Betting News and Notes - Feb 15

Betting News and Notes - Feb 15

Ivy League Tip Sheet
By Chris David

Since the NBA is on the shelf until next week due to the All-Star break, gamblers can focus their attention on the college hoops hardwood.

Six games are slated for Friday, including four Ivy League battles. For those of you who don’t follow the eight-team conference, it’s well known that both Pennsylvania and Princeton have dominated. Since 1956, either the Quakers or Tigers have held a share of the conference title every year except on nine different occasions.

After looking at the latest standings, it appears that history might not repeat itself this year.

Another thing to keep in mind for Friday’s quartet is that all four road teams opened as favorites, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants.

Let’s break ‘em down.

**Brown (12-8 straight up, 8-6 against the spread) at Pennsylvania (8-14 SU, 4-9 ATS)**

Brown enters this matchup on a roll, winning four of its last five games and three straight. All five of the contests were played in Rhode Island. The Bears have been solid on the road, posting a 5-5 SU and 4-3 ATS ledger.

Unlike past Penn squads, this one has proven that they don’t play defense. The Quakers are allowing 76.9 points per game, which is the worst in the Ivy League and ranked 311th nationally out of 328 teams.

Penn has won seven (7-6 SU, 2-5 ATS) of its eight victories at home, but has been outscored 75-69 in the 13 games.

Brown is 0-6 SU and 3-3 ATS in its last three meetings against Penn. The ‘over’ has gone 4-2 during this stretch.

**Cornell (14-5 SU, 6-4 ATS) at Harvard (6-16 SU, 3-9 ATS)**

If you haven’t watched the Big Red play this year, then you might want to check this mini-juggernaut out. Cornell leads the Ivy League in all of the major offensive categories, including points (76.5), field goal percentage (48.5%), 3-point percentage (42.4%) and free throw percentage (78.1%).

The Big Red have opened conference play with a 6-0 mark (3-3 ATS), five of the victories by double digits too. The ‘under’ has gone 3-2-1.

Harvard is happy to be home after playing five straight games on the road. Unfortunately, the team went 0-5 both SU and ATS on the road trip, with four of the losses coming by double digits.

The Crimson swept the regular season series against Cornell last year, including a 65-64 victory at home as 3 ½-point underdogs.

**Columbia (10-11 SU, 7-3 ATS) at Dartmouth (8-12 SU, 4-7 ATS)**

Columbia isn’t the most talented team in the Ivy, but they do own the best record for gamblers (7-3 ATS). The Lions have won three of the past four games, including last weekend’s sweep over Pennsylvania (74-58) and Princeton (58-53) at home. Columbia has struggled to a 5-7 SU mark on the road, but they are a perfect 6-0 ATS.

Dartmouth has outscored opponents by 11 PPG (75-64) at home this year en route to a 5-1 SU and 1-2 ATS ledger. The Big Green are hoping to improve at home, especially with a four-game losing streak intact. All four losses have come on the road, including the last two by double digits

The Lions were 2-0 both SU and ATS against the Big Green last year. The total went 1-1.

Total players should note that the ‘under’ is a solid look for both Columbia (8-2) and Dartmouth (9-3) this year.

**Yale (9-11 SU, 6-6 ATS) at Princeton (5-15 SU, 7-7 ATS)**

Yale’s offense exploded last weekend in home victories against Harvard (83-70) and Dartmouth (97-58). The Bulldogs hope they can continue that effort on the road, where they’ve struggled to a 2-7 SU and 3-3 ATS mark. Yale is averaging 63 PPG on the road, compared to 76 PPG in Connecticut.

Princeton boasts the best defense (56.2 PPG) in the league, but also has the worst offense (56.2 PPG) to boot. The numbers are directly related to the tempo the Tigers play.

The Tigers are 5-3 SU and 2-3 ATS at home, which is a good thing considering the team is coming off three straight road setbacks. Despite a 1-3 SU mark in its last four games, Princeton has managed to go 3-1.

Last season, Yale stifled Princeton in a pair of low-scoring affairs. The Bulldogs captured 52-51 and 43-35 victories over the Tigers. The ‘under’ easily cashed in both games.

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Re: Betting News and Notes - Feb 15

Pittsburgh at Marquette
By Judd Hall

Big East seeding and perhaps even a better spot in the NCAA tournament are on the line when the Panthers make the trip to Milwaukee for a showdown with No. 25 Marquette (17-6 straight up, 9-9 against the spread).

