One month before Selection Sunday, and now the plot thickens. A lot of questions need to be answered in the next four weeks, so where to begin?
The Bulldogs haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1962, when a Harvard man – John Kennedy -- was in the White House. But they have won 10 in a row to lead the Ivy League, and with no conference tournament, the golden ticket to March must be secured largely in February. So is Yale’s time now?
Brandon Sherrod? He’s one of Yale’s main men, and just set an NCAA record by making 30 consecutive shots. "I feel very blessed and very fortunate to be a part of that. But I can’t really celebrate it too much because we have to take care of business."
Gifted with a great singing voice, Sherrod sat out last season to tour with the Yale Whiffenpoofs, a famed a cappella group. They warbled in 26 countries and dozens of states, so it was the chance of a lifetime. But there he was in Fort Lauderdale last March, miserably watching Yale lose that playoff game to Harvard, wishing he could help.
"It was very tough to watch," he said. "But it also gave me the motivation to come back this year. I think the decision I made was the right one obviously, because of the experiences I was able to have. I also gained a great deal of perspective, which was paramount in going back to the team."
Now he wants that to lead to the NCAA tournament, as one of four senior starters.
“It’s really difficult, especially when you’re a college basketball player, to watch other teams that you’ve played against getting in the tournament. And you’re asking yourself, why aren’t we there?’’ he said. “It would mean the world to be a part of that. It’s been a long overdue celebration in New Haven. I think the determination is even bigger now after last year."
And here are six other intriguing questions the next month should resolve.
1. Who will be No. 1 going into the NCAA tournament?
Roy Williams had a vertigo attack Tuesday night, as North Carolina had to claw to barely get past Boston College, who came into the game 0-10 in the ACC. John Calipari has had a full plate trying to get Kentucky right. Kansas is in a Big 12 dogfight. Michigan State lost three in a row, recovered, but dropped a tough one Tuesday night at Purdue in overtime.
In other words, everyone is still a work in process.
“It doesn’t faze me if people count us in, and it certainly doesn’t faze me if people count us out,’’ Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said. “This is a good basketball team. It’s still not in sync, but it’s the middle of February and it’s about time we started getting there. And we have been. We’ll be around.’’
Then again, maybe nobody wants to be No. 1. Only twice in the past 20 years has the top ranked team ended up national champion.
2. The four No. 1 seeds will be . . . ?
A batch of big games the last month will have to sort it out. The Oklahoma-Kansas rematch Saturday for one. North Carolina and Duke still have to play twice.
3. Speaking of Duke, could the Blue Devils actually end up on the bubble?
4. What of Kansas’ delve for twelve?
5. Will Max Hooper take a 2-point shot this season?
6. Who will be the most intriguing bubble teams a month from now?
Syracuse, 16-8, can only keep padding its resume and hope the selection committee gives due recognition to the fact the Orange are 12-3 with Jim Boeheim, and 4-5 without him. Syracuse will go to Louisville and North Carolina the last month, and play dangerous Florida State twice.
Then there’s Monmouth. The presumption is the 20-5 Hawks will win the MAAC tournament and make it easy. But what if they come down with a bad case of the Ionas or something, and require an at-large invitation?
So the stretch run is officially on. Consider this from Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine Tuesday night, after the Spartans came from 18 points behind to force overtime, but lost at Purdue. “I think we showed a little fight, but at the same time, we’ve just got to come out and be more of an aggressive team and realize that there’s six games now left, and we can’t afford another loss.’’
Urgency. They’ll begin to feel it now, including at Yale. One month to go.