by Chris, the Impaler - 02/17/2006
Friday night Ivy League battles resume in week eight as we see that we've got four important Ivy League conference games tonight. Pennsylvania once again looks to tighten their stranglehold on the Ancient Eight and defend last year's conference title and nab the Ivy's sole bid to the Big Dance as the Quakers put their undefeated conference record on the line when they travel to New York City for a battle against the Columbia Lions. Also on tonight's docket the colorful schools (Crimson, Red and Green) host the animals (Bulldogs, Tigers, Bears).
COLUMBIA LIONS vs. Pennsylvania Quakers (-15)
Less than 1,000 complimentary student tickets remain at Levien Gym as Columbia looks to break a five-game conference losing streak as they host the Pennsylvania Quakers as a 15-pont home dog at 8 p.m. on Friday night. The last time Columbia won a game was on Jan. 21 when the Lions snuck out with a 58-57 decision at Cornell as a 5.5 point underdog.
The Columbia Lions (8-13, 1-7) began their second half of the Ivy League season with an 86-75 loss at Brown last Saturday. The game was close until the second half when the Lions defense broke down and allowed the Bears to pull away with an 18-4 run in the second half. To say the Lions have not played well in their last five losses is an understatement.
Since their quick start to the season, Columbia has lost 13 of 16 games. Last weekend, Columbia was tagged with 35 fouls against Brown and shot a paltry 13-of-23 at the charity stripe. The night before in New Haven found the Lions in an early hole against Yale. Yale began the first half on a 14-0 run and led by 18 points, 11 minutes into the game. On the bright side for Columbia Ben Nwachukwu led all scorers with 18 points while game changer John Baumann got the Lions rolling, cutting the 18 point deficit by scoring 15 of his 17 points in the first half.
However, slow starts and turnovers have killed any chances the Lions have had to win their last five games. This plays to the Quakers' strengths as Pennsylvania has the Ivy League's leader in steals in Ibrahim Jaabar who has 73 steals on the season and managed four thefts against Princeton on Tuesday night. Columbia might try to game plan against the Quakers the same way Brown did as Penn struggled against the simple 2-3 zone which prevented Penn from coming out and building a large early lead.
Our preseason favorite to win the Ivy League has pulled ahead of the pack as the Quakers (15-6, 7-0 Ivy League) beat Princeton on Tuesday night behind 18 points and the hot hand of Steve Danley with 17 points from Ibrahim Jaabar. Mark Zoller recorded a double-double for the Quakers with 15 points and 10 boards.
At no point was the game against Princeton in doubt for PENN, which led by 12 points in the second half and eventually won by 19 points. Against the Lions in their first game of the season, the Quakers managed to force 22 turnovers. Offensively Penn shot over 50 percent and drained 12 three pointers in their 32 point win. But Penn has had little time to prepare for tonight's game as they played on Tuesday night they needed to take Wednesday off according to NCAA rules, which only left Thursday for practice. Meanwhile, the Quakers have a few injuries as Eric Omundson separated his shoulder against Princeton two weeks ago and then played injured on Tuesday night. Penn will be without back-up Freshman Tommy McMahon.
If you plan on investing in this game you should know that the Quakers are 5-0 straight up but are only 2-3 against the number in those same five games. On Jan. 14, the Quakers covered a hefty 16.5 points in their home 87-55 win as the game flew over the 125.5 point total. The oddsmakers don't think much of the Lions at home as the line has gone from 14.5 point to 15 points for tonight's game. In January's game Pennsylvania led by 15 points at the half and during the final 13 minutes of the game the Quakers' lead never dropped below 30 points. However, Columbia is the league-worst losing their games by and average of 12 points. While I don't think Columbia will win this game, they might be catching Pennsylvania in a good spot as the Quakers travel to Cornell for tomorrow's game.
PICK! Columbia +15 for $220
HARVARD CRIMSON (-11) v Brown Bears
Perhaps Harvard will get some much needed inspiration from Halle Berry's smoking hot visit to campus yesterday as she was honored as Hasty Pudding's Woman of the Year Roast. In her skit Berry did a bawdy dance to Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" and planted a tongue kiss on a surprised student senior roast master.
