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It’s Yale vs. Harvard for March Madness bid

The last time the Yale men’s basketball team played in the NCAA tournament, a postage stamp cost 4 cents, a gallon of gas cost 25 cents, and The Jetsons was set to premiere as ABC’s first animated TV series. That was in 1962, when the Bulldogs lost to Wake Forest in the first round. This year, however, the team has its best shot at the tournament in more than a decade—and it all comes down to Harvard.

The Crimson (20–6, 10–2 Ivy) have won the Ivy League and earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA for each of the past three years, but Yale (21–8, 10–2 Ivy) has gone neck-and-neck with Harvard throughout this Ivy season.* A pair of Bulldog victories last weekend, as well as a Harvard loss to Cornell on Friday, put the teams in a tie for first with just two games left to play. The Ivy League championship will likely be decided this Friday, when the Bulldogs take on the Crimson in Cambridge. (Both teams have their final regular-season games the following night; Yale at Dartmouth and Harvard hosting Brown. If the Bulldogs and Crimson each win one game and lose one, there will be a playoff game to determine who goes to March Madness.)

Although Yale previously lost to Harvard, 52–50, in a home game on February 7, fans are eager for this week’s rematch. Members of the Whaling Crew, an undergraduate organization dedicated to promoting school spirit, are expected to travel to Cambridge to support the team.

The last time Yale claimed part of the Ivy League title was in 2002, when the Bulldogs tied for first with Princeton and Penn. Yale beat Princeton 76–60 in the first Ivy playoff game, but lost 77–58 to Penn in the game to determine the NCAA berth. At 21 wins, Yale already has its best record since the 2001–02 season.

That record is in part the work of standout players Javier Duren ’15 and Justin Sears ’16, who have averaged 13.9 and 14.5 points per game, respectively. On Monday, Sears was named Ivy League Player of the Week, his tenth selection and the second most in league history. In addition to Duren and Sears, Yale has been led by seniors Armani Cotton ’15, Matt Townsend ’15, and captain Greg Kelley ’15.

“Every day for the past four years, I’ve looked up to the banner hanging in the corner of our gym and seen 1962—the last year Yale made it to the NCAA tournament,” says Townsend, a 2015 Rhodes Scholar who was named the 2014–15 Capital One Academic All-America of the Year for Division I men’s basketball last week.

“Getting 2015 up there, and being able to help bring an Ivy League title to the school that has given me so much over the past four years, would mean the world to me. It would be the best ending I could imagine for my Yale career,” he says. “And if we earn a ticket to the Big Dance, we’ll be aiming to turn some heads and bust some brackets.”

* This article has been corrected; it originally stated that Yale trailed Harvard in the Ivy standings for most of the season.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under men's basketball, Harvard, NCAA Tournament
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