by Chris, the Impaler - 01/20/2006
It’s exam time in the Ivy league which is no excuse not to play basketball if you live in Chapel Hill , but in the Ancient Eight that means Study Hall. As such study hall has replaced the gym this week and only two games are scheduled in the Ivy League as Yale and Brown close out their season series and Columbia and Cornell kick off theirs. Campus police at Brown are now allowed to carry firearms but I expect that it will be the Bulldogs shooting holes in the Bears defense while Columbia will try to find a way to end their two consecutive game conference slide in Ithaca.
Last Friday I was poised to impale the line with a 2-0 evening when Princeton failed to hit a field goal in the last 9:40 of the second half against Columbia. Another bad beat story I won’t retell suffices to say the Tigers’ impotent shooting allowed the Columbia Lions to force the game into overtime. The game mercifully ended after an overtime of endless foul shots as Princeton won their first (and it appears only) Ivy League conference game of the season.
Princeton’s four point victory, however, failed to cover the five point spread and we dropped $330 for the effort-or lack thereof. In our early play, the Quakers’ 40 point victory easily covered the 13 point margin against Big Red of Cornell. We earned two bills on the game and ended the evening with a net loss of $130 bringing our record to 3-2 in Ivy League hoops. While a glimpse into the old off-shore shows the penny loafer posse $250 in the black it is hardly enough for martinis and cigars at Winston Churchill’s in old Quebec.
Yale (-3.5) vs. BROWN
The Yale Bulldogs look go undefeated in the Ivy League and a season sweep for the first time since 1997-98 against the Brown Bears this Saturday as they travel to the Pizzitola Sports Center in Providence, Rhode Island at 2 p.m.
Last weekend, Yale (9-7, 1-0) played the part of rotten host as they led Brown by as many as 29 points during the second half with 17 points off of turnovers last Saturday. The Bulldogs abused Brown in their Ivy League opener, 75-61, their first win over the Bears since Jan. 2002, ending a six game losing streak and perhaps the Bears dominance over the Bulldogs. Yale is 4-1 in its last five games and has won six of its last nine, including road victories at Rice and American. A win at Pizzitola would give the Elis their first three game win streak of the season.
The Bears (4-10, 0-1 Ivy) lost on the road last weekend in New Haven and hope for a better result on Saturday. If the Bears hope for a better result at home they’ll have to do a better job guarding the post. The Bears need to adjust to the Bulldogs' playing style. This isn’t hard to figure out; contain Center Dominick Martin. This is a tall order against the Elis ’ leading scorer on the game with 13 points and six rebounds. However, the Bears will also need to keep Yale’s remaining post players out of double-digits – something they failed to do last week. Brown relied mainly on standout freshman Scott Friske to contain the Elis down low, but it was too much for the talented young player.
A bright spot against the Bulldogs was the Bears’ P.J. Flaherty who had 12 points good enough to lead all scorers on Brown. This stat is a bit misleading as all 12 points came in the final six minutes of the game better known to gamblers as garbage time. Scott Friske and Keenan Jeppesen each scored 11 points but the team shot a miserable 29.6 percent from the field. In Ruscoe’s absence, Friske has averaged 19.5 points and 8.8 rebounds while notching a career high 24 points against Army and 26 against Quinnipiac. Despite these impressive scoring stats it is Damon Huffman who leads the Bears in scoring with 10.2 points per game.
Common opponents for Brown and Yale include losses to University of Maryland-Eastern Shore and an improved University at Albany although Yale beat United States Naval Academy and Brown lost. Gamblers should note that the Elis have been cash burners on the road against Brown the past several years going 1-3 against the spread with a total posted only once over the past four years. Most recently, Yale dropped a 65-76 decision last March as a one point road ‘dog. The 141 points soared over the 136 point total. Brown couldn’t stop four big men from getting double figure last weekend with Luke Ruscoe back and I am not sure they’ll have figured out how to stop them this weekend.
Pick! Yale Bulldogs -3.5 for $330
CORNELL (-5.5) v Columbia
Battle tested Cornell tips-off Ivy League play this weekend as Steve Donahue’s team will play home-and-away games against the Columbia Lions for their first home opener on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at Newman Arena. This game marks the first Ivy League Conference home game for Big Red and their first at home since January 6. Next weekend Columbia will return the favor and host Cornell.
Underachieving Cornell (6-10, 1-1) suffers a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome as they are a different team at home and on the road. At Newman Arena they are 4-1 while on the road Big Red has posted a 1-9 record away from Ithaca . Coming off Friday night’s loss to conference killers Penn, Cornell managed to beat Princeton on Saturday for their first Ivy League win of the season. But you can throw that win out the window if you are looking at it from a “players” perspective; Big Red was the beneficiary of a tired Princeton team that played into overtime in the late night Ivy League game. Cornell’s Lenny Collins notched a double-double as he led all scorers with 15 points and snagged 10 rebounds in Big Red’s 57-49 win over Princeton .
Cornell sports one of the toughest non-conference schedules should welcome the Lions. Cornell has won their games on defense this year. No where are they better than defending against the three. Big Red has held their opponents to 30 percent shooting behind the Arc including a massive defensive 1-19 effort against Syracuse early in the season at Madison Square Garden . This fact does not bode well for a Lions team that averages 17 turnovers per game. This is no doubt part of the reason that Columbia has lost eight out of their last ten games after starting out 5-0.
The road weary Columbia Lions (7-8, 0-2) continue Ivy League Conference play with their third consecutive road game. Last weekend Columbia dropped a 68-64 excursion to Princeton in overtime and then traveled to Penn losing 87-55 the following night. Expect the Lions to play desperate and see if three is a charm or a curse. The fact Columbia has played much better this year might get lost if they can’t string together a few conference wins, however it seems relatively unlikely in hostile territory.
On a positive note the Lions should be able to build on the loss to Penn. The Lions were able to keep the Quakers in their sights in the first half with Penn leading Columbia 27-22 due in no small part to Justin Armstrong’s 16 points; more impressive was his 6-6 shooting on the floor against Penn. Unfortunately for Columbia this was as close as they’d get as they were mired in a shooting drought to end the first half and it continued almost six minutes into the second half. The Lions never got closer than 30 points for the final 13 minutes of the game.
If you are planning on laying a few “jelly beans” on either the Lions or the Big Red you should know that in Columbia’s last four trips to Newman Arena the Lions burned cash at an alarming 1-3 mark against the number including last year’s 77-47 loss as a 2.5 point road ‘dog. The 124 points narrowly squeezed under the 127 point total. On a Saturday card longer than it is wide, this game popped out as being a few points off which we endeavor to exploit as our Ivy League GOTW.
Pick! Cornell Big Red -5.5 for a nickel ($550)
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