The Harvard Crimson (12-9, 4-4) have their backs against the wall as they are out of contention for the Ivy League title after three straight conference losses. Now the Crimson are playing for pride and look for a weekend sweep at Lavietes Pavillion as they host the Brown Bears tonight at 7 p.m. and Yale tomorrow. Last weekend, the Crimson's hopes for contending against Penn for the conference title were crushed as Princeton sharp shooter Noah Savage buried a baseline shot with .2 seconds remaining giving the Tigers a thrilling 60-59 road win over Harvard.
Harvard basically gave the game away as they could not hold onto an eight-point lead in the second half against Princeton. The following night Harvard dropped another home contest to the Quakers, 68-81, when their comeback in the second half was crushed by Penn. Their third loss virtually assured the Crimson they will continue their six decade Ivy League Title drought. However, despite their recent woes, Harvard could realistically go 5-1 in their last six games to end up 9-5 in the conference (exactly where we thought they'd land this year).
The Brown Bears (7-14, 3-5) will be playing without their top player Luke Ruscoe. The Bears needed two overtimes to get past the Big Green in Providence three weeks ago and now have to travel to Cambridge to play the Crimson who beat them in Providence on Jan. 28 by the tune of 75-58. On the surface Brown does not seem to pose much of a challenge without their primary leader in Ruscoe. Mired in their second three-game losing streak of the season, I see Harvard, despite getting knocked out of contention for the Ivy League title, rising to the occasion and covering against the leaderless Bears.
Pick! Harvard -11 for $330
CORNELL BIG RED (-4) v Princeton Tigers
Cornell (10-12, 5-3 Ivy) goes for a sweep of the season series as they host Princeton Friday at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena, but they'll be going against a better team than they saw at Jadwin Gymnasium without their star forward Khaliq Gant. Gant incurred a season-ending neck injury in practice on Jan. 24. The Big Red lost the following game to Columbia but went on a four-game tear wearing Gant's number 21 before losing last weekend.
The Big Red had their four-game win streak broken last Saturday in a 65-74 loss at Yale. Cornell can't help but feel a bit deflated from the loss as they blew a 15-point lead and missed their last seven shots of the game. The Big Red allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 60 percent from the field. On a positive note, Big Red's Jason Hartford was 7-of-8 from the field tallying 21 points. Adam Gore recorded 18 points and Andrew Naeve notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. With the loss, the Big Red fell to third place in the Ivy League and will have a hard time catching the league leader even if they win the rest of their conference games.
Princeton (7-13, 5-2) faces another tough test four days after they had their four-game winning streak broken at Penn in Tuesday night's 60-41 loss. Still, with only two losses in the conference the Tigers are in sole possession of second place. Leading the scoring for the Tigers against the undefeated Quakers were Luke Owings who scored 18 points and Scott Greenman who had 14 points for the Tigers. But resilient Princeton has come on strong in the Ivy League after a tepid start to their season.
Total bettors should note that the Princeton defense limits their opponents to about 55 points per game while Big Red averages 55 points per game at home. The Tigers own the all-time record in this series 132-71, but Cornell has won and covered their last three games including last year's 52-49 win at Newman Arena as a 4.5 point underdog.
Pick! Cornell -4 for $440
Before last weekend's hiatus I went 1-1 in week six of Ivy League play. Harvard won and covered as a 2.5 point 'road chalk' as they beat Columbia. I lost miserably on the Yale - Princeton tilt as I backed the Bulldogs on the road as a pick 'em in a game that ended up never being as close as the score. The resurgent Tigers managed to win their second conference game at home against the lackluster Eli's who were unable to sink a shot beyond the arc.
Looking at our record in the Ivy League this season we see that the penny-loafered posse has notched a 4-6 mark against the number with $1190 spent on bottles of Calomine Lotion as we keep the poison ivy from spreading. While at the Sloane School of Management they teach that business losses are tax-deductible, I don't need to remind you that gambling losses are not.
We'll have our Ivy League picks each week through college basketball season at Doc's. Let me know what you think at email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's college basketball picks service.