Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday February 15

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday February 15

CHRIS JORDAN

Big road trip for the Columbia Lions this weekend, as they look to build upon their huge victory over first-place Harvard. It begins tonight with Brown in Providence, R.I., and concludes in New Haven, Connecticut at Yale.

I'll take the Lions as my free play tonight.

Upon handing Harvard its first Ivy League loss of the season last Sunday, Columbia (10-10, 24 Ivy) also snapped a four-game losing streak. Steve Frankoski poured in 27 points to pace the Lions’ attack, as he shot better than 50 percent from the floor, including 9 of 17 from 3-point range. What was most impressive to me is after a tightly contested first half, it was Columbia that pulled away and eventually led by as many as 20 points in the second half and bring the Crimson’s seven-game win streak over the Lions to an abrupt halt.

Brown (8-12, 2-4), meanwhile, dropped a pair of decisions at Princeton and Penn last weekend and are now mired in a three-game losing streak.

That won't bode well against Columbia, which is at home, and does a very good job taking care of the ball, averaging just 10.1 turnovers per game, which is the fifth fewest in the nation. Plus, the Lions' 1.35 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks them 17th nationally. You can expect an extremely intense effort from Columbia, forcing pressure on the ball, and keeping the Bears on their heels.

Columbia has covered six of the last eight meetings, and I propose it will tonight.

1* COLUMBIA

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday February 15

CRAIG DAVIS

Friday night free play is Yale at home over Cornell.

Though this game means very little to most of the college basketball world, this is a very big matchup at the John J. Lee Amphitheater tonight when two 3-3 conference teams square off in hopes of keeping pace with Harvard and Princeton for Ivy League supremacy.

Yale hosts Cornell, and despite the Big Red having the advantage in overall record, Yale is tough to beat at home. The 'Dogs check in at 9-14 overall but do sport an 8-6 ATS record on the year.

Cornell is 11-12 overall and have played .500 basketball against the number.

Recently released college basketball power rankings indicate the Bulldogs have a decided advantage in a number of categories, including overall rank (161 vs. 300).

Cornell has struggled with teams that aren't afraid to pound the ball inside, and as long as Yale big men are not afraid to take the ball to the cup as they have in the past, they should have no problem wearing down a Cornell team that allows over 70 PPG on the road.

That bodes well for Yale, who ranks 61st in the nation in scoring offense at home at a little over 69 PPG.

Cornell will likely come in a little over-confident after their 79-56 win over Dartmouth last week. If Yale does what they normally do at home vs. Cornell (win and cover), I see a Bulldog victory, 74-63.

2* YALE

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday February 15

SCOTT DELANEY

So let's get to the free pick for tonight, as I like Cornell getting it done over Yale.

And forget about Cornell catching points in general, I want to know why it's catching so many?

The Big Red (11-12, 3-3 Ivy) has a big opportunity to separate itself from the pack as it heads to New England for this weekend's contests, at Yale and Brown. Albeit, all three teams are within a game of each other in the Ivy League standings, with Cornell and Yale tied for third, two games behind Harvard.

I can't believe a game like this has such big number, especially when Cornell has won seven of its last 11 games, and knowing behind its dangerous offense a sweep of the two road games - where Cornell has had recent success - would make a statement and get this team above .500 for the season. Cornell is 5-1 in its last six road contests with its only loss at Princeton.

In Cornell's 11 wins, it has scored 77.4 points per game on a respectable 49 percent shooting. In its losses, it's averaging just 56.2 points on 38 percent shooting. It also has a positive assist-turnover ratio and has limited opponents to 40 percent shooting in the victories. And that pressure defense has generally been a constant, and quite frankly, when the offense is clicking, Cornell is tough to beat

Big Red is 23-2 when scoring 70 or more points under coach Bill Courtney's watch.

Yale (5-14, 3-3 Ivy) is about to have its hands full, even on its own court. And even if the Bulldogs come away with the win, they're not going to cover this number. After all, Cornell has won 10 of the last 14 meetings in this series.

Take the road pup in this one.

3* CORNELL

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday February 15

BRAD WILTON

Friday's comp play will be the Jaspars plus the points at home against the Gaels.

Iona is the owner of a 15-10 record, but I think they are in trouble in this MAAC battle, as the Jaspars have been in a groove of late, winning their last 3 and 4 of their last 5 both straight up and against the spread.

The Jaspars have played their most competitive basketball at home, as their 5-2 spread mark indicates, and they are facing an Iona team that has failed 10 of their 15 lined road games to date.

