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NERDS: Butler vs Yale Preview

Ok, so we get to see a true Dog Fight, as the Butler Bulldogs take on those smartie pants at Yale. Here’s what we know about the Yale Bulldogs.

Defense:


Yale is elite defensively. The defense is where Yale’s bread is buttered, as this team is 8-1 and in seven of their eight wins, their opponent hasn’t cracked 60 points. Adding on with some more efficiency-type statistics, Yale’s opponents shoot 27.7% from the three-point line, 42.9% from two-point range, 37.6% overall and have a current defensive efficiency of .822, all ranking inside of the Top 50 nationally.

Me writing this


The efficiency ranking (not adjusted for opponent FWIW) ranks eleventh, which just shows how good Yale’s defense is. It’s just behind teams top 20 teams like UCONN and Illinois, and ahead of Arkansas. So yeah, really, really good.

Shockingly (and despite the tweet I linked... it's all I could find), with such a high-level defense, Yale isn’t a team that forces a ton of turnovers or blocks a ton of shots. In both areas, they rank barely above average. They just play a good, hard, fundamental 30 seconds of defense every single possession. They don’t gamble, don’t take a ton of risks, and just do whatever they can to fluster you and make you take a bad shot.


Once you miss that shot, Yale is one of the best teams in the country at rebounding, with a defensive rebounding rate of 80.7%, good for thirteenth in the country. They’re excellent at defending you for thirty seconds, then limiting you to that one, tough possession.


Offense:


Yale isn’t a particularly efficient offense. They’re pretty good on this end, but nothing special. They’re best inside of the arc. Yale is the thirty-sixth best team from two-point range, shooting 55.6%.

Yale really excels inside the arc, but from deep they aren't really anything special. From three-point land, Yale makes just above one-third of their attempts, shooting 33.7% from deep, which is very middle of the road nationally.


For a team that is as efficient from inside the two-point arc as Yale is, they don’t shoot many free throws. Like at all. In every single possible stat you could find that shows the frequency of free-throw attempts, Yale is inside the bottom thirty. They’re a middle-of-the-road free-throw shooting team, but they don’t get to the line much, at all. On average, they make under ten free throws a game and shoot .211 free throws per field goal attempt (yes, I hand-picked the stat which they are worst at for effect, it may sound goofy but it proves my point, ok let me have this), which rank 339 and 355, respectively, out of 363 teams.


They’re very efficient inside the arc, but when it comes to everything else, they aren’t a team that should burn you.


Players To Watch:


Yale is led by their star junior, Matt Knowling. The 6’6” Knowling has taken a massive leap after his first season. He’s averaging 17.3PPG on 68% from the field. Even on high volume, he’s still incredibly efficient, as he ranks twelfth in the country in field goal percentage. Much like Yale’s offense, he doesn’t shoot a ton of threes but is very, very effective inside the arc.

Being third in PER in the country is INSANE


Yale’s second-leading scorer is their sharpshooter, John Poulakidas, who is averaging 11.4PPG, but shoots 47.9% from the three-point line, on over five attempts per game. He’s the one guy you can’t leave open for a second. He single-handedly kept them in their one loss (Colorado, who also beat Tennessee), shooting 6/8 from three in that contest. So yeah, he can do it against high-major competition, too.

Lastly, senior big man EJ Jarvis rounds out their key options. He’s scored in double figures in five of their nine games, including a 17-point performance in their win over Stony Brook. He doesn’t play a ton, he only averages 17.3 minutes per game, but despite this, he still is Yale’s third-leading scorer. So, when he’s in, they feed him the ball.


Metrics:

KenPom: Yale 90, Butler 86

NET: Yale 36, Butler 62

T-Rank: Yale 97, Butler 69 (nice)

Evan Miya: Yale 73, Butler 83


Prediction:


The metrics think this one is going to be very close. This Yale team is really good. They aren't someone you can sleep on. I think this game comes down to Butler’s offense vs Yale’s defense. Butler is one of the best offensive teams in the country, as Butler shoots 49.7% from the field, which ranks twelfth nationally. That’s awesome. Though, Yale’s defense is right there. It’s skill vs skill on this end, and something will have to give. Yale does an excellent job of annoying you on that end and limiting you to one shot. But, can they do that against someone of Butler’s caliber?

On any given night, any team can have an awesome shooting night, but aside from that, Yale isn’t a team that scares me offensively. They’re best inside the arc, but in their one game against a high-major opponent, they were 50% from two-point range which would be almost exactly average.


One thing you have to note with Yale is that aside from Colorado, they haven’t really tested themselves. They went to Hawaii and won, but other than that, nobody they have played ranks inside of 200 in the newly released NET, with most of their opponents being in the 300s. So, how much of this is them being good and how much is a factor of their competition level?


Usually, teams taking a step up in competition that are most effective inside the two-point arc aren’t giant killers. This defense is scary though. It’s tough to score on Yale. But, Butler’s offense has been excellent this season. Butler is the best offensive team Yale has faced by a longshot. Can their defense still perform against this Butler offense?


Also, Colorado’s big man Tristan Da Silva dominated this Yale team, as he tallied 20 points to lead the Buffaloes. Da Silva isn’t a dominant big man like Manny Bates is. So, will they have an answer for Manny Bates?

This is one Butler has to win. That being said, I like the matchup. This Yale team defends at a very high level, but at Hinkle, this offense has been excellent. I’m worried about transition defense with this Butler team, but Yale isn’t the team to attack that. Yale isn’t the team to drill a ton of threes and beat you from deep. Yale is a grind-you-out type of opponent, and with the athletes Butler has, I like this matchup.

Final Score:

Butler 75, Yale 62





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