COVID-19 Pandemic Ends Men’s Basketball Team’s Greatest Season Ever
The #13 Macs’ historic season has officially come to an end — not via a loss, but due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Although the NCAA attempted to continue conference tournament play without any fan presence, NCAA President Mark Emmert was left no choice when all U.S. major sports leagues postponed or canceled their seasons within a span of under 24 hours. With this news, the Macs (29-1) will not get a chance to extend their record-breaking 29 game win streak against the 3rd ranked team in Division III, Randolph-Macon College.
After the NBA announced on Wednesday night that they were suspending their league’s season following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test, the NHL followed suit on Thursday at around 2 p.m. EST, the MLB announced that they would delay Spring Training at 4 p.m. EST, and finally, the NCAA canceled this season’s March Madness just before 5 p.m. EST.
The financial ramifications of these cancellations likely caused the late decision by Emmert; while the schools’ losses of ticket revenue would be substantial, the NCAA stood to lose billions of dollars worth of television revenue without “The Big Dance.”
But when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA was suspending its season on Wednesday night, the cancellation of the NCAA tournaments became merely a formality. The optics of forcing college players to play without pay while NBA players still get paid millions from their couch (though they will make less money) made the cancellation of the tournament inevitable.
Over the tournament’s first two rounds, the hottest shooting team in the country proved their mettle in front of a spectator-less stadium in the Goldfarb Gymnasium at Johns Hopkins University. Head Coach Elliot Steinmetz and his Maccabees dissected their Round of 64 and 32 opponents, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Penn State-Harrisburg, respectively, as the team tallied a staggering 102 points in each game.
Statistically speaking, the team had an easier time making a shot than missing it in their first-ever tournament wins, shooting at least 60% from the field and 53% from three-point range in each game. Ryan Turell (SSSB ‘22) led the way with a combined 71 points on 77.4% shooting, including a career-high 41 points in the Round of 64. 2018-2019 MVP of the Skyline Conference Gabriel Leifer (SSSB ‘21) added a monster 10 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists triple-double in the Round of 32 as well. The 6-foot-5-inch power forward’s fourth of the season, he grabbed the outright lead in triple doubles among Division III this season over Nate West of LeTourneau University, who had three.
Key sixth man Ofek Reef (SSSB ‘23) described the team’s reaction to the cancellation of the tournament as “[a bit] surprised, but we all saw it coming.” Reef called the leadership of several upperclassmen crucial to helping the younger players process what had just occurred. “Simcha [Halpert], Dani [Katz], Kevin [Bokor], Sammy [Mandel], Tyler [Hod], and Bar [Alluf] showed great leadership in helping us put this behind us and keep progressing over the next couple years. At the end of the day, we proved ourselves as a nationally ranked team … We’ll take this time off to get in the gym to work on our game before the new season starts.”
The members that Reef referred to will have already played their last game for the school. Seniors Halpert, Katz, Bokor, Mandel, Hod and Alluf all brought energy and were crucial for the Macs at various points in their careers. Halpert, Katz and Hod played big minutes in the school’s biggest games ever.
Halpert in particular enjoyed a rather illustrious career as a YU Maccabee. Over his four year career, the 6-foot-3-inch guard from Los Angeles has a 50-40-90 season (50% FG, 40% 3PT, 90% FT) to his name (the 2018-2019 season) and was named Skyline Conference Rookie of the Year (2016-2017), Skyline All-Conference First Team (2017-2018, 2018-19) and Skyline All Conference Second Team (2019-2020). Halpert will graduate with a total of 1,845 points and will go down as the 2nd highest scorer in the school’s 64-year history, finishing 26 points behind all-time leader Yossy Gev’s 1,871 (‘02).
The Macs will end the 2019-2020 season with their record 29-game winning streak intact and an unequivocal claim as the best team YU has ever fielded, while the Macs went from unranked to 13th in the Division III rankings, the NCAA’s winningest team (96.7% win percentage). In their brief exposure to a different level of competition, Yeshiva blew out its opponents.
Photo Caption: NCAA’s logo
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons