Friday’s college basketball board is a bit short on quantity, but we'll try to tease a couple of winners out of the woodwork nonetheless. As always, take our free picks for what you think they're worth.
Harvard +6 at Princeton (7 pm ET, ESPNU)
In a game that will help decide who earns the Ivy League's automatic bid into the upcoming NCAA tournament the first-place Crimson battle the second-place Tigers in New Jersey.
These two teams began this season as the two most likely suspects to win the Ivy, and that's exactly how things have played out.
Harvard, with three starters back from last year's conference championship team, went 9-6 through its non-conference slate, with wins over Boston College and Cal and tough losses to UConn, St. Mary's and Memphis. The Crimson have since gone 9-1 in league play, the only loss coming in an upset at Columbia three weeks ago. Last time out last Saturday Harvard shot 54 percent from the floor in beating Yale 72-66.
Princeton, meanwhile, had four starters back from a team that finished third in the Ivy League last year. The Tigers went 7-7 through their non-con slate, although six of those losses, including one to a pretty good Akron team, could be considered close. Princeton since has gone 7-2 in league play.
So the Crimson lead the Ivy League by a game and a half over the Tigers, and own the head-to-head tie-breaker. With just three games to go in this regular season Friday night's game means a ton as far as a post-season berth goes.
In the first meeting this season between these teams Harvard topped Princeton 69-57 up in Boston back on Feb. 16. The Crimson shot 48 percent that night, held the Tigers to 40 percent shooting and covered the spread as 1.5-point favorites.
Harvard has the overall better record, owns first place and has already beaten Princeton this season. So we're a bit surprised the spread on this game isn't a little tighter. But for the first of our NCAA Basketball picks, we expect the Tigers to come out in desperation mode as they try to stay alive in the Ivy League race.
Free College Basketball Pick: Take the Tigers at the -5.5 points offered at Pinnacle.
Loyola (Md.) +5.5 at Iona (7 pm ET, ESPN2)
The Greyhounds will try to stay within a sniff of first place in the MAAC when they take on the Gaels in New Rochelle.
These two teams were considered the top two contenders for the Metro Atlantic crown before this season started, but while Loyola has held up its end, Iona has faltered lately.
The 'Hounds started 9-3 this season, and have gone 11-5 in conference play. Loyola has won three games in a row and five of its last six, after its 69-67 victory at East Tennessee last Saturday. So the 'Hounds sit just a half-game back of first-place Niagara in the MAAC.
Defending league champion Iona, meanwhile, beat a couple of major conference teams early this season (Wake Forest and Georgia), and got to 14-6 in late January. But suddenly the Gaels have lost six of their last seven games, including their last three in a row, after falling at Indiana State last Saturday 65-64. However, of those last six losses, three came in overtime (two in double-OT), and the other three came by three, two and one point(s). So Iona has been riding a wave of tough luck lately.
In the first meeting between these two teams this season the Gaels went into Baltimore and beat the Greyhounds 79-71 back in late January. Iona shot 48 percent from the floor that day, held Loyola to less than 40 percent shooting, and won the game outright as 1.5-point dogs. Tonight, NCAA Basketball odds makers have listed them as favorites.
Iona's state of mind might be a little shaky, what with losing all those close games recently, but this is still a decent team that might yet have a MAAC tournament run in its future. Maybe the Gaels can turn their luck around starting Friday night.
Joe Freda has already posted a free pick in favor of Iona at -5.5 at 5Dimes, but I like the 5 points we are getting at Bookmaker.
Free College Basketball Pick: Take Iona at the -5 points offered at Bookmaker.