by Chris, the Impaler - 01/13/2006
Friday night's men's basketball resumes at 7 p.m. EST in the Ivy League tips-off as six Ivy League teams will see action tonight. Dartmouth will try to avenge last week's 13-point loss to Harvard while Pennsylvania, Cornell, Princeton and Columbia play their first of 14 conference games.
Indeed, it is a new season for Ivy League teams as they try to catch conference leader Harvard (1-0) for the right to play in the big tournament in March. In a conference that does not have a title game, the best conference record gets an automatic bid giving each conference game the feel of a playoff game. This might be the year that there is a chink in Pennsylvania's formidable armor, but in the hard fought Ivy League where road victories come at a premium, road wins are necessary if a team hopes to unseat the Quakers and win the Ivy League.
Last weekend saw the penny loafer posse earn a 1-1 split against the number. By game time, the line shot up to -9 as the public was well behind the Crimson at home in their first Ivy League conference game.
Despite the steam, the play was correct as Harvard won easily behind Jim Goffredo's career-high 33 points. This included seven 3-pointers leading Harvard to a 13 point win over Dartmouth. We won our wager on the Harvard Crimson side, but lost on the under 130 total in no small part to Goffredo's career day and Dartmouth's better than expected shooting to subdue my earnings to $80 for our second week of Ivy League play.
PENNSYLVANIA QUAKERS (-13) vs. Cornell Big Red (126 o/u)
There were many unhappy Quakers backers (try saying that ten times fast) after Monday night's 15-point loss at Fordham. Meanwhile Big Red backers were equally disappointed by Big Red's loss to the Great Danes.
Tonight Cornell travels to Pennsylvania for an exciting Friday night battle of Ivy League title contenders. Despite the fact that neither team has played near or close to expectations thus far. This is the first conference game for both teams so it is important that they both play well since an early loss could spell disaster in this ultra-competitive conference.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened this game with Pennsylvania as a 14-point 'chalk' but the game has been bet down to 13 points at most offshore wagering parlors with the total set at 126.
Cornell (5-9, 0-0) will have to play their best basketball beginning conference play at the Palestra. Cornell's Ivy League conference opener slates Big Red against the defending Ivy League Champion Quakers while they'll attempt to snap an eight-game road losing skid to open the season and a 14-game winless streak against Penn overall that includes seven of the team's 16 straight-up losses in Philadelphia.
The Quakers (6-5, 0-0), on the other hand, have been winning on defense and have forced 17 turnovers per game while limiting opponents to 43 percent shooting from the floor. Gamblers should note that the Quakers have beaten Cornell fourteen straight times. However, Cornell covered against the spread last year at Penn in their 50-64 loss as a 15-point 'dog. The game never really threatened the 125-point total.
On the surface the number looks huge and normally we don't like eating this much chalk, however I think the numbers line up in the Quakers favor. One can't risk the Fordham road loss trap when looking for a reason to grab the large number. The Quakers were on the tail end of a one-month road swing that began after a hard fought battle at Duke followed by a very tough seven point home loss to Villanova on Dec 13. Penn then hit the road picking up a pair of important wins in Hawaii and then traveling south to Citadel notching another win behind a season-high 12 three pointers, and finally to Fordham for the loss to end their four games, month-long, road swing 3-1. Moreover, leading the Quakers attack is 6'2" junior guard Ibrahim Jaaber who leads the team, and the entire Ivy League, with a 19.2 point per game average.On the other side of the ball, aside from almost beating Syracuse to start their season, Cornell has been terrible on the road this year losing by 12-points at Penn State, 14-points at Lafayette, 44-points at Bucknell, 14-points at Long Beach State, 17-points at Washington and seven points in their most recent loss to Albany.
Lenny Collins, Cornell's senior forward, leads the team in points. He had a career-high nine assists against Albany while senior Ryan Rourke brings his veteran leadership for Cornell at forward along with center Andrew Naeve, who leads the team in rebounding. Rourke led the Ivy League in free-throw percentage last season and is shooting better than 80 percent from the line this season.
