Princeton Heavy Favorite To Win First-Ever Ivy League Tournament

princeton basketball

Friday, March 10, 2017 8:25 PM GMT

The Ivy League held out as long as it could but finally joins the modern era of college basketball this weekend as its first-ever conference tournament will be held at the storied Palestra in Philadelphia. Princeton is a heavy favorite to win it.

The Ivy League Tournament tips off at the Palestra in Philadelphia on Saturday and concludes Sunday with just the top four regular-season finishers qualifying. It's almost a shame that the Ivy League no longer hands out its automatic NCAA Tournament berth to the regular-season champion, but conference tournaments are part of college basketball in the 21st century and not going anywhere as they are big money-makers. Thus the 2015-16 Yale Bulldogs will represent the last team in the 63-year history of the conference to earn an automatic bid by winning the regular-season title.

The big loser this season because there's a tournament is Princeton. The Tigers finished 14-0 in conference play, joining the America East's Vermont as the only unbeaten team in conference play in 2016-17. The Tigers are on a 17-game winning streak overall and beat Big East team Seton Hall handily back in non-conference play. Princeton also nearly beat a very good Dayton team.

Princeton's Spencer Weisz was named Ivy League Player of the Year, Myles Stephens earned Defensive Player of the Year and Mitch Henderson was recognized as Coach of the Year. Weisz's 10.6 points ranked fourth on the team in scoring, but he led the club in rebounding (5.5) and assists (4.1).

The Tigers are -120 favorites on 5Dimes NCAA basketball odds to win the conference tournament, but they have a tricky opener with Penn (13-13, 6-8). I say tricky for two reasons: the Palestra is Penn's home gym and the Quakers enter having won six of eight. Princeton was 2-0 vs. Penn, winning 61-52 at home in the conference opener and 64-49 in Philly on Feb. 7. The teams have played 236 times overall, with the Tigers winning the last seven to set a school record.

The other Saturday semifinal features Harvard (18-9, 10-4) and Yale (17-10, 9-5). These rivals playing a one-game playoff-type situation isn't new. In 2015, the Crimson beat the Tigers 53-51 in a one-game playoff for the Ivy's regular-season title. This year, Harvard swept Yale 75-67 and 77-64 in two February contests. The Crimson are the +285 second-favorites to win the tournament. They are the least experienced team in the Ivy League and have the conference Rookie of the Year in Bryce Aiken.

Don't rule out the Ivy League winner giving a power league opponent trouble in the NCAA Tournament. Yale upset Baylor last year in the first round and then gave Duke all it could handle. Harvard nearly upset North Carolina in 2015 and beat Cincinnati in 2014.

NCAAB Free Picks: Princeton -5, Harvard -1.5

Best Lines Offered: BetOnline

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