Pittsburgh (19-5 SU, 11-7-1 ATS) finally saw its offense come to life for the first time in what seems like ages as they tore apart the Friars, 82-63, as a nine-point home “chalk” last Tuesday. Junior forward Sam Young played like a man possessed versus Providence, scoring 22 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes of work.

The Panthers should be happy right now as they have pieced together consecutive victories since mid-January, a span of seven contests. Pitt went 3-4 ATS, while the ‘under’ posted a 4-3 mark.

Pitt will actually be getting a big boost to its offense for this contest when guard Levance Fields returns to the lineup. Fields has been laid up with a broken left foot since the Panthers 80-55 loss at Dayton on Dec. 29.

Fields was averaging 11.9 points per game, 3.8 boards and 5.4 assists per game in the first 12 appearances this season.

VegasInsider.com expert handicapper Brian Edwards also believes that Fields will be an instant different maker. “The return of Levance Fields for Pitt is huge. He reminds me a lot of Khalid El-Amin, who was the catalyst for UConn’s 1999 title team. He’s a physical guard that gets into the paint and makes things happen with dribble penetration. And he can wear down opposing guards with his physicality on the defensive end.”

Edwards continues, “The Panthers held down the fort well without Fields, but they become really dangerous with him back. They could be a sleeper team in March with the ability to advance deep into the Tournament.”

The Golden Eagles rebounded from their loss at Notre Dame with a quality thumping of Seton Hall as 3½-point road favorites, 89-64, on Feb. 12. Sophomore forward Lazar Hayward spearheaded Marquette’s effort with 23 points and nine boards.

Hayward and his Marquette teammates will be heading back to the friendly confines of the Bradley Center…A place where they have posted a 12-1 SU record for the year, but are just 3-5 when playing against the number.

The Eagles noticeably struggled against Louisville and Notre Dame because they weren’t able to play tight on defense, board presence and showing some sort of a fast break on offense. All three points were effectively on display versus the pirates, especially being a monster on the boards. Marquette snared 19 offensive boards to Seton Hall’s seven.

Marquette is currently shooting 45.4 percent from the field this season. And for the Golden Eagles that number will be important to hit as Pittsburgh is one of the Big East’s best defensive programs. The Panthers are allowing their opponents to make just 40.4 percent of their shots for the year and 42.3 percent for the month of February.

Recent history between both schools is sparse; they’ve only played six times since March 2003. The Golden Eagles have gone 4-2 SU and 5-1 ATS head-to-head versus Pittsburgh. The ‘over’ has come through in all six matches.

The Eagles haven’t been a member of the Big East for very long, joining back in 2005. You wouldn’t know that judging by how they’ve played at home against in-conference competition. Marquette is 18-4 SU and 13-8-1 ATS when facing off versus teams from its own league at home since 2005.

Pittsburgh is not so compelling a choice to back on the money line when you recognize its 11-10 SU record when playing league tilts on the road since 2005. However, The Panthers are 13-8 ATS under those same restrictions. Pitt also saw the ‘under’ go 13-8 during that stretch.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants have listed the Golden Eagles as four-point home favorites with the total come in at 131.

ESPN will be broadcasting the game nationally starting at 9:00 pm EDT.

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Columbia Lions vs. Dartmouth Big Green

- The Columbia Lions and the Dartmouth Big Green will both be trying to pick up a win on Friday when they battle at Leede Arena.

Current streak:
Columbia has won 2 straight games.
Dartmouth has lost 4 straight games.

Team records:
Columbia: 10-11 SU, 7-3 ATS
Dartmouth: 8-12 SU, 5-7 ATS

Columbia most recently:
When playing on Friday are 2-5
Before playing Harvard are 3-7
After playing Princeton are 3-7
After a win are 3-7

Dartmouth most recently:
When playing on Friday are 4-5
Before playing Cornell are 3-7
After playing Yale are 2-8
After a loss are 3-7

A few trends to consider:
Columbia is 5-10 SU in its last 15 games on the road
Columbia is 1-3-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Dartmouth
Dartmouth is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
Dartmouth is 2-4-1 ATS in its last 7 games when playing at home against Columbia
Dartmouth is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games

Next up:
Columbia at Harvard, Saturday, February 16
Dartmouth home to Cornell, Saturday, February 16

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Brown Bears vs. Pennsylvania Quakers

- The fans at The Palestra will be treated to a game between the Brown Bears and the Pennsylvania Quakers when they take their seats on Friday.

