In case you need to bet basketball, there is always Ivy League

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

If you’re a longtime basketball bettor, the Friday during the annual NBA All-Star break has always meant one thing. The Ivy League!

For many years, it was the only game in town. Pro basketball was off. No major college conferences played games on Friday night. Bettors had to get their kicks and their fix in a league that they never watched on TV.

These days, Friday schedules are only slightly bigger. A few conferences have gobbled up TV spots from networks desperate for programming. But, the Ivy League is still at the heart of Friday basketball handicapping.

Here are some conference market notes heading into the weekend. If you don’t normally follow the Ivies, be aware that league games are typically on Fridays and Saturdays from late January through early March. The Ivy League is the only board conference to regularly feature back-to-backs (to limit travel for academic reasons). 

  • Yale currently leads the league with a 5-1 straight up record. The Bulldogs are also the most underrated team in market terms, sporting a 5-1 mark against the spread. “Bracketology” assessments show Yale positioned for a #13 seed if it qualifies for the Big Dance. Historically, that’s a classic “live dog” spot against a #4 seed.
  • Harvard and Pennsylvania were expected to compete with Yale. But both have been overpriced in league action. Harvard is 2-4 ATS, Penn 1-5 ATS. Harvard made news last weekend with a dramatic triple-overtime win over Columbia that featured a few thrilling buzzer beaters. What got lost in the shuffle was that Harvard closed as an 11-point favorite that couldn’t shake the worst team in the conference. Columbia sits in the cellar with a 1-5 straight up record. 
  • Speaking of Harvard, the Crimson are one of two teams to enjoy a home-friendly early schedule. Both Harvard and Dartmouth have played five of their first six Ivy League games on home wood. On the other end of the spectrum, Princeton and Penn have played five of their first Ivy League games on the road. Princeton is 4-2 straight up and ATS despite that hindrance. 
  • VSiN’s estimate of “market” Power Ratings show that the combined wisdom of oddsmakers and respected betting influences think Harvard and Penn could still threaten Yale. Using last weekend’s point spreads, and a standard three points for home court advantage, we get: Yale 73, Harvard 71, Pennsylvania 70, Princeton 68, Brown 66, Dartmouth 65, Cornell 64, Columbia 63. Feel free to tweak those on your own this weekend as betting lines settle in new matchups. 
  • Friday’s schedule (with ATS records in parenthesis): Dartmouth (3-2-1) at Penn (1-5), Yale (5-1) at Columbia (3-3), Harvard (2-4) at Princeton (4-2), Brown (1-4-1) at Cornell (4-2). Saturday, it’s Brown at Columbia, Dartmouth at Princeton, Harvard at Penn, and Yale at Cornell. 

Bettors should think about team depth when handicapping the Ivy League. Which teams have the legs to endure weekend back-to-backs the rest of the way? And, it couldn’t hurt to put Yale on your early list of potential March Cinderellas

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