by Chris, the Impaler - 03/03/2006
The Ivy League closes the men's basketball season this week with Pennsylvania needing only one win in their last three conference games to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament, but the Quakers will play their final three games on the road with their last game on March 7 at Princeton, which is a close second place to Penn in the standings.
Meanwhile, every team in the Ivy League but Princeton and Pennsylvania will finish out their season on Saturday night as Yale, Cornell and Brown compete for third place and Harvard will try to at least win out in their remaining two games to close out a forgettable season that had initially started out very promising for the Crimson. The Ivy League is the only conference that does not have a conference tournament so once the season is over, seven of the Elite Eight will go home with one lone team representing the Ivy League in the NCAAs. Can you guess which team that will be?
DARTMOUTH BIG GREEN (-4) vs. Columbia Lions
In a battle for last place in the Ivy league, the Dartmouth Big Green hosts the Columbia Lions at Leede Arena on Friday night at 7 p.m. Dartmouth (5-20, 3-9) is coming off two tough conference games last weekend and, while they lost straight up to Pennsylvania and Princeton, Nos. 1 and 2 in the conference respectively, the Big Green covered the spread in both games. While Dartmouth never really threatened the first place Quakers on Saturday, they led almost the entire game against Princeton on Friday night. Unfortunately for the Big Green, Princeton took the lead when they needed to (with 33.9 seconds in the game) and barely won at home.
Big Green could have posted an even larger lead had they shot better than 52 percent from behind the charity stripe. The Tigers managed to net 19-for-21 shots while Dartmouth shot an abysmal 8-for-15. Against the Quakers the following evening, Dartmouth shot 38 percent from the field while Pennsylvania was accurate in 51 percent of their shots.
Other than beating Penn at home two weeks ago, Columbia (11-14, 3-8) has not played well in the Ivy League and will be on the road for their final two games of the season. The last time these two teams played against each other was on Feb. 4 this year at Columbia, and Dartmouth beat the Lions to the tune of 78-68 covering the spread as a 5.5-point road underdog. In that game, the Big Green was led by Michael Giovacchini and Mike Lang, each of which had 16 points to help Dartmouth beat Columbia, 78-68, on Saturday night and end a seven-game losing streak. The 78 points scored by Dartmouth was the most points they have scored all season.
Against Yale at home last Saturday, Columbia came out with a hot hand connecting on 50 percent of their shots in the first half, hitting 6-of-8 three pointers. In the second half, however, the Lions were dreadful and shot only 23 percent and missed every three point shot ending the game on a 0-for-11 run from behind the arc.
Other than the Lions' first Ivy League game of the year at Cornell, Columbia has lost every Ivy League conference road game this season by an average of 7.5 points. On the year Columbia is 7-8 ATS while Dartmouth is 9-6-1 ATS. Dartmouth's only home losses this year were an 8-point loss to Penn and a 3-point loss to Princeton. Dartmouth has been great against the spread as an underdog, while they have only won once against the spread when they hosted Brown as a 2.5 point favorite. I think Dartmouth might eek out a victory; however, a four-point victory is too many points to expect Big Green to cover.
Pick! Columbia Lions +4 for $550
YALE BULLDOGS (+5.5) vs. Pennsylvania Quakers
As funny as it sounds, this is a must win game for Pennsylvania as the Quakers travel to John J. Lee Amphitheater to play the Yale Bulldogs at 7 pm on Friday night. Yale will hope to play better defense than the last time these two teams met when the Bulldogs spotted the Quakers at one point a 35-8 run. A win clinches the Ivy League for the Quakers while a loss and a Princeton win brings Princeton within striking distance of the Ivy League title. The Quakers can ill afford to let Yale stick around in this game.
Yale (15-12, 7-5) overcame a horrible start last Saturday against Columbia, allowing the Lions to shoot 50 percent from the field in the first half. Once the Bulldogs settled down on defense they were able to out-rebound their opponents 45-34, which made a big difference since the Bulldogs shooting never really improved in that game. The Bulldogs will have to continue playing excellent defense tonight against the Quakers as Penn can bury the rock from the perimeter if not covered well. Perhaps Yale should employ the same stifling 2-3 zone that was so successful for Columbia when the Lions defeated the Quakers at home two weeks ago.
The last time Pennsylvania (18-7, 10-1) played Yale at the Palestra on Feb. 4, the Quakers destroyed the Bulldogs 74-52 behind Eric Osmundson (17 points) and Brian Grandieri (12 points). The Quakers easily covered the 15.5 point spread in that game and Ibrahim Jaaber and Friedrich Bede each scored 11 points for Penn. For the Bulldogs, dominant Dominick Martin led Eli scorers with 18 points.
But it wasn't all one-sided for Penn in that game as Yale outscored the Quakers 16-1 at the start and led the Quakers 31-19 with five and a half minutes left in the first half. Penn rallied, however, and closed the half down by only 3. The second half, however, was all Quakers, who took a 70-44 lead with four minutes left to play in the game. Despite the Quakers loss to Columbia, they have played well on the road this year winning all their games, aside from the one against the Lions, by double-digits. Gamblers should note that the Quakers are on a 0-2 run against the spread, their first two-game losing streak ATS since January, after which they went on a four-game winning streak ATS.