Current streak:
Brown has won 3 straight games.

Team records:
Brown: 12-8 SU, 8-6 ATS
Pennsylvania: 8-14 SU, 5-10-2 ATS

Brown most recently:
When playing on Friday are 2-3
Before playing Princeton are 5-5
After playing Harvard are 4-6
After a win are 5-5

Pennsylvania most recently:
When playing on Friday are 5-5
Before playing Yale are 8-2
After playing Princeton are 4-6
After a win are 4-6

A few trends to consider:
Brown is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
Brown is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Pennsylvania
Brown is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games when playing Pennsylvania
Brown is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games on the road
Pennsylvania is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Brown
Pennsylvania is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games when playing at home against Brown
Pennsylvania is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games at home
Pennsylvania is 8-15 SU in its last 23 games

Next up:
Brown at Princeton, Saturday, February 16
Pennsylvania home to Yale, Saturday, February 16

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Cornell Big Red vs. Harvard Crimson

- The Cornell Big Red and the Harvard Crimson will both be trying to pick up a win on Friday when they battle at Lavietes Pavilion.

Current streak:
Cornell has won 8 straight games.
Harvard has lost 5 straight games.

Team records:
Cornell: 14-5 SU, 6-4 ATS
Harvard: 6-16 SU, 4-9 ATS

Cornell most recently:
When playing on Friday are 4-4
Before playing Dartmouth are 5-5
After playing Pennsylvania are 5-5
After a win are 8-2

Harvard most recently:
When playing on Friday are 3-3
Before playing Columbia are 5-5
After playing Brown are 2-8
After a loss are 1-9

A few trends to consider:
Cornell is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Cornell is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games on the road
Cornell is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing on the road against Harvard
Cornell is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Harvard
Harvard is 7-2 SU in its last 9 games at home
Harvard is 16-8 SU in its last 24 games when playing Cornell
Harvard is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Cornell
Harvard is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games when playing at home against Cornell

Next up:
Cornell at Dartmouth, Saturday, February 16
Harvard home to Columbia, Saturday, February 16

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Yale Bulldogs vs. Princeton Tigers

- The fans at Jadwin Gymnasium will be treated to a game between the Yale Bulldogs and the Princeton Tigers when they take their seats on Friday.

Current streak:
Yale has won 2 straight games.
Princeton has lost 3 straight games.

Team records:
Yale: 9-11 SU, 6-6 ATS
Princeton: 5-15 SU, 7-8 ATS

Yale most recently:
When playing on Friday are 3-4
Before playing Pennsylvania are 4-6
After playing Dartmouth are 8-2
After a win are 5-5

Princeton most recently:
When playing on Friday are 5-2
Before playing Brown are 6-4
After playing Pennsylvania are 3-7
After a loss are 1-9

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Yale's last 5 games when playing Princeton
Yale is 7-18 SU in its last 25 games when playing Princeton
Yale is 2-7 SU in its last 9 games on the road
Yale is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Princeton
Princeton is 11-2 SU in its last 13 games when playing at home against Yale
Princeton is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing at home against Yale
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Princeton's last 5 games when playing Yale
Princeton is 18-7 SU in its last 25 games when playing Yale

Next up:
Yale at Pennsylvania, Saturday, February 16
Princeton home to Brown, Saturday, February 16

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Marist Red Foxes vs. Manhattan Jaspers

- The fans at Draddy Gymnasium will be treated to a game between the Marist Red Foxes and the Manhattan Jaspers when they take their seats on Friday.

Team records:
Marist: 15-10 SU, 13-10 ATS
Manhattan: 9-15 SU, 3-16-1 ATS

Marist most recently:
When playing on Friday are 6-4
Before playing Fairfield are 8-2
After playing Saint Peter's are 5-5
After a win are 7-3

Manhattan most recently:
When playing on Friday are 4-6
Before playing Siena are 7-3
After playing Canisius are 5-5
After a win are 3-7

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Marist's last 5 games when playing on the road against Manhattan
Marist is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
Marist is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Marist's last 7 games
Manhattan is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games when playing at home against Marist
Manhattan is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Marist
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Manhattan's last 5 games when playing at home against Marist
Manhattan is 8-4 SU in its last 12 games when playing Marist

Next up:
Marist at Fairfield, Monday, February 18
Manhattan home to Siena, Monday, February 18

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Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Marquette Golden Eagles

- The fans at Bradley Center will be treated to a game between the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Marquette Golden Eagles when they take their seats on Friday.