Iona has lost 3 of their last 4 straight up, and the Gaels are just 2-3-1 against the spread the last 6 series meetings.

Manhattan to spring the small upset at home.

1* MANHATTAN

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday February 15

BRETT ATKINS

Yes, I'm taking the home underdog here, as I'm not worried one bit with Marist welcoming first-place Niagara to the McCann Arena tonight in a nationally broadcasted game on the ESPN family.

See, the Purple Eagles come into tonight's contest on a three game slide, while Marist has been a winner in each of its last two games.

And the Red Foxes will be looking to exact a bit of revenge, as Marist lost to the Purple Eagles, 94-72, at Niagara back on Jan. 3. And it was an ice-cold start to the game that put Marist in a deficit it would never be able to overcome versus the high-scoring Purple Eagles.

Tonight that won't be the case, as the Red Foxes are at home on a Friday night, and they're going to be feeding off the crowd and will be on fire.

Marist is on an ATS win streak of 4-1 against winning teams and 11-4 when hosting teams that can't seem to get it done while toting an overnight bag. Plus, the home team has covered five of the last six meetings.

Take the Red Foxes here, you won't be sorry.

2* MARIST

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday February 15

JEFF BENTON

5 straight freebie winners as Miami downs Oklahoma City last night.

Tonight's freebie is the Red Foxes of Marist as the home underdog against Niagara.

The Purple Eagles may own the better record for the season, and they do own the double-digit win and cover in the first meeting of the season between the schools, but right now Niagara is in the midst of a three game straight up and against the spread losing streak, while Marist comes into this home game having won and covered their last pair.

Niagara may very well win this game, but at 5-8 against the spread on the road this season, I simply do not have any confidence in them tonight asking them to cover over a basket away from home, especially when they are saddled with a three game losing streak.

The home team in this series has won three in a row, and right of the last ten.

Back Marist as the live underdog tonight.

2* MARIST

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Friday February 15

DAVID BANKS

Cincinnati Bearcats -3.5

With the NBA on its All-Star break, the Big East looks to take advantage with a rare Friday night game as the 15th ranked Georgetown Hoyas (18-4, 11-7 ATS) take on the Cincinnati Bearcats (19-6, 10-11 ATS) at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati at 9:00 ET on ESPN. The very young Hoyas, who start five underclassmen, have exceeded some expectations this season by playing some vintage Georgetown defense, and they come in riding a six-game winning streak. Cincinnati also has fine defensive numbers, but the Bearcats have been more erratic while going 7-5 in Big East play after going 12-1 while losing only to New Mexico out of conference.

Georgetown is ranked 15th on the AP poll but 26th on the Pomeroy Ratings, where the Hoyas are held back by ranking 102nd in offensive efficiency. However, their defense can stop anyone as they rank seventh in defensive efficiency and 14th in effective field goal percentage against. That defense alone has practically carried Georgetown to its 18-4 record, and besides one bad loss at South Florida, the other there losses came to Indiana in overtime, Marquette on the road and to underrated Pittsburgh at home. The Hoyas avenged the Marquette loss by beating the Golden Eagles 63-55 on Monday and the current six-game win streak includes a big home win over Louisville and a 16-point road win at Norte Dame, which is never an easy place to play. Now Georgetown is not a terrible shooting team, ranking 71st in effective field goal percentage and 44th in two-point shooting at 51.2 percent, but its offensive efficiency is dragged down by ranking 205th in offensive rebounding percentage and it is not a good foul shooting team at 66.5 percent. Still, the defense is good enough to overcome that vs. teams that do not have explosive offenses, and Cincinnati certainly does not.

In fact, the Bearcats are mirror images of Georgetown stylistically but they are actually a worse shooting team. Cincinnati is ranked eighth in the country in defensive efficiency and ninth in field goal percentage against, although it has not been as good since conference play started, ranking only eighth in field goal percentage against during Big East games. However, while the Bearcats rank 76th in offensive efficiency they are just 202nd in effective field goal percentage, 217th in two-point shooting and 197th in three-point shooting. The reason Cincinnati ranks higher than Georgetown in offensive efficiency is because the Bearcats are an excellent offensive rebounding team ranking 10th in the nation in that category. Cincinnati has also won the last four head-to-head meetings, but that could work against the Bearcats here as the Hoyas now have the talent to gets some much needed revenge.

Cincinnati is a small favorite here, and the underdogs are 5-2 ATS in the last seven head-to-head meetings. Cincinnati is also 1-7 ATS in its last eight home games and 2-6 ATS in its last eight games following a straight up win. Sometimes you have to say the HELL with trends.

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