MEN’S BASKETBALL: Yale a No. 12 seed, set to play Baylor in Providence

Yale a No. 12 seed, set to play Baylor in Providence

Published on March 13, 2016

Fifty-four years after the Yale men’s basketball team last participated in the NCAA Tournament, the wait to determine where, when and what team the Bulldogs will play is over.

Yale received a No. 12 seed in the upcoming 2016 NCAA Tournament and will travel to Providence, Rhode Island on Thursday to take on No. 5 Baylor, which was ranked No. 22 in the nation by the most recent AP poll, in March Madness’s Round of 64.

Tipoff is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and the game will be broadcast on CBS.

The Bulldogs (22–6, 13–1 Ivy) return to the Big Dance for the first time since 1962 after winning the 2015–16 Ivy League title outright, amassing a 13–1 record in conference play. The team went 22–6 overall, with the five non-conference losses coming, for the most part, against high-profile teams.

Two of the squads that defeated the Elis — Duke and USC — will be joining them in the tournament. A third, SMU, was banned from postseason play for committing a variety of NCAA infractions though it finished the season as the No. 25 team in the AP poll.

Though Yale will head to Providence as the underdog against Baylor (22–11, 10–8 Big 12), it will have the advantage of playing as a seed that is historically known for a high rate of upsets. Since the NCAA Tournament began featuring a Round of 64 in 1985, No. 12 seeds have defeated No. 5 seeds in the opening round 44 of 124 times, or in 35.5 percent of matchups. This is more than the 33.9 percent upset rate of 6–11 matchups and the 20.2 percent figure for 4–13 games.

Teams seeded No. 12 have been particularly successful recently: Though all No. 5 seeds advanced last season — the first time that happened eight years — No. 12 seeds won eight of their 12 first-round games between 2012 and 2014.

One of those upsets was executed by Harvard, which beat Cincinnati 61–57 in 2014. In total, the Ivy League’s automatic bid-earner has won its Round of 64 game in three of the past six seasons.

Playing in the West Region bracket, Yale enters the tournament ranked No. 43 in the latest NCAA RPI rankings, one of the metrics used to aid the selection committee when deciding seeding. Another computer-based ranking system, KenPom, has Yale pegged as the No. 38 team in the nation.

While those rankings give an argument for a seeding higher than No. 12, another system, the Basketball Power Index, has Yale at No. 55. The Basketball Power Index, developed by ESPN in 2013, accounts for strength of schedule, margin of victory and the absence of key players in specific games.

The discrepancy between Yale’s ranking in the RPI and KenPom rankings and that in the BPI comes from the strength of the Ivy League relative to other conferences. With 14 games against conference opponents, only one of which — Princeton — finished in the top-100 in any ranking system, the Bulldogs’ strength of schedule is lower than many other tournament-bound programs.

In fact, the Elis’ strength of schedule, according to the BPI, is 158th in the country, the lowest among top-60 teams.

Still, the Bulldogs have performed as expected against their opponents, dominating the weaker ones and, for the most part, hanging with the more difficult teams. In addition to a 19.4-point margin of victory within the friendly confines of John J. Lee Amphitheater, where the Elis went a perfect 12–0, the team’s 13 conference wins came by an average margin of 15.5 points.

In their November game against the Bulldogs, the Southern Methodist University Mustangs eked out a two-point victory against Yale. Three days later, the Bulldogs were down by just two points heading into halftime against defending national champion Duke. However, the Blue Devils stormed back in the second half, shutting down the Elis’ offense en route to a 19-point win.

The Yale men’s basketball program is 0–4 in the NCAA Tournament.

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