Sam Young tossed in 22 points as Pittsburgh cruised past Providence 82-63 on Tuesday. Pittsburgh covered the 8.5-point spread, and the 145 points made it OVER the posted total of 137.

DeJuan Blair and Ronald Ramon each chipped in with 15 points in the win.

Marquette built up an 18 point lead at the half Tuesday, and cruised to an 89-64 win over Seton Hall. Marquette easily covered the 3.5-point spread, while the combined 153 points made it OVER the posted total of 152.

Lazar Hayward led the way with a game-high 23 points, while Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal each tossed in 14 points in the victory.

Current streak:
Pittsburgh has won 2 straight games.

Team records:
Pittsburgh: 19-5 SU, 12-7 ATS
Marquette: 17-6 SU, 9-9 ATS

Pittsburgh most recently:
When playing on Friday are 9-1
Before playing Notre Dame are 10-0
After playing Providence are 3-7
After a win are 5-5

Marquette most recently:
When playing on Friday are 8-2
Before playing St. John's are 1-1
After playing Seton Hall are 2-1
After a win are 7-3

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Pittsburgh's last 5 games when playing Marquette
Pittsburgh is 19-5 SU in its last 24 games
The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Pittsburgh's last 12 games on the road
Pittsburgh is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Marquette's last 5 games when playing Pittsburgh
Marquette is 13-1 SU in its last 14 games at home
Marquette is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing Pittsburgh
Marquette is 17-6 SU in its last 23 games

Next up:
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, Thursday, February 21
Marquette at St. John's, Wednesday, February 20

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Overrated and underrated teams in college hoops this week
Covers.com

Here are his thoughts on the current most overrated and underrated teams in college hoops. 

Overrated

Indiana Hoosiers

The Hoosiers are currently second in the Big Ten and 13th in the AP Poll but there may not be team in the top 15 less tested than this one. Indiana’s strength of schedule is 10th in the 11-team Big Ten Conference. It has yet to beat a team currently in the top 25 and picked up just its first victory over a team with an RPI higher than 49 with Sunday’s win over Ohio State.

The Hoosiers’ three losses – at Xavier, at Wisconsin and at home versus Connecticut – have come against their three toughest foes. They just haven’t proven they can beat a good team. Indiana’s nine conference wins have come against teams with a combined conference record of 29-70.

The Hoosiers will get a true test over the next week when they take on Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State over the course of seven days.

Southern Illinois Salukis
The Salukis are one of those teams whose reputation exceeds its production this year. They have dominated the Missouri Valley Conference over the past few seasons, earning a No. 4 seed in last year’s NCAA Tourney. This is not the same Southern Illinois team, though.

The Salukis are just 12-12 SU on the season despite being favored in 19 of their 24 games. The oddsmakers have expected the Salukis of old but those Salukis have not showed up this year.

Road struggles have been the primary factor behind Southern Illinois’ poor record this season. The Salukis are just 1-9 SU and 2-8 ATS away from home this year, averaging just 54 points per game in those nine losses. Southern Illinois has made it to six consecutive NCAA Tournaments but it’s going to take a miracle to make it seven straight.

Pittsburgh Panthers
The Panthers stormed out to a 10-0 start behind an easy non-conference slate and moved to 11-0 following an upset of Duke at Madison Square Garden. Injuries then struck with starting guards Levance Fields and Mike Cook missing a substantial amount of time.

The season has unraveled for Pittsburgh since then with the Panthers going just 7-5 SU and 6-5 ATS. The oddsmakers haven’t seemed to take notice, though.

The absence of Fields and Cook has been amplified by Pitt’s road struggles. The Panthers are just 2-4 SU in their last six road games with their only wins coming against St. John’s and South Florida, which are a combined 5-17 in Big East play. Their struggles were even more evident in a 13-point home loss to 10-15 Rutgers as 18-point favorites. Yet Pittsburgh remains in the top 25.

Underrated

Purdue Boilermakers

Not much was expected of these Boilermakers as their youth and inexperience made them a prime candidate to break out next year. Nobody expected that breakout to come this season.

