Last year, the Elis won their first outright Ivy title since 1962 and their first NCAA Tournament game ever. They narrowly lost to Duke in the round of 32 in Providence. This year’s version will present more of a challenge to heralded head coach, James Jones, who enters his 18th year as Elis coach and the dean of all Ivy coaches. Jones won the coveted mid-major Coach of the Year honor last year, along with a host of other honors.
On October 1, eight members of the Yale men’s basketball teams of 1962, 1963 and 1964 met at Payne Whitney Gymnasium for a reunion dinner.
The author was lucky enough to be in attendance, having watched those teams play as a youth growing up in New Haven. Some of the team members present were All-American Rick Kaminsky, highly successful Ivy Funds originator Dennis Lynch and Connecticut resident and star guard Bob Trupin.
The evening was composed of a very well-done slide show and talks to the crowd by Kaminsky, 93-year-old former head coach Joe Vancisin and myself.
Here we are.
Yale makes its first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1962 Thursday at 2:45 p.m., a virtual home game for the No. 12 Bulldogs against the No. 5 Baylor Bears. The Bears will be attempting to gain revenge from a first-round upset at the hands of upstart Georgia Southern last year. The Bears have enjoyed success in the Big Dance under 13-year coach Scott Drew, going to the Elite Eight in 2010 and 2012. But then-No. 3 Baylor got upset by No. 14 Georgia State in Athens, Ga. in the Bears’ first NCAA contest last season, an eerily similar virtual road matchup with an underdog foe to the threat posed by Yale in Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center this season.
The game should be low-scoring, which will favor the Elis. Both teams turn the ball over too much (Yale ranks 296th in the country in turnover percentage, Baylor ranks 228th), but Yale has shot the ball better, especially from two-point range against high-major competition.
Few Ivy writers and commentators doubted when the 2015-16 Ivy League schedule was released that March 5 would have significance to the Ivy race. Some felt that it would feature two teams tied at the top, Yale and Columbia.
It does have significance but Columbia was eliminated from Ivy contention by Yale’s win over Cornell Friday night. But the Elis now have to face a rugged Columbia team before a sold-out crowd at Levien Gym. The Elis won at Levien last season, 63-59, but there is a lot on the line this trip, which could give Yale its first outright Ivy championship since 1962 after a Princeton loss at Harvard Friday night that gave the Bulldogs their second consecutive share of a league title. A playoff at the Palestra on March 12 to determine if Yale or Princeton receive the automatic NCAA Tournament bid will take place only if the Bulldogs lose Saturday night and Princeton wins its final two contests, at Dartmouth and hosting Penn.
The biggest drama Friday night at Yale may be halftime, when Yale will find out if Columbia was able to knock off Princeton at Jadwin. If not, the Elis will likely have to win out.
Yale will be playing its first repeat league game without Jack Montague, with the Elis having already played (and defeated) Harvard sans Montague less than two weeks ago. The experience of that will help. Montague, unfortunately is now out for the rest of the season after having withdrawn from the university.
The Elis beat Harvard, 67-55, at Lavietes Pavilion earlier this month. It was not that close.