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Harvard at Penn

Yale at Cornell

2/10/12

Ivy League basketball takes center stage tonight with a couple of games which feature the top 4 teams in the league going head to head and the potential to shake up the standings a bit. Harvard, 6-0 in conference hits the road to take on 4-1 Penn while 5-1 Yale hits the road to take on 3-3 Cornell. Harvard is a -5 point road favorite over Penn while Cornell is favored by 3 at home over Yale. Lines courtesy of Betonline.

You have to love Ivy League hoops. Pure basketball without any of the shenanigans that go on at the big time programs with recruits. The Ivy teams are never very deep but the good teams generally always put 5 players on the floor that can play with anyone for a half. Schedule strength comes into play when handicapping the Ivies as well as they can be all over the map when it comes to non conference play.

First let's look at Harvard at Penn. Penn had a golden opportunity to stay undefeated in Ivy play last week when they visited Yale, but came up short in a game that was tied for a couple of minutes down the stretch before missed shots cost the Quakers. Tonight's game is huge, obviously, for Penn, in order to keep pace with 1st place Harvard who is 20-2 overall and ranked 25th in the Nation.

The last two seasons, Harvard has had very good teams and barely got out of the state of Pennsylvania with a win. Last year Harvard came in 16-4 overall in a year that saw them finish 23-8 and was taken to double overtime by Penn before winning by one, 83-82. The year before that, Harvard came in with a 21-6 record in a year that saw them finish 21-8 and once again came away with a one point win, 67-66.

No surprise here. We see more of the same tonight. Penn is no stranger to playing good teams. They play them tough and play well in their own building where they took Temple to OT and knocked off St Joes.  In fact, looking at some common opponents should tell us that Penn has a great shot here. They beat St Joes by 4 at home while Harvard beat St Joes by 5 at home. Penn beat Cornell on the road by 12 while Harvard beat Cornell by 11, but at home. Lastly, Harvard just got by Columbia, at home, by 5, their last time out.

Our model predicts a 3 point Harvard win when using season to date data however it predicts an upset when using only data from the last 5 and 7 games. We like our chances for Penn to stay close or pull an upset in the biggest home game of the year. Penn +5.

The other big game has Yale taking on Cornell on the road. We're going to find out quite a bit about the Bulldogs over the next couple of weeks. Things may not be as they seem in New Haven. Sure, Yale has a nice 15-5 record behind big man Greg Mangano and is contending for the Ivy title at 5-1 in conference play but they have also had the benefit of having played 7 of their last 8 games at home. Their next 4 games and 6 of their last 8 are on the road.

While the Yale schedule has a couple of more recognizable big time teams on it, Cornell has actually played the tougher non conference schedule. Yale has played 11 games against teams that would rank in the bottom half of all college basketball teams. Cornell has played 3 such teams. So, out of 20 games, 17 for Cornell came against teams in the top half of all teams while just 7 games for Yale fit that criteria.

Our model does a nice job at taking this into consideration and predicts a Cornell win by anywhere from 8 to 13 points using different parameters in terms of the number of games used in the stats. Remember also that when Yale had the chance to step up, at home, against Harvard, they were blown off the floor by 30 points (Cornell came within 11 on the road). We'll lay the small spot here. Cornell -3 (we see a -2.5 on the board as well), in what amounts to a must win home game for the Big Red to keep pace in the standings.

Coincidentally, we are using both of these plays as small Key Releases tonight. For information on how to join us the rest of the way, click here.

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