For many years, it was the only game in town for college basketball bettors: the Ivy League on Fridays.
Though other college basketball 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 percent rate, 12-3 vs. the number. It was 12-2 before a non-cover as a huge favorite in a virtual scrimmage with Howard this week. (Only Alabama is better at 15-3 ATS, 83 percent.)
That record includes money-makers 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. To give you 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 auto-bid to the Big Dance, they would likely get seeded in the traditional “dangerous floater” slots as a No. 12 or No. 13 seed. They have time to garner more respect.
Ivy League conference action is barely underway. Everyone’s played one or two 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 meet Feb. 7 at Harvard and March 7 at Yale.
General tips for handicapping the Ivy League:
Study team depth, a key to all of those back-to-backs coming up very soon. Teams with short rotations will struggle on second nights, particularly non-contenders. With just eight entries, it’s much easier to dig in depth here than in much larger conferences.
Pay attention to pace. Yale is very slow. Harvard is fairly fast. It can be harder for slow-paced teams to cover big numbers. It’s worth noting that Yale was an underdog in all four covers versus major conference foes we mentioned earlier. But the Bulldogs are now just 1-2 ATS the past three times as favorites. (You can sort “adjusted tempo” at kenpom.com. Pomeroy accounts for opponent’s 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 mis-priced team, riding the wave could last a few weeks.
Even if you weren’t sharp enough to get into an Ivy League school, you can earn a degree in Betting Smart with hard handicapping work.
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