Purdue, 10-1 in Big Ten action and 19-5 overall, recently made its first appearance in the top 25 and has done so on the strength of a 10-game winning streak. The Boilers have covered 10 of their last 11 outings behind a group of players largely unheralded coming out of high school.

Their top four scorers, including three freshmen, are of sophomore or younger status. Most experts would expect a young team like Purdue to struggle on the road but that has not been the case. The Boilers are 6-1 ATS on the road this year and are fresh off an upset of Wisconsin in Madison, which is a nearly impossible venue to win in for visiting teams.

Maryland Terrapins
The ACC has been a two-horse race pretty much all season with Duke and North Carolina predictably taking up much of the conference headlines. Maryland has emerged recently, though, to steal some of those headlines.

The Terrapins sit just a game behind the Tar Heels with a 6-3 conference record following a four-game winning streak. Following a Dec. 22 home loss to American University, nobody expected Maryland to be much of a threat in the ACC. The Terrapins have used that unlikely loss as motivation, though, and have gone 10-2 SU and 8-2 ATS since, including an 82-80 upset of UNC.

Sophomore guard Greivis Vasquez and senior forward James Gist have led the charge, combining for 40 points, 14.3 rebounds and 10.1 assists per game over Maryland’s four-game winning streak.

Bradley Braves
Three weeks ago, the Braves were sitting at 1-5 in MVC action and 8-10 overall. Fast forward to the present day and Butler is 7-6 in conference action and 14-11 overall following a 6-1 SU stretch highlighted by six straight covers.

The Braves started the season covering just four of their first 14 games. They are currently riding a 7-2 ATS run and nobody has noticed. Drake has been the talk of the MVC all season long but nobody seems to remember the battle the Bulldogs got when they visited Bradley.

In its toughest conference game to date, Drake needed a last-second layup to pull off the win. Since that game, the Braves have gone 6-1 with an average margin of victory of 9.2 points per game.

Bradley is playing its best ball of the season right now and could be a legitimate threat to Drake come conference tourney time.

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(22) Pitt (19-5, 12-7 ATS) at Marquette (17-6, 9-9 ATS)

In search of its third straight victory, Pitt travels to Wisconsin to renew its rivalry with the Golden Eagles as these two square off in a rare Friday Big East matchup.

The Panthers got five 3-pointers and six assists from Ronald Ramon in Tuesday’s 82-63 rout of Providence, easily covering as an 8½-point home chalk. Ramon also hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer on Nov. 7 as Pitt beat West Virginia 55-54 at home, but failed to cover as a three-point chalk. The Panthers are 7-4 SU and ATS in Big East play, going 2-3 on the road in league play (3-2 ATS).

Marquette snapped a two-game losing skid with an 89-64 burial of Seton Hall on the highway Tuesday, cashing easily as a four-point favorite. The Golden Eagles won their first 12 home games this year before suffering an ugly 71-57 loss to Louisville on Feb. 4 as a three-point ‘dog. Marquette is 7-5 in the Big East (5-7 ATS), including 4-1 at home (1-4 ATS).

Pittsburgh lost both regular-season meetings with Marquette last season, falling 77-74 in overtime as an eight-point home favorite and 75-71 as a one-point road underdog. However, the Panthers got their revenge in the Big East tournament, eliminating the Golden Eagles with an 89-79 win as a 5½-point chalk.

Dating back to 2003, Marquette is 4-2 against Pitt (5-1 ATS), with the last three regular-season meetings decided by a total of nine points.

The Eagles are on ATS runs of 12-3-1 against teams with a winning road record, 4-1 on Fridays and 5-1 against teams with a winning overall record. Meanwhile, Pitt has thrived in Friday tip-offs, going 13-2-1 ATS in their last 16.

The Panthers are 3-1 ATS as an underdog this season, but Marquette is 5-1 ATS as a favorite of 12 points or fewer.

