Macs Rise to Historic No. 4 In D3hoops Ranking and Extend Win Streak to 35
The Yeshiva University Maccabees men’s basketball team rose to the No. 4 spot in the new D3hoops.com weekly national ranking for NCAA DIII teams, which was released on Monday, March 3.This marks the first time in program history that the Macs have achieved a ranking in the top five.
The Macs won all six games of the 2021 season thus far, and extended their current win streak to 35 games, the longest active win streak in NCAA DIII basketball and the longest win streak in team history. The last loss for the Macs was a Nov. 9, 2019 matchup against Occidental College, the first game of the 2019-2020 season.
Normally ranking the top 25 teams in the NCAA DIII, D3hoops.com limited the 2020-2021 season’s list to the top 15 teams due to “the smaller number of teams playing during the COVID-19 pandemic” than the average season. This season’s D3hoops.com weekly poll is voted upon by an 18-person panel of “coaches, Sports Information Directors and media members from across the country” and determines the ultimate D3hoops rankings.
Joe Bednarsh, YU’s director of athletics, attributed much of the team’s success to the culture developed by Macs Head Coach Elliot Steinmetz over the years. “His players are unselfish and shy from personal accolades and accomplishments in favor of team success,” he said. Bednarsh described the team as “a family” who “care for each other both on and off the court.” He also noted the players’ “extraordinarily hard” work in their practices, strength and conditioning training and scouting reports in addition to “excellent recruiting.”
Likewise, Steinmetz ascribed the success to the culture built by the players. “The instilling of confidence and pride in playing Yeshiva basketball has led to our guys always believing they can be successful,” he expressed. Steinmetz stated that the three primary goals of the team, no matter the type of season, are to “get better every day, try to win every day and represent Yeshiva University and the larger Jewish community with class.”
There have been a few points in the season during which the sustainability of the Macs’ win streak seemed to be in danger. In a recent game against the University of Saint Joseph Blue Jays on March 1, the Macs were down by eight at halftime only to pull ahead and defeat the Blue Jays by a score of 71-62.
Macs Captain Gabe Leifer (SSSB ‘21) believes that credit for the team’s success can be extended beyond the current members of the team. “It’s an amazing accomplishment, but people should recognize it’s not just the guys on the court they see that won 35 games in a row,” he told The Commentator.
“It starts from the guys last year, to the managers, to the coaches, to the people at the end of the bench clapping and getting water for the guys playing. Without each individual effort from each person, we would be nowhere near where we are now and people should remember it’s a team game not just a few players, so credit to everyone who’s part of the program,” he added.
The team is currently shooting an average of 81.3 points per game with a .495 field goal percentage while keeping their opponents at an average of 67.2 points per game and a .437 field goal percentage. The Macs currently have a high three-point field goal percentage at .407.
Ryan Turell (SSSB ‘22) is currently leading the Macs in average points per game with 26.2 while boasting a field goal percentage of .514; he was named the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Divisions II-III Player of the Week on Feb. 16. Leifer leads the team in rebounds and assists with 70 and 41, respectively; this year, Leifer gained the distinction of being the fourth men's basketball player to be placed on the D3hoops.com Team of the Week in four separate seasons. Notably, Matan Zucker (YC ‘23) has 17 offensive rebounds in the season thus far and Eitan Halpert (SSSB ‘21) has the most three pointers on the team, boasting 18.
Bednarsh stated that he is “looking forward to celebrating a national championship with the team and the larger worldwide Jewish community.” According to Bednarsh “Yeshiva now has a presence on the national stage” which helps with “recruiting, retention, alumni relations, fundraising, PR, etc.” Bednarsh also expressed that he looks forward to “the rising tide lifting all boats and using the success of the men’s basketball team to recruit and strengthen the other 14 teams as well.”
The Macs will next face off against the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ, on Monday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m., after which they will play a double-header against Manhattanville College on March 14 and 15 to cap off the regular season. The NCAA previously announced that the annual winter DIII Tournament will not be held in 2021 due to low prospective participation in the tournament by member schools. Last year’s NCAA DIII Tournament was also canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the Macs’ historic 2019-20 season, and their entrance into the Sweet 16, was upset by the abrupt tournament cancellation.
Photo Caption: The Macs have continued their win streak into 2021.
Photo Credit: Yeshiva Athletics