In case you didn’t know, Yale men’s basketball is really, really good. The 2020 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings, or KenPom, has the Elis at 46th in the nation, and the Bulldogs are 56th in RPI and 52nd in the NCAA’s NET rankings.
To put it in perspective, Yale was 77th in KenPom after the team played as the No. 14 seed in last year’s March Madness, and the last time the Elis ranked this highly was in 2016, when they were the No.12 seed in the Big Dance.
Yale is legitimately one of the most exciting teams in all of the Northeast, if not the country. Still, most students don’t know and don’t show up to games — a state of affairs head coach James Jones lamented in a recent article in the News.
“I don’t think that people have any good idea of what has transpired for Yale basketball,” Jones said. “I think that the people who know, know. The people who don’t know, don’t know. It’s just the way it is. This community has had an opportunity to watch one of the best college basketball teams in the country play for the last five or six years, and you wouldn’t know it by the amount of fan support we get on a given night. We had a decent crowd tonight, but I would love it if it was sold out.”
Yale has a uniquely poor fan culture around basketball amongst the Ivy League, a reality which is thoroughly confusing given the Bulldogs’ on-court success. For instance, despite winning the Ancient Eight and progressing to the national tournament last year, average attendance actually decreased from the prior season.
This winter, Yale has the lowest average home attendance of all Ivy League teams with 914 fans showing up to home games on average at John J. Lee Amphitheater. In this aspect, the Bulldogs trail Cornell, with 937, and Dartmouth, with 1,092. Given that the Elis are top of the Ivy League and undefeated at home while the Big Red and Big Green sit at the bottom of the conference, this statistic is particularly shocking.
In the same article Jones was quoted in, students cited lack of school spirit as the reason for not going to watch basketball.
“I wish there was more school spirit to appreciate it,” Alina Kramp ’22 said. “If it was a more regular thing to go and watch a game, I would totally go watch a game.”
Each of us is responsible for building or degrading some sense of school spirit. The best thing we can do to remedy this absurd situation is to show up to games and make it a regular thing to go watch them. If a meaningless cultural norm is the only obstacle to providing the basketball team the support it deserves, let’s change the norm.
And if you needed any more motivation, Yale plays Harvard at 5 p.m. on Friday at JLA. The Crimson is currently third in the Ivy League, the second-best Ancient Eight team according to the KenPom, RPI and NET rankings, and smarting from two consecutive conference defeats.
This grudge match — the first matchup between these rivals since Yale’s 97–85 victory in the Ivy Madness Championship game in March — promises electric action and hopefully, if we all show up, an explosive atmosphere as well.
There is no better opportunity to inaugurate a new era of Yale fan culture than this Friday. By rallying around Yale men’s basketball, we are also setting the groundwork for fan support going forward through the winter, into the spring and beyond. Right now, we are struggling to show up for one of our best teams, but on Friday against Harvard we can change that.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org