I like the fact that Cornell has averaged 69.4 points on .479 shooting over the last five games compared to their first nine games when Big Red posted 57.2 points on .379 shooting. Big Red's defensive effort has been competent and consistent in the team's first 14 games. Cornell allows their opponents to 63.5 points on 43 percent shooting, including 30 percent from 3-point range.
On a positive note for Cornell, freshman guard Adam Gore has been sensational starting every game. He is the team's second leading scorer with 12.4 points per game. He torched Albany from the perimeter, scoring 17 points on five-of-eight shooting from behind the three-point line. However, Big Red has literally been killed on turnovers this year and if they hope to stay competitive they'll need to hold onto the ball, which will be a tough thing to do against the Quaker stingy home defense.
PICK! PENNSYLVANIA QUAKERS -13 for $220
PRINCETON (-5) vs. Columbia Lions (101.5 o/u)
The Columbia Lions find themselves in an unusual position; the Lions sit in third place in the Ivy League standings overall as they begin conference play at 9 p.m. on Friday night when they travel to Jadwin Gym to battle the Princeton Tigers. Even more unusual than the Lions third place standing is Princeton's 2-10 overall record going into conference play. The good news for the Tigers is there is now a 14-game playoff season and their 0-0 record is good enough for second place if the Tigers can exorcise the demons of a poor start to their season by winning their first conference game and stopping a six-game slide.
Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened this game with Princeton as a five-point home favorite over Columbia with the total set at a moderate 101.5 points. The game has since been bet up to 5.5 points while the total remained unchanged.
If Princeton (2-10, 0-0) hopes to win they'll have to put behind them a string of incredibly ugly losses, including the first ever loss to a Division III school, Carnegie Mellon, as well as an embarrassing 20-point loss to in-state rival Monmouth when the Tigers only put up 21 points in the entire game!
While Columbia's (6-7, 0-0) start to the season has been better than anticipated, most of their wins have come against local NYC teams. The Lions did play Notre Dame tough on Dec. 23 in their 68-75 loss to the Fighting Irish in a game where they out-shot and out-rebounded their opponent. The Lions might catch the Tigers napping tonight since Princeton will look to avenge last season's sweep at the hands of Cornell on Saturday night.
Common opponents for Princeton and Columbia in non-conference play were two Patriot League teams, Lehigh and Lafayette. It is hard to use those games to gauge the basketball program's relative strength since in those contests the Tigers beat Lehigh and the Lions lost while the reverse happened against Lafayette, as Columbia won and the Tigers lost.
The problem with both of these teams is that they are young. Columbia will start with four sophomores and a freshman, KJ Matsui from Japan. Matsui has been a valuable guard recently scoring in double digits in the Lions' last two games. Matsui plays in a three-guard lineup alongside sophomores Brett Loscalzo and Mack Montgomery.
Princeton will start senior guard Scott Greenman again tonight as the Tigers hope to build on their teamwork against Rutgers when they recorded assists on 13 of 16 baskets. Indeed a major difference in Princeton's play was welcoming back Greenman last week who had not played since Princeton's loss to Temple on Dec. 6. Greenman's efforts spurred on the recent lack-luster play of the Tigers.
In fact Princeton ended 2005 with five straight losses without Greenman; during that stretch the Tigers averaged a meager 37.4 points per game. The return of the Senior Greenman was his first game because of a back injury. Greenman played almost the entire game against the Scarlet Knights and finished with eight points, three assists and two steals. Greenman has never lost to Columbia in his time at Princeton and will impress upon his younger teammates the importance of conference play.
Last year the Lions lost to the Tigers 53-63, but beat the 12-point number and while Columbia is 0-4 their last four trips to Princeton, they have notched a 2-2 mark against the spread. Both teams will play back-to-back games as Cornell will travel to Princeton and Columbia will go to Pennsylvania on Saturday as Ivy League action continues.
We like the fact that Princeton has Greenman back to run the offense and with the Tigers improved play at Rutgers Princeton should do enough to win and preserve the cover against the Lions who are relatively inexperienced in conference play.
PICK! PRINCETON TIGERS -5 for $330
We'll have our Ivy League picks each week through basketball season at Doc's. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.