For many years, it was the only game in town for college basketball bettors — the Ivy League on Fridays.
Though other conferences have now joined the fun, the Ivy League still holds a soft spot for old-school gamblers. This season Yale is also holding a very profitable spot in many investment portfolios.
Heading into Friday’s battle at Brown, Yale has the second-best record against the spread in the country. The Bulldogs have cashed at an 80% rate, going 12-3 vs. the number. (Only Alabama is better at 15-3 ATS, 83%.) Yale was 12-2 before a non-cover as a huge favorite in a virtual scrimmage this week against Howard.
Yale’s record includes moneymakers in losses to major-conference opponents at Oklahoma State, Penn State and North Carolina, as well as an outright upset win at Clemson.
Those quality results have Yale rated as roughly bubble-caliber, according to market-respected computer rankings posted publicly by Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin. As a frame of reference, Yale ranks a smidge ahead of St. John’s on both ledgers. Were the Bulldogs to win the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, they would likely get seeded in the traditionally dangerous area as Nos. 12 or 13 seeds. They have time to garner more respect.
Ivy League conference action is barely underway. Everyone has played one or two league games heading into the weekend. The traditional Friday-Saturday back-to-backers begin next week. Respected computers are projecting Yale and Harvard to fight it out for the regular-season title. They play Feb. 7 at Harvard and March 7 at Yale.
General tips for handicapping the Ivy League:
— Study team depth, a key to all those back-to-backs coming up very soon. Teams with short rotations will struggle on second nights, particularly non-contenders.
— Pay attention to pace. Yale is very slow. Harvard is fairly fast. It can be harder for slow-paced teams to cover big numbers. Yale was an underdog in all four covers vs. the major-conference foes mentioned earlier. But the Bulldogs are now just 1-2 ATS the last three times as favorites. (You can sort “adjusted tempo” on the free home page at kenpom.com, as Pomeroy accounts for opponents’ typical pace when ranking.)
— Remember that the most voluminous influences in betting markets typically pay a lot more attention to major conferences than they do the Ivy League. That means surprises in either direction can last a lot longer — part of why Yale cashed so many tickets before lines started to adjust. If you find a mispriced team, riding the wave could last a few weeks.