Yale Bulldogs vs. Princeton Tigers Pick 2/14/20
Yale Bulldogs (17-5 SU, 15-5 ATS) vs. Princeton Tigers (10-9 SU, 10-8 ATS)
When: Friday, February 14, 7 p.m
Where: Jadwin Gym, Princeton, N.J.
TV: ESPN News
Point Spread: YALE -4.5/PRIN +4.5 (Best Basketball Lines)
Total: O/U 137
Last Time Out:
Yale routed Dartmouth 75-57; Princeton defeated Columbia 81-74
Scouting the Bulldogs:
The scary thing about Yale is that the Bulldogs might be even better next year — but this year’s team is already pretty darn good. The Bulldogs might have their best squad ever, in part because of two junior scorers in forward Paul Atkinson and guard Azar Swain and their rebounding ace, senior Jordan Bruner. This is a well-coached, experienced team that has proven it can play with some quality opponents, as four of its five losses were road games at bigger opponents (Penn State, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, and San Francisco), and the Bulldogs’ five defeats have come by a total of 18 points. If Yale can get to the NCAA tournament — and that’s still far from a sure thing, it’s going to be a team that absolutely nobody wants to be paired with in the first round.
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Scouting the Tigers:
Patience, thy name is Princeton. The Tigers are one of just a few schools to attempt fewer than 1100 shots this season, and given that they’ve played 19 games, that works out to just over 55 shots per game. To put that in perspective, West Virginia missed 52 shots last week when it played Oklahoma. So yeah, Princeton is going to take its time with its offense, and when the Tigers do try to make a move, they’ll likely be trying to work the ball inside to Richmond Aririguzoh, a 6-foot-9 center who has scored in double figures in each of Princeton’s past four games.
However, the Tigers have yet to go up against a squad of Yale’s caliber in Ivy League play, and for all of Arirguzoh’s scoring, he’s done all of it against the four weakest squads in the conference. This will be the biggest test Princeton has faced since back-to-back games with Pennsylvania, and it remains to be seen if they can stand up to what Yale has on defense.
The Ivy race. The Ivy League used to be the only league that didn’t play a conference tournament. However, their race still matters because the league uses a hybrid format where only the top four teams actually qualify. That means that getting the top seed is critical because you’re going to be facing the weakest opponent in the field first and then only need to knock off one of the top three squads in the conference to win the title. For Yale, this is going to be a pressure-filled weekend, as it’s got to follow the Princeton trip with a game at Pennsylvania on Saturday, thanks to the Ivy League’s policy of only playing conference games on Fridays and Saturdays (because they actually take their academics seriously in the Ivy League). The schedule isn’t a picnic for Princeton, either: fourth-place Brown comes to Jadwin Gym on Saturday.
Yale will Cover if:
The Bulldogs can get the job done on the glass. Aririguzoh is the only real rebounder that Princeton has, and the Tigers usually don’t do all that well on the glass as a result. Because of that, Yale has the ability to pound away at Princeton’s interior, exactly like Cornell did with Jimmy Boeheim (yes, the son of the Syracuse coach) when the Big Red easily beat the Tigers. Boeheim scored 24 points that game, and he doesn’t have the power that Atkinson does inside, so if Boeheim can control the game like that, Atkinson could have a field day.
Princeton will Cover if:
The Tigers can hit the good shots when they come. Yale’s defense is no joke, and the Bulldogs seldom give up more than 71 points. Harvard was only able to do enough to knock off Yale because the Crimson shot 54 percent from the floor and took advantage of the few holes in the Bulldogs’ defense. Princeton has to be patient and take its opportunities when they come.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
This game really could be a race to 50, because these two teams will not shoot the ball until they absolutely have a good look at the basket. That’s why both sides rank in the top 35 in the nation in shooting percentage, as it’s a lot easier to shoot a good percentage when you never take any bad shots. But it also means a lot of low-scoring games, as Yale ranks 319th in field goals attempted and Princeton shoots fewer attempts than anyone but Iona.
That means the under looks like a very solid play, and I’m going to have to take the Bulldogs to cover in this one. Yale has too much talent to fall behind in the race for the Ivy League’s one and only bid, and I think they’ve got the players down low to match up with Princeton.
Plus, Yale has been one of the best covers in the country this season, ranking third in the nation ATS behind only North Florida and South Dakota State. That’s more than enough data for me. Give me the Bulldogs for the cover.
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