Tournament Picks: Grab The Underdog Yale Against Baylor

Jason Lake

Monday, March 14, 2016 7:26 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 14, 2016 7:26 PM UTC

It's the 5-12 matchup everyone's talking about: The No. 5 Baylor Bears face the No. 12 Yale Bulldogs on Thursday, and the basketball odds are tilted too far toward Baylor.

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Jason's 2015-16 record as of Mar. 14: 18-12 ATS, 1-2 Totals

Well, look what we have here. It's a classic March Madness bracket buster: The No. 5 Baylor Bears (22-11 SU, 12-14-1 ATS), who didn't accomplish much in the Big 12 this year, are matched up with the No. 12 Yale Bulldogs (22-6 SU, 11-6-2 ATS), champions of the Ivy League, in the first round of the West Region. Tip-off is Thursday at 2:45 p.m. Eastern on CBS. Can you guess which team will be going in our NCAA Tournament picks?

Yeah, you're probably right. But let's give this game its due diligence first. Baylor opened as a 5.5-point favorite on the NCAA basketball odds, then moved up to –6 before dropping back down to –5.5. Our consensus reports show nearly two-thirds of early bettors on the Bears, which seems strange. Are they really the sharp pick in this matchup?

Bear Down
The numbers don't seem to think so. Our friendly friends at FiveThirtyEight have Yale projected to win this game 39 percent of the time, which works out to a shade higher than Yale +3.5. How about Sports-Reference? The Bears (+17.05 SRS) and the Bulldogs (+8.62 SRS) have a much bigger gap between them according to Simple Rating System, almost 8.5 points. Apparently the market is splitting the difference.

Let's bring Ken Pomeroy in to help negotiate this impasse. He's big on the Bulldogs, ranking them No. 38 overall (No. 92 offense, No. 21 defense) in Division I. Meanwhile, S-R has Yale pegged at No. 75 overall according to SRS. Playing in a softer conference appears to be skewing the SRS numbers pretty heavily, which we also saw in the Duke-UNCW matchup. Both Pomeroy and S-R appear to be in agreement on Baylor, at No. 24 (No. 13 offense, No. 72 defense) and No. 23 on their respective rankings.


Four Eyes Are Better Than Two
From a traditional market-based perspective, the Bulldogs certainly look like the right pick. Recreational bettors are inclined to over-value teams from the major conferences, while treating anyone from the Ivy League like that nerdy kid in the schoolyard who always gets picked last. Nerds can ball, too.

Having said that, it's not like the Bears have been mailing it in. They're 6-2 ATS in their last eight games, and they gave the Kansas Jayhawks a good scare in the Big 12 tourney before losing 70-66 as 7-point puppies. They'll also be motivated after coughing up a big lead and losing to the Georgia State Panthers (+9.5) 57-56 in last year's opening round. Baylor might not be an ideal No. 5 for our purposes, but we'll go ahead and give Yale our seal of approval for a small wager. May the sphere be with you.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Yale +6
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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