Iona Heavy Chalk, Wrong Team Favored in Harvard-Princeton Clash?

Jay Pryce

Friday, February 23, 2018 1:22 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 23, 2018 1:22 PM UTC

Two intriguing mid-major rivalries are on national television (ESPNU) Friday night, as Ivy Leaguers Harvard and Princeton (-1) clash, while Manhattan crosses the Hudson to take on Iona (-7) in MAAC action. Picks and betting previews here.

Harvard at Princeton (-1)

Harvard (14-11 SU, 11-9 ATS) is back to ruling the Ivy League, tied atop the standings at 9-1 with Penn. It’s the Crimson’s best conference record since the 2014-15 season, in which they capped of a run of four NCAA Tournament bids in a span of five years.

Defense is Harvard’s bread-and-butter, ranking 46th in the country in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency rankings. It yields 61.8 points per game on 39.2 percent shooting against Ivy League opponents. The squad is best down low, swatting 14.1 percent of shots near the rim. Its 55.6 percent opponent success rate on attempts at the iron ranks 49th lowest nationally. Forward Chris Lewis (12.2 ppg) in the main shot-stopper underneath. The 6-foot-9 sophomore leads the conference with 1.7 blocks per game. Lewis is pretty dominant on offense, too:

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Chris Lewis throws it down! Harvard trails 50-38 #GoCrimson

— Harvard Basketball (@HarvardMBB) December 23, 2017

The main scoring threat, however, is sophomore Seth Towns. He leads Harvard with 15.8 points per game. In league play, the figure jumps to a conference-high 19.7 per contest.

Princeton (11-14 SU, 7-14 ATS) is sinking fast, losing and failing to cover the spread in six straight. It’s the Tigers’ worst Ivy League skid since a nine-game losing run a decade ago.

The defense hit a wall after a 76-73 home victory over Yale on Feb. 2. Since, the Tigers are yielding a 51.0 opponent field-goal percentage, surrendering 78.5 points per game in regulation time. Most of the damage is coming from the perimeter, with foes draining 43.0 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Since Mitch Henderson assumed head coaching duties at Princeton, the Tigers are just 1-7 ATS in this series when favored or catching less than a 3-pointer on the NCAAB oddsboard. The offense comes up short continually, averaging 40.7 percent from the floor. This is one of the better Harvard defenses yet. The Crimson shut down the Tigers' attack in a 66-51 win on Feb. 9. Moreover, it’s tough to envision Princeton shoring up its porous defense against the Ivy League leader. The market numbers project neither team gets out of the 60-point range, but don’t be shocked to see the Crimson put up 70-plus. Harvard money line is the pick.

Free NCAAB Pick: Harvard MLBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Manhattan at Iona (-7)

Manhattan (13-15 SU, 15-11 ATS) has won just four of its last 24 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference matchups as underdogs. It has covered the spread in only 11 of the contests. The Jaspers are catching 7 points at Iona (16-12 SU, 10-12 ATS).

Offense is the weak link this year for head coach Steve Masiello. Manhattan is shooting just 43.2 percent in MAAC play, positing 69.9 points per game. On the road, the numbers slide to 41.4 and 68.9, respectively.

The Gaels, meanwhile, have no problems scoring points. Their 79.5 points per game and 46.1 percent field-goal rate rank third highest in the conference. Coach Tim Cluess runs a fast-paced, wheel-motion offense that generates plenty of passing, assists, and open looks. Four players average double figures in points: Rickey McGill (13.5), E.J. Crawford (12.9), Deyshonee Much (11.5) and Roland Griffin (10.7). Iona puts up 77.8 per contest hosting MAAC opponents at Hynes Athletic Center.

Manhattan has dropped the last five games in the local rivalry, failing to reach its projected team total in all but one. The Jaspers average 62.4 points per game in this span, losing by double digits in each. The offense, ranking 271st in adjusted efficiency this season, doesn’t have the firepower to challenge yet again. Iona wins 77-67. Lay the 7 points with the Gaels.

Free NCAAB Pick: IonaBest Line Offered: Bookmaker

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