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Penn vs. Yale
College Basketball Pick
The marquee college basketball game of the night on Friday brings us to New Haven Connecticut once again as the Yale Bulldogs host Penn in a clash of top Ivy League teams. Yale opened as a -1 point favorite at 5 Dimes and has been bet up to -2 in early betting action. The posted total on the game is 135.5 points.
Last week Yale found itself in another "game of the week" setting as they hosted Harvard before a sold out Payne Whitney Gym. The result? Yale was embarrassed and annihilated by a score of 65-35. Perhaps that explains the betting action favoring the Bulldogs thus far. Surely Yale will put forth a much better effort tonight, in another high profile game. But will it be enough?
This game is a picture perfect example of using the difference in schedule strength to handicap a game. Now, this particular game may win or lose, but the method is sound. Use it particularly in college sports, especially basketball, and you'll be rewarded many times over. Let's take a look.
On the surface, at quick glance, Yale would appear to be the better team. They have a better won/loss record at 13-5 compared 11-9 for Penn. Yale outscores it's opponents on average by a score of 72-66 while Penn is dead even with it's opponents at an average score of 69-69. Both teams shoot the ball well while Yale is much better with offensive rebounds thanks to their big man Greg Mangano. So at quick glance, Yale would be a no brainer in a near pick em game at home.
But dig a little deeper and take a look at how those stats were achieved. The schedule Penn has played compared to that of Yale's isn't even close. Penn has played a monster of a schedule for an Ivy League team. Yale has played against 3 "top tier" teams. Seton Hall, Florida and fellow Ivy Leaguer Harvard. They were blown out in two of those and lost the other by 11.
We'll call "top tier" teams any team that would rank in the top 100 of about 300 or so college hoops teams that appear on the betting boards. Penn has played 10 such teams. Of those 10, they managed to beat two of them, but played many of the others damn close. They took Temple to OT. They lost at Villanova by just 8 and UCLA by just 4. Every team that Penn has faced that would rank equal to, or worse than Yale, Penn has beaten with the exception of a home loss to James Madison by 2.
When you consider that Penn measures up to Yale in many important statistical categories, and then you consider the fact that they achieved those stats against much stronger opponents, you have to like your chances with the underdog Quakers. Our score prediction model, which factors in schedule strength, likes Penn by a score of 71-66 when using season to date stats. When we run the model using more recent results, the margin only increases to 13+ depending on the length of time used.
Bottom line? Penn will have their hands full with Mangano who is good for 19 points per game and 10 rebounds. But if they can contain them, as others have, they have a very good chance to stay undefeated in Ivy League play with a road win tonight. Once again, this particular game may win or lose, but zeroing in on schedule strength and looking at how teams have achieved their season to date stats and results will help you find many a live underdog or false favorite, particularly in college hoops. You've got to dig a little deeper than what is out there for average bettors, otherwise you'll end up on the same side as everyone else, the side the stats point towards, but the stats don't always tell the whole story. Penn +2