Yale gets snubbed by NIT, won’t (can’t) participate in postseason

Proving further that there is little justice in how NCAA basketball teams are evaluated, especially mid-major squads, Yale was left out of the NIT Sunday evening despite a No. 74 KenPom  ranking, No. 63 RPI and  22-10 record that finished with a gut-wrenching loss to Harvard in Saturday’s Ivy playoff game at the Palestra.

Yale’s losing out on a NIT bid so late prevented the Bulldogs from grabbing a spot in the CBI or CIT, which filled quickly. The Elis will not be one of 148 teams involved in this year’s postseason.

“It was a great year. One of the best years Yale has had,” Yale coach James Jones told Chris Hunn of the New Haven Register. “If we can’t get in this year, I don’t know how we can get in. It’s disheartening.”

It is disheartening, but the NIT has done this to the Ivy League before. In 2011, Harvard garnered only a 6 seed despite beating Colorado, Boston College and George Washington before finishing with a 12-2 conference record and a 63-62 loss in the Ivy playoff game to Princeton.

With Princeton declining a postseason bid, the number of Ivies in the postseason has dwindled to two: Harvard in the NCAA tournament and Dartmouth in the CIT. The Ivies appeared to be loaded preseason and did provide one of the most outstanding conference slates in league history. For many reasons, in Yale’s case chiefly a bias against mid-major teams and comparatively low Ivy visibility, the Ancient Eight postseason won’t reflect those efforts.

14 thoughts on “Yale gets snubbed by NIT, won’t (can’t) participate in postseason”

  1. Shouldn’t Yale be guaranteed an NIT spot as regular season Ivy co-champs? The conference technically had a one game playoff so they should have been offered a spot this year.

  2. I understand that the following note is from the NIT Wikedia page, but it appears consistent with information I have seen over the last several years –

    “Similar to the automatic bids the NCAA Tournament grants for all conference tournament champions, all teams that won regular-season conference championships but failed to earn NCAA tournament bids are guaranteed places in the NIT”.

    Yale was the Co-Champion of the Ivy League and failed to earn the automatic NCAA bid. Does the lack of a conference tournament prevent the Ivy League from having this earned spot? If so, it would seem to be another reason for the idea of some kind of post-season league playoff.

    With only two teams gaining post-season play, there has to be some accountability in the league office. Hopefully, Ms. Harris and her ADs can figure out how to gain more visibility and post-season appearances for a league that is becoming stronger and stronger each year.

  3. Hold on, RB! I don’t agree that your personal desire for Ivy post-season participation is a matter of “league office accountability.” The Ivy playoff loser is not automatically entitled to an NIT bid because the League does not conduct a championship tournament. I suspect James Jones is disappointed because his team clearly deserved to go.
    Princeton decided not to consider any post season possibilities and had good reasons for doing so. I am sure all D1 players dream of playing in the Big Dance, and many choose schools based on the chances of getting there. Ivy League players have vastly different priorities and academic responsibilities that must be weighed against the time commitments required for post season play. For seniors thesis deadlines loom. For others the temptations of Spring Break in Florida outweigh the benefits of a trip to play Southeastern Nevada, the 4th team out of the Snake River Conference, in Reno. I don’t think “visibility” or the lack thereof is an issue for the League. I don’t think the League has ever been deeper in terms of talent and coaching.
    Last year five teams played in the post season, with some success, but I am aware of no particular effects, pro or con. Obviously, there is no bias against the postseason, as far as the League is concerned.
    I am not persuaded that the notion that a tournament might send a team other than the League’s best to the NCAA is a good enough reason not to have one. The Ivy champ is not, and never will be, a contender for the national championship. Participation in it is a reward for achieving success in the League, and that is entirely as it should be. Perhaps a 4 team event would satisfy the post season cravings of fans and coaches. If 5300 people were willing to go The Palestra we should pay attention to what that means going forward.

    • Toothless, not focusing specifically on your Tigers but, in general, I suspect that most college basketball players would want to keep playing, almost as a reflex reaction to the suddenness of the end of the season, if nothing else. In 2013, your guys were no doubt disappointed not to be sole champions and maybe it would have felt like going through the motions to play in a lesser tournament.

      But in general, I have a problem believing that most kids don’t want to keep playing. Spring break sounds fun, but it’s not like this is the last year for that sort of thing. Next season, you might not get an invite at all. Why did Princeton decline a bid this year?

  4. TT,

    You put forth many understandable arguments against being a part of a post-season tournament. I have always been against it, but I do seem to be persuaded to go over to that side with each passing season. Regardless of having a tournament or not, it seems in this case that Yale would fit the normal criteria for being given an automatic bid. If Yale, like your Tigers, decided (as a team and/or as an administration) to not go, then that is certainly fine. However, if this very good school and/or team was not even given the opportunity to vote “yay” or “nay”, then I do feel that there was an injustice.