Certainly many Ivy League basketball observers will have Yale circled as a possible spoiler for the Quakers, but for Yale to cover the number they'll have to employ a successful 2-3 zone. At this point in the season Pennsylvania should have it figured out - if they can prevent Yale from jumping out to another 16-1 first half lead. I think New Haven will be a bit tougher venue for the Quakers rather than the comfort of home. While Penn should do enough to win I think the 5.5 is a tricky number and will be difficult to cover.
Pick! Yale Bulldogs +5.5 for $550
BROWN BEARS (+1.5) vs. Princeton Tigers
The mercurial Brown Bears host the red hot Princeton Tigers on Friday night at the Pizzitola Center in Providence as the Bears seek to avenge their 15-point loss to the Tigers earlier this season. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. Princeton will look to win their third conference game in a row as they finish their season with their penultimate game at Yale tomorrow and they will host Pennsylvania on Tuesday for the end of Ivy League play this year.
In Brown's (9-16, 5-7) last outing against Cornell at Newman Arena on Saturday, the Bears defeated Cornell, 69-64, behind Scott Friske's 23 points while Damon Huffman connected for four three pointers to add to his 14 points. The Bears shot a remarkable 59 percent from the field against Cornell. Defensively, the Bears held Cornell to a mere 33 percent shooting in the second half and they look to continue their solid defensive play against the Tigers tonight.
If Princeton (9-14, 7-3) can somehow win their remaining three games in the Ivy League they might just have a good enough record to surprise Penn and win the Ivy League. However, the Tigers will need the Quakers to lose their remaining three games - which does not seem likely. Even so, Princeton has a lot to play for tonight as they travel to Providence for a must-win game.
The last time these two teams met, Princeton not only abused the Bears at Jadwin Gym on Feb. 4 by the score of 52-37 behind Noah Savage's career-high 23 points, but the Tigers held the Bears to 12 points in the first half! Princeton's stingy defense was the story in that game as the Tigers held Brown to 25 percent from the field, allowing only 1-for-12 from the perimeter and causing 15 turnovers. On offense the Tigers made more than half of their shots from the field.
In the Ivy you win by playing good defense and hitting three pointers, both of which are Tigers' strengths. That is why I like Princeton tonight.
Pick! Princeton -1.5 for $550
Friday Night Bonus Play
The Harvard Crimson (12-13, 4-8) have lost their last seven games in the Ivy League (including four at Lavietes Pavilion in February) and look to send off their three seniors with two wins at home to end the Crimson's disappointing season. But after a demoralizing loss last week to Princeton on Saturday and a tough OT loss to Penn on Friday, Harvard will rely upon their seniors to avenge an early season loss to the Big Red at Newman Arena as a 2-point favorite. You could say the last second loss to Cornell set-off disappointment after disappointment for the Crimson in Ivy League play. One bright spot for the Harvard in that game was the Crimson hit 27-for-29 from behind the charity stripe.
Indeed, this game looks too easy for gamblers as the public should jump all over Big Red as Harvard is a cash-burning 5-10 ATS this season. However, something doesn't sit well with me betting on a team that has a 3-10 record away from Newman arena. I see the 6.5 points as the man daring me to take the points and bet against the seven-game losing streak. However, something tells me Harvard sucks it up and wins by 10 tonight.
Pick! Harvard -6.5
Proving once again that system players come out ahead, both of last weekend's wins were against teams who had played tough overtime games the night before. Last Saturday we went 2-1 ATS as our sole loss was Yale's surprising win over Cornell at Newman Arena. Cornell dominated in the first half, but due to porous defense, bad fouls and a lackluster desire to win, lost the game to the Bulldogs in the second half. This cost us $440. However, we hit on our $220 bonus play on Dartmouth grabbing 18 points at the Palestra as the Quakers won by 16 and earned the faithful two bills. Princeton demolished Harvard as a 1-point home chalk for a nifty four bills in the black bringing our Saturday's win total to a whopping $160 over the course of three games played.
A glance into the V-chip balance transfer sheet from my poker account to the sportsbook account reflects that my ability to win at poker has been tempered by my equally uncanny ability to lose money on the Ancient Eight. My record for the penny-loafered posse in the Ivy League basketball this season rests at 7-9 ATS with $1500 invested in Ivy League basketball wagering. Wouldn't you know as we head into conference tournament season and Selection Sunday that our Ivy League season ends after this weekend. However, I am confident that before the night is done we'll come out even for the season or perhaps, if the wagering Gods are on our side, a nickel ahead of the game ready for a few well placed bets on the upcoming basketball tournament of which we now know (as we did at the beginning of the season) that it will be Pennsylvania as the lone representative for the Ivy League.
Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's college basketball picks service.