Yale or Duke? Who non-Yale fans should root for

As Brandon Sherrod iced Baylor from the foul line Thursday afternoon, two thoughts quickly popped into the minds of Ivy basketball enthusiasts. First, a sense of shock that Yale had actually pulled off the upset and second, that next in line for the Elis was Duke, one of the bluest of college basketball’s bluebloods.

The question posed to all non-Yale Ivy fans was, do we root for team loyalty or conference loyalty? You, the esteemed reader, might be dealing with this dilemma yourself. Is it really worth rooting for Duke (Duke!) just for the sake of hoping a conference rival doesn’t make it past the first weekend? Here to tackle this issue are two Columbia fans who are definitely not bitter that their team has not made the tournament in their lifetimes while others experience joy: Miles Johnson is taking the pro-Yale (or at least anti-Duke) side, and Sam Tydings would rather see Grayson Allen smile than Yale advance to the Sweet 16.

The Case for Yale, by Miles Johnson:

This fall, millions of Americans will trudge to their local polling booths and cast a vote for the president. Amidst grumblings of “Well, I don’t know, what was on her email server?” or, “No, America has always been great … remember Sharknado? That was cool, right?” These patriots will, in all likelihood, have to close their eyes, hold their noses, and vote for their least loathed option.

It is poetically appropriate that this display of American democracy, this activity that rests within a tried-and-true, flawless system clearly superior to every other political system in recorded human history, will share a calendar year in which a similarly difficult decision will be made. The Yale Bulldogs and the Duke Blue Devils will face off with a Sweet Sixteen berth on the line, and many have already bemoaned the matchup. Do you root for a school in the heart of Nor’easter WASP country, barely outside the treacherous clutches of murderous drug-traffickers named like token black characters from a Grease reboot? Or, do you hitch your wagon to the American university equivalent of Vanilla Ice?

Yale, obviously.

This really isn’t as tough of a choice as it seems. Yes, Yale’s basketball team has been embroiled in a sexual assault scandal that they have handled with neither tact nor basic decency. Yale joins a long list of Ivy teams that many question whether they even deserve to compete among the nation’s most elite talent — teams that, by rule, aren’t allowed to give athletic scholarships, the not-quite-compensation-for-labor-but-better-than-absolutely-nothing answer to those who point out “student-athletes” are exploited. I get it. Yale is bad, and it is easy to dislike them.

But for God’s sake, they’re playing Duke, a school whose basketball team is the sentient equivalent of negating a poster dunk with a drawn charge — its rallying cry may as well be “We’re not cool, but at least we play the right way.” Christian Laettner went to Duke. If Nick

Victor walked to halfcourt and snapped a puppy’s neck in half with his bare hands, he’d still, justifiably so, be more liked than Christian Laettner.

Yet there’s even more to it than being ardently anti-Duke! To all the men’s #2bidIvy truthers, all you Ivy hoops fans who are even more delusional about the potency of a conference tournament than the overall strength of the conference: a Yale win on Saturday is, even if just barely, better for the league than, say, Dartmouth running next year’s conference tournament for rights to a glass slipper. Expecting an extra two “playoff games” to force the selection committee to recognize the greatness of the Ivy League and award an at-large bid is silly. Beating good teams on big stages is something teams should strive to accomplish if they want their tickets punched in March. If Ivy teams schedule tough opponents in nonconference play, and then follow that up with impressive WINS against schools with storied legacies in the Tournament, it makes it much harder for the selection committee to turn a blind eye.

Root for Yale. It means that we’ll be inundated with insufferable tweets about “high-achieving, ambitious, Ivy students,” but it also means that we’ll be spared from having to look at Coach K’s dumb, smug face. In the end, isn’t that what March Madness is all about?

The Case for Duke, by Sam Tydings:

Like choosing between Nixon or Bush, Tim Cook or Eli Whitney, or vanilla and whatever type of ice cream is sure to let you know their father also went to Yale, it is clear Duke and Yale are evenly matched in how much they should be disliked to the impartial observer. While it might be upsetting to you, the non-Duke fan, to see Duke in the Sweet 16, you have to be used to it by this point right? Let your Duke hate subside for five days and focus on the real enemy: the Ivy school you do not root for who is in the NCAA tournament. You rooted for your team to surpass them in the Ivy standings for the last three months, and years prior to that, so why stop now?

To some extent, Yale has already done its job for the league’s profile going forward having won its first-round game. Since 2010, the league’s representative has won or been extremely competitive in each of its first-round matchups, including a pair of two-point losses to Kentucky (in 2011) and North Carolina (in 2015). To put the elusive #2BidIvy in the tournament (on the men’s side at least), regular season scheduling means much more than putting a team in the Sweet 16 will. Cornell conquered the league easily in 2010 and reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 12 seed, which did nothing to improve the perception of the league in the long run. All you have to do is look at how much of a shake Princeton got with a comparable resume to other bubble teams this season. Yale beating Duke is good for Yale, not your school. Yale beating Duke means better players come to the Ivy League in the sense that Yale will be recruiting better players. A high school player watching highlights of Yale pulling off an upset isn’t going to rush to look up why Dartmouth is the place they should go to school. A Yale win might make you happy in the short run since the Duke boogeymen would be gone, but it very well could hurt your favorite school in the longer run.

Instead, Ivy basketball fans, it’s time to unite! Harvard, do you really want to see your arch-rival advance farther in the tournament than you did during your entire four-year dominance of the league? Princeton, you were excruciatingly close to being in Yale’s shoes, wouldn’t a blowout loss make you feel better about not making the dance? Cornell, do you want another school to knock you off your perch of “last Ivy school to make the Sweet 16”? Brown, can you stomach watching a fellow Ivy become Cinderella darlings in your own home city? Yale fans, do you want to be mocked at your next social gathering because students of your school spent more time than necessary away from classes to participate in a basketball contest?

Other Ivy fans* don’t let a league that is slipping away from you turn further in favor of the elites, it is time to feel the burn and root for the Devils! Clemson basketball fans won’t be sitting around watching Saturday’s games hoping Duke or UNC win for the sake of ACC solidarity. Just once, for the sake of your school, your team, and not having to deal with Yale fans, it’s time to swallow our pride as a league and root for Duke on Saturday.

*except for Columbia fans, whose team is already in the Elite 8**

** of the CIT

Yale fans can send their nasty comments to Sam Tydings @simmonsclass and everyone in general should follow Miles at @blackandoutside and Ivy Hoops Online at @IvyHoopsOnline.

5 thoughts on “Yale or Duke? Who non-Yale fans should root for

  1. Sam, your point that a team doing well in the tourney doesn’t help league-wide recruiting has been proven completely false by not only the immense improvement in talent over the last six years up to and including Harvard’s incoming class, but the fact that there is so much more parity than ever before, illustrating that the rising tides are lifting all ships. I went to Yale in the midst of 20-something years of only Princeton or Penn representing the league in the Dance. Now, we’ve gone 4-3 in the last 7 first rounds, and neither Penn nor Princeton won any of those games. Over half the league has made the tourney in the last decade. Though I know you suffer being the fan of one of the three teams that hasn’t, the league as a whole has only improved as more and more tourney wins have been notched in our collective belts.

    • Point taken, Y98 but I think a lot of the riding tides has to do with relaxing admission and financial aid standards in the last decade as well, not just because cornell and harvard won games in the tournament.

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