At first glance neither team seems all that impressive. The numbers may not wow you but Yale and Texas Tech are two teams that could surprise someone during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Yale has not been to the Big Dance in 54 years. They currently hold a slim half game lead over Princeton and Columbia is lurking just a game back. At 18-6 and 9-1 in the Ivy and such a slim lead the Bulldogs don’t seem to raise many eyebrows. A closer inspection of Coach James Jones’ squad reveals how and why they have climbed to the top of the Ivy.
The highlight of the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule may have been a win over Vermont and a two-point loss at SMU. Statistically they have just three players in double figures in scoring, led by senior Justin Sears (17.0) and sophomore Makai Mason’s 15.7. Sears is also tied for the team lead in rebounding at 7.1.
It is the team statistics that tell the bigger story. On the defensive end is where they really excel, ranking in the top 75 in seven key categories. They are 15th in the country in scoring defense allowing just 63.7 points per game. As a result Yale also ranks 22nd in scoring margin at a +11.8 points. When it comes to rebounding the Elis are 19th in rebounds per game with 40.71 and are 16th in offensive rebounds per game with 13.79 which for a team that ranks 41st in field goal percentage (47.0) means when they do miss they are pretty good at getting second chances. Their rebounding prowess has led Yale to the 3rd best rebounding margin in the country at 10.9 which is another positive for a team 45th in field goal percentage defense 40.4% and 64th in defending the 3 pointer at 32%.
Although they have few eye-popping numbers Yale is the type of team that can get you thanks to the team game they play.
Texas Tech’s NCAA Tournament drought isn’t nearly as long as Yale’s, having last made an appearance in 2007 but they also have the potential to trip up a favorite in the first (or second) round. The job Tubby Smith has done in Lubbock has been remarkable and much like Yale the numbers don’t scream “this team is dangerous” the rigors of the Big 12 have the Red Raiders prepared for anything.
At 18-9 and just 8-7 and a non-conference win over a previously unbeaten Arkansas-Little Rock doesn’t seem like anything to write home about, but they are gelling at the right time. After defeating Texas to open conference play they proceeded to go 2-7 before reeling off five wins including wins over Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Smith’s team has four players in double figures all averaging between 10.9 and 10.3 points per game but statistically the Red Raiders don’t seem like the team one should worry too much about should they make the NCAA Tournament but Tubby has been through the wringer of the tournament at an elite level and with games against Kansas, West Virginia and Kansas State they can come together even more and climb higher in the standings before the Big 12 tournament.