Last Updated: 2017-03-06
There are only six games on the college basketball slate for Friday night, as most conferences gear up for a huge Saturday slate. One conference that we can always rely on for Friday night hoops is the Ivy League. The Brown Bears open up Ivy League play tonight with a matchup against the Princeton Tigers. Situational spots can always be found in the Ivy because teams play a lot of Friday/Saturday back-to-backs. Is that a spoiler alert? Read on, as we preview this one, with Princeton laying 16 points at Galaxy Sports. Galaxy offers a 100 percent bonus up to $300 for BangTheBook readers by using the promo code ‘BTB’.
The Brown Bears are actually being written about for the second time here at BangTheBook. They covered in a seven-point loss at Rhode Island back in mid-November. That was one of four ATS wins on the season for the Bears, who are 4-3 against the number and 9-7 straight up. Brown opens Ivy League play with well over a week off after losing to NJIT by a bucket nine days ago. Princeton is already 1-0 in Ivy League play with a narrow cover against rival Penn. The 61-52 win covered the 8.5-point spread for Princeton’s third ATS win of the year. The Tigers are 8-6 straight up, but 3-5 against the spread. In one of the absolute strangest scheduling scenarios I have ever seen, Princeton plays tonight and tomorrow at home against Yale and doesn’t play another game until February 3. That is not a typo. That is a real thing.
Brown may not have the most impressive record at 9-7 and they certainly haven’t played a lot of top competition, but Brown’s most recent losses came at the hands of Stony Brook by three and NJIT by two. They’ve lost five of their seven games by single digits, so this is a team that doesn’t get blown out very often. Fifth-year head coach Mike Martin has already seen his team exceed last season’s win total, as the Bears went just 8-20 and 3-11 in conference play. Brown is looking for it’s first winning season since Martin’s second year back in 2013-14 and the Bears were just 15-14, but were asked to participate in the CIT.
It’s been a long and windy road for Steven Spieth and Tavon Blackmon, who were freshmen on that 2013-14 team. Those are now the two leading scorers as seniors for this Brown program. A lot of players have come and gone in that span, including several graduate transfers, so these two have been the constants in Providence. Spieth is one of the better players in this conference with 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He shares the lead in assists with Blackmon with 3.9, but has turned the ball over nearly four times per game. Blackmon hasn’t found his range inside the arc at all, as he’s just 33-for-93 on two-point shots, but 16-of-40 from deep. Brown runs a deep bench with nine players averaging at least 10 minutes per game.
Princeton has played a much more challenging schedule. Per the KenPom metrics, Princeton’s schedule ranks 89th against the 350th-ranked schedule of Brown. Only Ball State has played a worse schedule. Princeton has a storied basketball history to say the least, but recent history hasn’t been as kind. The Tigers haven’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2011. They were one-and-done in the NIT last year with an overtime loss to Virginia Tech. They beat Duquesne in the 2014 CBI before losing badly to Fresno State. Mitch Henderson’s team has been tested. They’ve played at BYU, played Cal and Hawaii on a neutral* court on the island, and also played Monmouth and VCU. This game, however, is sandwiched between a win over a chief rival in Pitt and tomorrow’s game against the Yale Bulldogs, the preseason favorites to win the league before Makai Mason went down.
Princeton has a big injury of its own. Henry Caruso has announced his intentions to be a graduate transfer once his toe injury is healed. That leaves Princeton a lot thinner than they anticipated at the start of the season. Steven Cook is still strong player with 15 points and nearly five rebounds per game and the supporting cast of Devin Cannady and Spencer Weisz forms a good set of go-to scorers. Princeton has battled some injuries already this season, as only six players have suited up for all 14 games. Caruso was last season’s leading scorer and Princeton is also without senior leader Hans Brase, who suffered a knee injury.
College Basketball Free Pick: Brown Bears +16
This is not a great spot for Princeton. They crushed Brown twice last season and have won six straight against the Bears. With Yale on deck and then a prolonged break to focus on studies or whatever else, this seems like a little bit of a flat spot for a team that has had its depth weakened with the Caruso injury. Brown is a scrappy team, even though they certainly aren’t the most talented. The level of competition Brown has played is definitely a worry, but they’ve had some time to prepare for this game and should bring a good effort level.