The under is 15-5 in the Panthers’ last 20 road games, 7-2 in their last nine Friday contests and 9-2 in their last 11 road games against teams with a home winning percentage better than .600. Conversely, Marquette has flown over the total in 20 of their last 28 Big East games, five of their last seven overall and five of their last seven on Friday. Also, the last six series meetings between these schools have soared over the posted price.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER

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BETTING TRENDS

BROWN BEARS 12-8

Brown is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games
Brown is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games on the road
Brown is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games when playing Pennsylvania
Brown is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games when playing Pennsylvania
Brown is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Pennsylvania
Brown is 1-11 SU in its last 12 games when playing on the road against Pennsylvania

PENNSYLVANIA QUAKERS 8-14

Pennsylvania is 8-15 SU in its last 23 games
Pennsylvania is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games at home
Pennsylvania is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games when playing Brown
Pennsylvania is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Brown
Pennsylvania is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games when playing at home against Brown
Pennsylvania is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games when playing at home against Brown


COLUMBIA LIONS 10-11

Columbia is 5-10 SU in its last 15 games on the road
Columbia is 1-3-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Dartmouth

DARTMOUTH BIG GREEN 8-12

Dartmouth is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games
Dartmouth is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
Dartmouth is 2-4-1 ATS in its last 7 games when playing at home against Columbia


CORNELL BIG RED 14-5

Cornell is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
Cornell is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games on the road
Cornell is 8-16 SU in its last 24 games when playing Harvard
Cornell is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing on the road against Harvard
Cornell is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Harvard

HARVARD CRIMSON 6-16

Harvard is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games
Harvard is 7-2 SU in its last 9 games at home
Harvard is 16-8 SU in its last 24 games when playing Cornell
Harvard is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games when playing at home against Cornell
Harvard is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Cornell

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Books don't adjust odds as Fields returns to Pitt lineup
Covers.com

Ever since the calendar flipped to 2008, it’s been a bad year for the Pitt Panthers. But it looks like things are about to get better.

On the night of Dec. 29, the Panthers were working on an undefeated season and were ranked No. 6 in the country when a dark cloud parked itself over western Pennsylvania and cast a big, money-sucking shadow over the University of Pittsburgh. That was the night Levance Fields – the Panthers’ point guard, assists leader and the engine behind the team – broke his foot.

The injury would keep Fields out of the lineup for six weeks, during which time the Panthers’ promising season steadily fell apart as Ronald Ramon moved to the point and Fields watched from the sidelines. Although the roster wasn’t lacking in talent, the 12 games without Fields resulted in a disappointing 8-4 record (7-4 ATS).

It could have been their missing point guard or it could have been the added intensity of the Big East schedule. Whatever the reason, Pittsburgh wasn’t the same solid bet it was in the early part of the season, but now there’s a ray of light in the Steel City and that dark cloud could finally be lifting.

Fields is set to return to the Panthers lineup for their matchup with Marquette on Friday night. From a long term perspective, that’s the best news the Panthers have heard all year. With Fields taking his spot at point guard, it means Ramon can move back to his natural shooting guard position and Keith Benjamin can move back into the frontcourt at small forward where freshman Gilbert Brown has been starting.

Sportsbooks have noted Fields’ return, but according to one prominent Las Vegas bookmaker, the point guard won’t make any difference in  Friday’s pointspread.

“Before the injury he was averaging impressive numbers,” says Chuck Esposito, the assistant vice president of Caesar’s Palace race and sports book, “but he’s going to have to split time (on Friday). Once he’s back in shape and into the swing, he’ll probably have an impact of two points (on the pointspread) but until he gets his stamina back and plays full-time, he won’t be a major impact.”

Caesar’s Palace opened the overnight line with Pitt as a 4-point underdog. Esposito says he doesn’t expect it to move significantly before tipoff.

Although Fields is a key player and he’s been cleared by doctors to play, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon says he’ll only see the floor for “limited minutes.”

That means they will probably be making multiple substitutions throughout the game and players like Ramon and Benjamin will be changing positions on the fly. That could cause a problem for the Panthers as they try to get reacquainted with Fields and find a rhythm on the floor – which could prove particularly difficult against a very good defensive team like Marquette.

“The Golden Eagles are going to press all over the court, which really forces the offense to be in rhythm,” says Covers Expert David Malinsky. “When your timing is off it can mean some bad passes in these situations, and all it takes is a couple of mistakes that lead to easy baskets to create a real hole, especially in front of the kind of crowd that they are going to have for this game.”

Marquette leads the Big East with 9.3 steals per game and they have had great success all season pressuring teams with a press defense. Normally that wouldn’t bother Pittsburgh. The Panthers have one of the better turnover margins in the league with 12 per game, but if Fields shows some rust or the other guards get out of synch, they could run into problems.

One factor that can’t be gauged is the emotional boost the Panthers could get from seeing Fields in uniform again. This is a young team that has been struggling in recent weeks, but with one of their best players back for an important nationally televised game, they may come out with a little extra energy in this road game.

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