Editor’s Note: This recurring series is written by Billy Costigan.
Welcome back fans! I hope you’re fired up for some action this weekend, because it’s…TOURNAMENT TIME! That’s right folks, May Madness is here as the 16 team (18 if you count the two opening round play-in games) NCAA 2022 Men’s Lacrosse Championship Tournament kicks off Saturday.
Week 13 Recap
Conference Championship Week (Week 13) gave us some great games of lacrosse to watch as well as 10 conference champions who earned themselves at least one more game. Georgetown, Penn, Maryland, St.Joseph’s, Boston U, and Richmond all guaranteed a spot in the 8 first round games of the NCAA tournament this weekend for winning their respective conferences. While Vermont, Robert Morris, Delaware, and Manhattan being the four lowest ranked conference champions by the selection committee each earned an opening round or “play-in” game to make the first round of 8 games on the bracket.
Last week’s picks from my article went 6 – 2 with the only two losses being Rutgers +5.5 against Maryland (guess that train was too big to step in front of) and BU -1.5 against Lehigh. Luckily we did get a win with BU on the moneyline in one of our 6 wins as they defeated Lehigh 13-12 to cash the moneyline but failed to cover the spread by just a half point.
Another personal highlight of last week was that I was able to attend the Ivy League Tournament at Brown University in Providence for both the semi-final games on Friday and the championship on Sunday. The tournament was great and again showed how much parody there is in the Ivy League. While I wouldn’t count out solid squads like Cornell and Brown, both those higher seeds fell in the semis and then Penn took the championship over Yale. It’s always a treat to experience such high level lacrosse right before your own eyes.
The Ivy League Tournament was also an interesting betting event as Penn and Yale both opened as underdogs for the semi-finals opening lines, but the lines moved and both those teams closed as betting favorites before going on to win the games. Whenever you see line movement driving a team all the way from underdog to favorite, that’s worth looking into. You want to try to figure out factors which drove the move. Was it public betting bias, did one team’s fans have more access to legal betting in their state to sway the bet and dollar counts, is there new information like an injury or suspension, did a sharp bettor move the line with a wager, or did the sportsbook change their mind and now is suggesting a different outcome? Like we’ve talked about before, as with most things in sports betting it was probably a combination of multiple factors. However the more you can identify and evaluate the reasoning for the line move, the more you can effectively use that line move to help pick a winning wager.
Week 14 Report
Now let’s dive into the NCAA tournament which if you’re like me you’ve been waiting for since last year’s thriller of a title game between Maryland and Virginia ended last Memorial Day afternoon.
As mentioned earlier the first 2 opening round games of the tournament are technically play-in games for the right to make the actual 8 first round games of the tournament and final field of 16 teams. These 2 play-in games took place on Wednesday and saw Vermont (-7.5) defeat Manhattan 15-3 as well as Delaware (-2.5) beat Robert Morris 20-8. So Vermont and Delaware now fill in the final two spots on the tournament bracket of 16 teams to participate in 8 first round games this weekend.
Now let’s take a look at this weekend’s games. A few disclaimers for this next section. First of all I am going to provide the lines that Draftkings Sportsbook posted and I had access to in New Hampshire before writing this article, lines move and change between books and as time goes on. Also I wrote my breakdown or preview for each of this weekend’s games, choosing a bet (a wager I’m confident definitely putting money on) or a lean (a wager that I might really like and may choose to bet later but am not fully confident putting money on now, like a suggestion). You can find my bet or lean for each game listed as the “pick” underneath. This however does not mean you must bet on all 8 games. It’s perfectly okay to bet on any amount you feel comfortable with and strong about or choose to practice bet on paper and just enjoy the games. Also you can note the differences between a teams seeding number from the NCAA bracket ( # ) or their ranking from the latest Inside Lacrosse National Top 20 ( nationally) when teams are first mentioned.
Saturday 12pm #5 Princeton -3.5 (+105) ML -330 vs Boston University +3.5 (-135) ML +240
Over 26.5 (-115) / Under 26.5 (-115)
The first game of round 1 gives us the 5th seed (9th nationally) Princeton vs Patriot League Champion (12th nationally) Boston University. The Tigers of Princeton did defeat the BU Terriers 12-7 on April 9th. Traditionally the Ivy is also much stronger competition than the Patriot League. This shows as Princeton outranks BU in both strength of schedule and record according to Lacrosse Reference. However the Patriot League has been growing stronger in recent years and BU has gained more experience since last seeing Princeton. While Princeton has the higher ranked offense, BU holds the edge in defensive ranking according to Lacrosse Reference as well as faceoffs. Both teams are neck in neck close to each other in ground balls and caused turnovers per game nationally. Princeton with their higher ranked offense also holds the lead in man up offense over BU while BU’s higher ranked defense has better man down numbers. Five or ten years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about picking the Ivy League team in this matchup. However, given how close these teams look I’m willing to take a shot on the up and coming Patriot League, BU plus the points isn’t looking so bad. Hopefully this chance is one I don’t regret and BU can at least keep it close.
