Harvard-Yale Winner Nabs Automatic NCAA Tournament Bid
With all due respect to the conference championship games on Saturday around college basketball, the best game on the schedule is Harvard at Yale in a one-game playoff for the Ivy League championship and the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Harvard is a 2-point favorite on BetOnline for the game at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia.
Ivy Still Old School
The Ivy League playoff, which is essentially an NCAA Tournament play-in, has nothing in common with any other event in college basketball. It occurs only when there is a tie for the Ivy title. Unlike the 31 other Division I conferences, the Ivy League awards its automatic entry to the NCAA tournament to the winner of its regular season, rather than the champion of a conference tournament.
The teams finished the regular season tied for first place in the Ivy League with identical 11-3 conference records. The Crimson are hoping to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth year in a row and the fifth time in program history. Yale hasn’t been to the Big Dance since 1962. No active Division I basketball coach has worked at the same school without a March Madness appearance longer than James Jones, who was hired in 1999.
Yale Blew It
It looked like Yale was going to win the Ivy League last weekend. On Friday in Cambridge, Yale upset Harvard 62-52 behind 22 points and nine rebounds from guard Javier Duren. All Yale had to do to win the outright Ivy League title was win at fourth-place Dartmouth on Saturday. However, Dartmouth’s Gabas Maldunas banked in a layup in the final second for a 59-58 upset. The Bulldogs (22-9, 11-3) didn’t hit a field goal after Matt Townsend’s layup with 4:44 left gave Yale a 53-50 lead. They went 0-for-3 from the floor and 5-for-9 from the free throw line in the final 4:43.
Harvard did its part to force a tie with a 72-62 win over Brown that night. Harvard won at Yale earlier this season, 52-50. Yale’s other two conference losses to Columbia on Feb. 21 and that Dartmouth game. Harvard’s other two conference losses were to Dartmouth on Jan. 24 and at Cornell on Feb. 27.
Harvard has won five straight Ivy League championships, becoming just the second program in Ancient Eight history to win at least five successive titles (Penn 1970-75, 1978-82). This also marks the fifth Ivy League championship in Yale history, with its last coming in 2002 (share with Penn and Princeton). Harvard is one of three programs in the country with an active streak of at least five consecutive regular season championships; Kansas (11 straight Big 12 titles), Murray State (6 straight Ohio Valley titles).
The Crimson have made three straight NCAA tournament appearances and with a win on Saturday will become the first Ivy League squad to reach the Big Dance in four-straight years since Princeton did so from 1989-92. Yale has also appeared in three NCAA tournaments, with its last coming in 1962.
Saturday’s contest will mark the ninth playoff in Ivy League history and first since Princeton defeated Harvard on Doug Davis’ buzzer beater in 2011, 63-62. Harvard will be making its second Ivy League Playoff appearance while Yale will be making its third (1963, 2002). Princeton was involved in all eight previous playoffs, winning four (1963, 1981, 1996 and 2011).
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