comfortably in both. This allowed them to jump over five teams, including Springfield and WPI, neither of whom suffered a loss last week.
The Macs also become the first Skyline team since Purchase College (in March 2014) to be ranked in the Top 25. This is not only an achievement for Yeshiva; it is also a major milestone for the conference, which has not received national attention at this level in quite some time.
Prior to this season, Yeshiva had never received more than one vote in the poll. The rapid improvement of YU’s program has been marvelous to watch, and we can only hope that there is more to come.
What Made the Difference This Week?
Despite winning their last two games, the final results alone do not appear to explain why the Macs broke into the Top 25 this week. Only two teams dropped out; the Macs four-spot jump wasn’t solely due to this. Rather, it appears to be linked to one of two somewhat, but not directly connected things.
The first possible reason is that, in just one week, YU’s defensive efficiency jumped from 173rd in DIII to 122nd, leading to a jump in overall efficiency from 31st in the country to 24th. The Macs impressive defensive improvement aligns with last year’s, when, during Yeshiva’s 17-game winning streak, YU held opponents to 60 or fewer points in 9 games. Once again, it appears as if the Macs are hitting their stride defensively.
Another possible explanation is Coach Steinmetz’s appearance on Hoopsville last night. He may have convinced some voters to respect the Macs and their 14-1 record (and 14-game winning streak), and swayed them towards placing Yeshiva in their Top 25. While everyone knew that YU was on a historic run, hearing Coach talk about the program may have been influential to some.
Regardless of the reason for YU being selected to the Top 25, we can certainly all agree that it is well deserved. However, their work is far from done. “We need to stay humble and keep working hard,” said senior forward Gabriel Leifer, who made history of his own on Saturday. "It’s obviously nice to see the recognition we are getting, but it’s just a number, and we need to focus on the next game.” It is clear that this sort of mentality has permeated the Macs’ locker room, which is revealing of the tremendous character of all of the YU players.
Captain Dani Katz put it best. “We’ve got bigger goals in mind," the big man said.
Take note, America: you can’t relax when you play the Macs.