Last Updated: 2017-03-07
The Ivy League has a conference tournament this year, which is a major departure from how the automatic bid used to be given. It used to simply go to the winner of the regular season with the best conference record. This year, a four-team tournament at the Palestra awaits. With a win and a loss from either Penn or Columbia, the Yale Bulldogs will be locked into the top four seeds. The Harvard Crimson still have an outside shot at claiming the #1 seed with a win, but they will also guarantee a spot with a win as a 5.5-point home favorite at Lavietes Pavilion on Friday night. Bettors looking for a fair sportsbook with good odds can check out DSI Sportsbook and also sign up with the promo code ‘BTBRADIO’ to get a $10 free bet and a 50 to 100 percent deposit bonus based on the amount of their initial deposit.
Yale is 14-9 straight up and 7-8 on the season. The Bulldogs were dealt a huge blow when Makai Mason suffered a season-ending foot injury, but they’ve been able to put together a decent season in spite of the adversity. Yale is just 6-4 in conference play with a 4-6 mark ATS and they have been outscored by 0.7 points per game, so they need to start playing better if they want to emerge from Philadelphia with that NCAA Tournament berth. Harvard is 16-7 straight up and 11-4 against the spread. The Crimson are 8-2 in conference play with a 7-2 mark against the number. Yale stays on the road to play Dartmouth tomorrow. Harvard stays home to host Brown.
Per the Ken Pomeroy metrics, despite the third-place spot in the standings, Yale is actually the fourth-best team in the league. The Penn Quakers rate better per the metrics, with Yale coming in 157th. The Bulldogs are 167th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 158th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Longtime head coach James Jones picked up the program’s first NCAA Tournament win last year with a first-round triumph over Baylor in his 17th year with the program. It was Yale’s first appearance in the big dance in 54 years. The loss of Makai Mason, who scored 16 points per game last season, left the Bulldogs with a steep uphill climb to return to the field of 68 and it didn’t help that Justin Sears, Brandon Sherrod, Jack Montague, and Nick Victor all left the program after exhausting their eligibility.
Yale is limping down the stretch. Three straight losses at Payne Whitney Gymnasium to the three-best teams in the league have the Bulldogs reeling. Harvard won by eight, Princeton won by 19, and Penn won by 16. The bubble seems to have burst during the tougher part of the schedule. Miye Oni is the leading scorer and second-leading rebounder with 13 points and 6.7 boards per night. Alex Copeland has scored 12.3 points per game. Sam Downey is the leading rebounder and most efficient offensive threat with a 56 percent field goal percentage. This is a relatively inexperienced Bulldogs team with so many seniors lost to graduation last year, so that has exacerbated the loss of Makai Mason. Yale has turned it over 14 times per game.
Harvard has taken advantage of its relatively weak schedule recently to surge ahead into that second spot in the conference standings. The Crimson lost a heartbreaker to Princeton on February 4 by one point at home and then reeled off four straight over Brown, Yale, Columbia, and Cornell. Two tough road tilts remain at Princeton and Penn before the Ivy League Tournament starts the following weekend. Harvard ranks 115th in the Ken Pomeroy metrics, nearly 50 spots below Princeton, who is 10-0 in conference play. The Crimson are 135th in offense and 117th in defense on the season. It’s hard to believe that former Seton Hall and Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker is in his 10th season in Cambridge, but time flies. Harvard had a run of four straight NCAA Tournament berths snapped last year when Yale went dancing.
The stat sheet for Harvard reads like the White Pages. That’s a phone book for you millennials out there. Harvard has used 20 different players in a game this season. The Crimson have played 23 games this season and nobody has suited up for all of them. Bryce Aiken is the leading scorer with 14.3 points per game, but he’s shooting below 40 percent for the year. Seth Towns is the only other player in double figures. Siyani Chambers has dished out over six assists per game, but he has struggled to shoot. He’s only shooting 34.8 percent from the floor and 28.2 percent from deep. The senior from Minnesota is probably the most talented player on the team, but he has shot the ball poorly in each of the last two seasons.
College Basketball Free Pick: Yale Bulldogs +5.5
This is one of those really perplexing lines. Yale has lost three straight and Harvard has won four straight. In that span, Harvard blasted Yale on the road. This is a suspiciously small number, which must mean that these teams are power rated pretty closely by the oddsmakers. It is a rivalry game, so home court advantage ticks up a tad for the hosts, yet the line is still like this? Yale was favored by 4.5 at home in the first meeting, so we’ve seen a bit of a line adjustment given recent results.