    Even without a tournament, the Ivy League office should have been able to persuade the NCAA to allow its Co-Champion to be considered the equal of any other team that won its conference but lost its tournament. With or without a tournament, I do feel that the Ivy League office has to do a better job at promoting its product.

  5. If the Bulldogs did not go post season for any reason other than their desire as a team not to go, I agree that a terrible injustice has occurred. But I don’t understand how this issue has anything to do with the Ivy League office.

    • TT,
      I may be completely incorrect, but I would think that the Ms. Harruis and her group would be the ones to lobby the NCAA to get its losing playoff team into the NIT in the event of a one-game playoff. If that is out of their hands, then I stand corrected.

      Just saw this from the New Haven Register and feel really bad for that great team

      http://www.nhregister.com/sports/20150315/yale-snubbed-by-nit-season-likely-over .

      — As stated in the NIT’s selection process, any regular season conference champion not selected to the NCAA tournament, earns an automatic bid into the NIT. But this only applies to conferences with league tournaments. The Ivy League is the lone Division I conference without a league tournament.

      The Bulldogs reached the NIT in 2002 when they finished in a three-way tie with Penn and Princeton for the Ivy League title. That year, Yale scored its first postseason victory in its 107-year history with a dramatic 67-65 victory over Rutgers in the opening round. The victory ended the longest postseason drought in college basketball history.

      But an 80-61 loss to a Jeff Lebo-coached Tennessee Tech squad followed in front of 9,847 at the New Haven Coliseum. The university gave away 6,000 tickets for the game.

      Yale postseason appearances include NCAA tournament berths in 1949, 1957 and 1962. Along with the Bulldogs NIT berth in 2002, they played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament in 2012 and last season.

      A disappointed Jones said the fact that there’s no real history of Yale basketball or the Ivy League in the tournament hurts the chances more than anything else.

      “They don’t know how good we are,” Jones said. “We had a great year, one of the best Yale’s ever had. If we can’t get in this year, I don’t know how we get in. It’s disheartening.”

  6. Hate to say it – but Princeton declining to participate must have something to do with this non-invite. Why would the selection committee waste a bid on a conference that only sometimes chooses to participate?

  7. As a Penn grad, I offer the following:

    1. The fact that the “play-in game”” between Yale and Harvard was not truly a playoff is a technicality. Yale (along with Harvard) received a trophy before the game at the Palestra. In addition, considering that Yale lost a hard-fought contest by only two points in the play-in, they are definitely worthy of the NIT, and deserved to keep playing.

    >>Yale’s losing out on a NIT bid so late prevented the Bulldogs from grabbing a spot in the CBI or CIT, which filled quickly. The Elis will not be one of 148 teams involved in this year’s postseason.<<

    In that case, the CBI and CIT need to change their selection processes and wait to see who is snubbed by the NIT. Would the NIT ever fill out its field before the NCAA Selection Show? I think not.

    3. Granted the CBI and CIT are not the NIT or NCAA but they allow a deserving team to keep playing. In 2012,, after Penn fell short in the Ivy League race to Harvard, they were invited to the CBI. They played twice at the Palestra, beating Quinnipiac, before losing a hard-fought game to Butler. I felt delighted that my team was still competing, even to the point of listening to parts of one or both games online.

    4. Congratulations to Dartmouth on earning CIT bid. Go, Big Green!

    5. Good luck to Harvard in the NCAA's. I will be pulling for them!


  8. I’ve really enjoyed the civilized banter and excellent writing while stumbling onto this site with too much time on my hands. I’ve followed Ivy basketball more in decades than years, through the Big 2 & Irrelevant Six era into an exciting and competitive Eight-Team 14-Game tournament.

    It may be old school thinking, but regarding the “Let’s Have a Tournament Discussion”, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The main thrust of this idea is the fantasy that there might be a be a 2nd Ivy team included in the 64-team Big Dance if there were a Tournament and the Regular season champion was defeated and then granted an at-large bid, or showcasing the League in a year-end event would demonstrate the #2 team was at-large quality.

    Think about reality beyond Ivy-colored glasses. Since 2000, the Seeding of the Ivy CHAMPION, the BEST TEAM over the 14-game and possible playoff game struggle, has been as follows: 13-15-11-11-14-13-15-14-14-14-12-13-12-14-12 to 13 this year for Harvard. So, where does a 2nd Ivy team fit into this seeding picture?

    Running a post-season tournament that knocks out the regular-season champion more than likely gives Upset Tourney Winner a 15 or 16 seed, and probably a #16 Play-in game by if the winner were a second division Cinderella. Meanwhile, the final at-large pool (where tournament losing champions land at selection time along with all the other multiple Major Conference power teams) currently appears to see the final choices (The Last Four In) as play-in candidates for an #11 seed slot. One look at the Ivy seeding slots for the last decade tells you all you need to know about the chances of that happening.

