by Chris, the Impaler - 01/07/2006
While most of the sporting nation's eyes turn to Foxboro, Massachusetts and the NFL playoffs, 30 miles to the north, Ivy League Men's Basketball conference play tips-off Saturday at 2 p.m. EST as Harvard looks to avenge last year's loss to Big Green. The Crimson hosts Dartmouth Big Green at Lavietes Pavilion in a game that features the return of junior Brian Cutsworth after a seven game absence with a fractured hand.
Since the Ivy League is the only conference that does not have a post-season tournament and where the Ivy League champion gets an automatic bid to the "Big Dance", every game in the Ivy League is like a playoff game.
This Ivy League instant classic pits conference leader Harvard Crimson (8-5) against the penultimate Ivy League team Dartmouth Big Green (2-8). But as conference observers will tell you, when Ivy League teams meet on the court you can throw-out the records and enjoy competitive play. Indeed, last year Dartmouth beat Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion 49-46 in one of the poorest shooting games of the season for the Crimson.
Harvard's wins and losses this year have come in bunches after beginning their season 5-0, which included an impressive win over the Vermont Catamounts 65-57, the Crimson lost top scorer Brian Cutsworth and dropped their next three games. Now Harvard is in the midst of a two game losing streak as they closed out two tough non-conference loses at BC (55-89) and to SMU (55-76) on Wednesday.
Dartmouth faces Harvard fresh off their second win of the season against the Black Knights of Army. Before the win, Dartmouth had dropped eight straight contests including a 77-46 shellacking at the hands of the Vermont Catamounts.
After its trip south to Cambridge, the Big Green faces Stony Brook and then Harvard next Friday at home. After which Big Green begins a grueling five-game road trip of which four are important conference tests against -Brown, Yale, Cornell and Columbia. Dartmouth will close out their season against perennial Ivy powerhouses PENN and listless cellar-dwelling Princeton.
An interesting side note shows that the last time the Crimson went 8-5 in non-conference play was the 2002-03 season. However, the Crimson ended up with a disappointing 4-10 conference record.
HARVARD CRIMSON (-7) v. Big Green (130 o/u)
Thankfully for Harvard Dartmouth is not SMU. On Wednesday against SMU the Crimson began the game in a 40-9 first half deficit allowing the Mustangs to shoot 65 percent from the field with four players in double figures. The Crimson shot poorly at 30 percent from the field against the Mustangs.
Harvard has just played two very tough non-conference games on the road getting beaten handily in both. And while it is hard to consider a drive across the Charles a road game, the loss at BC was sounder than Dartmouth's 19-point loss to the Eagles. The Crimson, however, will no doubt be buoyed by the return of Brian Cutsworth. The Crimson will start the team picked as pre-season favorites to win the conference and getting Big Green at home to kick off conference play is a nice balm to sooth the burn of a losing streak.
This game really popped out at me when looking at the card due to several factors; Harvard is avenging a loss to Big Green at home last year; the return of big man Brian Cutsworth; and first game of Ivy League conference play at home after two tough road games.
Dartmouth boasts a 183rd strength of schedule and sports an RPI of 303 out of 381 of NCAA Div I teams. In their last game against Army, Dartmouth won 55-42 by playing well on defense. Big Green held the Black Knights to 29.2 percent shooting for the entire game and had ten blocked shots, six of which came from senior Calvin Arnold. On offense Dartmouth shot 35 percent overall, but only 22 percent in the first eight minutes of the game.
The Big Green will rely on leading scorers, Mike Lang (10.3 ppg) and Leon Pattman (11.3 ppg) to stop the Crimson. Lang scored 17 points and Pattman (who did not play the first half) tallied 12 points in the Dartmouth's victory against Army, only their second win of the season.
Harvard will count on the sensational play of super Frosh guard Drew Housman. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound guard from Calabasas, California has played lights out in Cutsworth's absence. Housman has recorded seven double figure games in his last eleven and has dominated for the Crimson. Paired with senior Matt Stehle, Cutsworth completes the most formidable frontcourt in the Ivy League as the Crimson avenges last year's loss and beat Dartmouth by ten points.
Common opponents for Dartmouth and Harvard were Boston College Eagles, Vermont Catamounts and Colgate Red Raiders with Harvard losing to BC and winning against Vermont and Colgate while Dartmouth lost to all three opponents. Offensively both Dartmouth and Harvard are shooting 35 percent from the field which points to a low scoring game.
Pick! Harvard -7 for $330 buffered by a $220 play on the under 130.
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Ivy -- YTD
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