Last Updated: 2019-03-20
The Ivy League champions Yale Bulldogs and the SEC regular-season title winners LSU Tigers will lock horns in the East Region First Round on Thursday, March 21, at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The No. 14 seed Bulldogs will have to travel a thousand miles south to meet the No. 3 seed Tigers who are 600 miles from Jacksonville and LSU is listed as a strong 7.5-point favorite here with the total at 156.5 points and Yale at +260 money line odds.
The Yale Bulldogs finished the regular season at the 2nd spot of the Ivy League standings due to a couple of losses to Harvard, but they got the payoff in the championship tournament finals, beating the Crimson 97-85 to earn their place in the Big Dance. The Bulldogs had a terrific shooting night, making 60.4% of their field goals and 28 of their 30 attempts from the free-throw line, while Alex Copeland led his team with 25 points and seven assists. Yale has a 22-7 overall record and a 10-4 in the conference play, while the Bulldogs entered the tournament as No. 86 at the NCAA NET Rankings.
Yale is scoring 110.9 points per 100 possessions (44th in the country) on 56.1 effective field goal percentage (10th) and 37.4% shooting from downtown (42nd), allowing 102.7 points in a return (160th) on 47.2 effective field goal percentage (29th). Still, keep in mind that the Bulldogs’ strength of schedule was 189th in the country and the Ivy League is far away from elite competition. Miye Oni is a key player in this Yale team, and the junior guard is a real NBA prospect. He’s averaging 17.6 points on 45.5% shooting from the field to go with 6.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. The senior guard Alex Copeland, the senior wing Blake Reynolds, and the junior forward Jordan Bruner are all vital parts of the Bulldogs’ starting lineup.
The Bulldogs have appeared in the March Madness four times so far, recording just one win and five losses. In 2016, the No. 12 seed Bulldogs defeated Baylor 79-75 in the first round, but they lost to Duke 71-64 in the second round.
The LSU Tigers won their first SEC regular-season title since 2009, finishing with a 26-5 record while winning 16 of their 18 games in the conference. However, the Tigers were beaten by Florida 76-73 in the quarterfinals to put an end to their five-game winning streak that started with an 82-80 victory over Tennessee. They also defeated Kentucky 73-71 on the road during the regular season, while the Tigers’ strength of schedule was 39th in the country. It’s been a turbulent year for LSU that lost its head coach Will Wade who’s suspended due to discussing player payments, so Tony Benford is leading the Tigers at the moment.
LSU is scoring 118.8 points per 100 possessions (9th in the country) on 51.7 effective field goal percentage (124th) and 32.3% shooting from the field (273rd), surrendering 97.0 points in a return (64th) on 50.2 effective field goal percentage (150th). The Tigers are the No. 14 at the NCAA NET Rankings and a No. 17 at the KenPom rankings. The sophomore guard Tremont Waters is driving the Tigers’ offense, averaging 15.1 points and 5.9 assists per game. The freshman Naz Reid is doing a great job in the paint, posting 13.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest, while the junior guard Skylar Mays is adding 13.4 points per game.
The Tigers will appear in the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd time, recording 24 wins and 24 losses, and reaching the final four on four occasions. Their previous partaking in 2015 ended with a 66-65 first-round defeat to the No. 8 seed North Carolina State.
Pick: LSU Tigers -7.5
The Tigers are arguably a better team than the Bulldogs, and they should be highly motivated to prove their worth after an upset in the SEC championship tournament. LSU is playing very well on both ends of the floor all season long, while Yale had some ups and downs, especially at the defensive end. I’m backing the Tigers to win this game and cover the spread along the way, as they are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 outings.
Another interesting pick is taking the over on this one, as both Yale and LSU play at a very fast pace. The Bulldogs are recording 72.1 possessions per 40 minutes (45th in the country), while the Tigers are averaging 71.3 possessions per 40 minutes (70th). The over is 5-2 in Yale’s last seven games, and it is 5-3 in LSU’s last eight contests.
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