    Now a post-season Tournament itself. What would an Ivy Post Season Tournament achieve? It would most certainly lose a lot of money. First one would have to find a neutral site– Six Ivy teams certainly aren’t going to allow the Palestra or Jadwin home court advantage every year. Second, who is going to attend these games? Have you seen the early round crowds on TV for the Mid-Major “tournaments” on ESPN. You can’t disguise empty seats. And even with a natural flow into a Harvard-Yale Championship Playoff Game, the Palestra was far from full (5,400) despite the TV crowd hype. For any mid-major conference, a tournament just gives itself a reasonable shot to make sure their best team with a 4-month trail of success is not rewarded.

    The Patriot League had a great regular season race. Bucknell weathered the storm, winning by a game over #2 Colgate. They had a “Tournament”, now downsized to a 10-day event where all games are played at the site of the highest remaining seed. Imagine the Ivy League even considering a format like that after six-straight grueling weeks of back-to-back games. The result was #4 Lafayette hosting and beating #6 American. Good Luck to the Patriot League’s #16 seed. Bucknell was not an NCAA at-large selection; they’re #8 in the NIT. (Yale would beat them by a dozen.)

    The Ivies have a brand and hopefully will stay with it. I love the idea kicking around that the League’s respective travel partners all play their 2nd game with each other on the Tuesday after completing the six-weeks of back-to-backs. This has been the Penn-Princeton plan for years. It would provide a great chance for one of the games with title implications to be televised nationally. If the final Tuesday results in a Playoff in a slot like last week’s Harvard-Yale classic, then that’s even better.

    Still it’s great to have Ivy Hoops in the discussion. I just hope clear thinking prevails at the end.

    • Very good arguments, OT. Greatly appreciate your contributions to the discussion.

      Personally, I have always loved the idea of the 14 game tournament. There is relative purity in Ivy League Football and Basketball compared to the other leagues that are constantly doing things for greater monies.

      With that stated, I am thinking of a post-season tournament more seriously than ever before. Certainly in the short run, I do not see the Ivy League getting a second team in the NCAAs. I do, however, think that having this would get a second team into the NIT (either an at-large bid for the overall second best team or a guarantee spot for the losing #1 seed). The CIT and CBI are good tournament, but I do feel that the 13th best conference in the country should have a team in stronger tournaments. Having a four team event on national television, could not hurt the leagues exposure or its chances at getting an extra one or two NIT bids.

      Besides, if we cannot count on our Commissioner and ADs getting our teams bids and improved seedings, then this kind of an event may need to be considered.

      Maybe in the end, my thoughts are completely selfish. As a true Philadelphia and Ivy hoops fan, I would love to see a doubleheader of incredibly important games with a large crowd of intense fans (even at 3/4 capacity, the Palestra appeared to have a great atmosphere). Then, a winner-take-all final with the intensity of this past Saturday would be fantastic to see for those of us who follow the league over the entire season, as well as its final winter weekends.

      OT, I agree completely with your thoughts on empty arenas. It is horrible to see these players giving it their all in front of a crowd of mostly empty seats in a sterile temperature-controlled environment. Personally, I would love to see these games at the Palestra, since it is the best and most unique venue in the league. Dave Gavitt realized the importance of playing the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, so it would seem to be logical to follow his lead. However, if schools were intensely set against it, the league could certainly rotate it around the different schools.

    • Regarding arguments for or against an Ivy Tournament: I realize that the sample size is small, however, if you look at years in which Ivy Co-Champions playoff against each other the week after the regular season ends, the teams prove to be competitive in the post-season: (i) 1980 After a Penn-Princeton Playoff, Penn upsets #5 Washington State; (ii) 1996 After a Penn-Princeton Playoff, Princeton upsets Defending National Champion, UCLA; (iii) 2002 After a three-way playoff, Yale defeats Rutgers in the NIT; (iv) 2011 After Princeton-Harvard playoff, Princeton battles perennial-powerhouse Kentucky to the last second of a narrow 57-59 loss. Perhaps allowing the teams to play each other during that two week gap between the end of the season and the start of the post-season will in fact improve the league’s post-season performance.

    • Don’t know about excitement in the other leagues but the Ivies have created wonderful competition with their ongoing 7 week tournament. This year the league highlighted a number of extraordinary players and remarkable team successes. Yale was extraordinary. Harvard was extraordinary. Dartmouth was heroic. Cornell. Columbia. The other usual suspects. Majors go up and down, depending on players who stay, players who go. The Ivies give their players chances to excel. In a few weeks the seniors will graduate, with their memories and their friendships intact. In 25 years they will pray that their kids have the opportunities they had. And by the way — every now and then one of those kids, or their offspring will carry a team to the Final Four.

  9. Oy. Frankly, we need less complaining and woe-is-me chest-pounding from Jones, and more self-scrutiny about how Yale ruined its own season with the loss at Dartmouth, and what needs to change for the program to displace Harvard. It’s not about the NIT, it’s not about RPI ratings and the rest. It’s about winning the Ivy League, then getting into the only tourney anyone cares about.

    This is a classic case of what happens when a team that controls its own destiny spits the bit. Jones’s moaning is for losers. Sorry.

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