Pick: BET Boston University +3.5 (-135)
Saturday 2:30pm #3 Penn -3.5 (-105) ML -370 vs Richmond +3.5 (-125) ML +260
Over 24.5 (-120) / Under 24.5 (-110)
For the 2nd game in Saturday’s action we have the Ivy League Champion #3 seed (3rd nationally) vs Southern Conference Champion (#15 nationally) Richmond. While I love new lacrosse programs developing and finding success as it’s great for the sport, I’m not so sure about the younger program’s chances against an Ivy here as I was with BU. Richmond’s Southern Conference is not yet as strong as the Patriot League and they arguably have a tougher Ivy opponent with Penn. Richmond does actually have the higher ranked offense and defense according to Lacrosse Reference but I question the level of competition Richmond got those numbers against. Penn has played great competition ranking 4th in strength of record and 2nd in strength of schedule according to Lacrosse Reference. While this could be closer than I’m thinking, I saw Penn play in person last week and their amazing level of energy. I’m going to lean Penn to cover the spread.
Pick: LEAN Penn -3.5 (-105)
Saturday 5pm #4 Yale -3.5 (-115) ML -400 vs St. Joseph’s +3.5 (-115) ML +280
Over 27.5 (+100) / Under (-130)
This game between #4 seed (6th nationally) Yale and Northeast Conference Champion (#18 nationally) St. Joe’s has me absolutely fired up to watch. I have watched a ton of both these teams this year and previous years. Obviously Yale holds the edge in strength of record and schedule playing in the Ivy league and they also have the higher ranked offense according to Lacrosse Reference. St. Joe’s has the higher ranked defense though. For what it’s worth Yale lost to Penn State 10-6 while St. Joe’s defeated Penn State 15-13, although PSU isn’t the toughest competition. Also I watched St. Joe’s lose to their only regular season Ivy League opponent Penn by just one goal in overtime. But I can tell you that St. Joe’s was well in control for the large majority of that game and if not for a late rebound goal by Penn to tie it, St. Joe’s would have taken the win in regulation. Given that St. Joe’s could keep it within one goal (and in my opinion should have won outright) against Penn, who just beat Yale 16-9 in the Ivy Championship, I’ll take the Hawks to not lose by more than 3 against Yale.
Pick: BET St. Joseph’s +3.5 (-115)
Saturday 7:30pm #8 Brown +2.5 (-105) ML +185 vs Virginia -2.5 (-125) ML -245
Over 26.5 (-115) / Under 26.5 (-115)
To cap off Saturday’s action #8 seed (7th nationally) Brown hosts Atlantic Coast Conference Co-Champion (#5 nationally) Virginia. According to Lacrosse Reference, Virginia has the higher ranked offense and Brown the higher ranked defense. Brown has a stronger strength of schedule while Virginia leads in RPI and strength of record. Virginia also leads Brown significantly in caused turnovers per game (14th – 9.14 vs 45th – 7.33), ground balls per game (1st – 39.14 vs 52nd – 29.07), and team faceoff win percentage (12th 56.6% vs 40th 49.2%). For common opponents both teams crushed Quinnipiac but Brown lost to UNC 14-11 while Virginia beat UNC twice by 15-11 and 11-4. As with most Ivys Brown is a formidable opponent but I have to go with the two-time defending national champion Virginia here. I could see this being a close battle for a good chunk of the game but I am counting on the Lars Tiffany led Virginia squad with lots of playoff experience to pull away by at least a few before time expires.
Pick: BET Virginia -2.5 (-125)
Sunday 12pm #1 Maryland -8.5 (-120) ML N/A vs Vermont +8.5 (-110) ML N/A
Over 25.5 (-135) / Under 25.5 (+105)
Starting off Sunday’s action for the 2nd half of round 1, we have undefeated Big Ten Champion #1 seed (#1 nationally) Maryland vs America East Conference (unranked) Vermont. It was a great achievement for Vermont to win their conference and play-in game to be in this situation. While Vermont may have a slight lead in caused turnovers per game and defensive ranking according to Lacrosse Reference, Maryland leads in almost every other category. Faceoffs are one area though where Vermont is neck and neck with Maryland so that is one glimmer of hope for the Catamounts. Furthermore, even where Vermont leads they put up those numbers against the 29th ranked strength of record and 47th ranked strength of schedule vs Maryland’s 1st ranked strength of record and 5th ranked strength of schedule. Maryland also had a half dozen wins against ranked opponents while Vermont had zero (in relation to last week’s Inside Lacrosse Top 20 poll). While personally without a bet on the game I would take no joy in watching Maryland crush Vermont, it’s a no brainer if you’re going to bet this one you have to go with Maryland to cover as no moneyline is available and if it were it would be to big a minus price (or you could consider a play on the total of 25.5).
Pick: BET Maryland -8.5 (-120)
Sunday 2:30pm #7 Cornell -1.5 (+115) ML -120 vs Ohio State University +1.5 (-145) ML -110
Over 25.5 (-115) / Under 25.5 (-115)
In Sunday’s 2nd game we have #7 seed (#10 nationally) Cornell vs (#11 nationally) Ohio State University. Both these teams faced strong competitions this year with Cornell having the 13th strongest schedule and OSU the 12th. Again I don’t want to count an Ivy like Cornell out, but I am taking a strong look at backing OSU. The Buckeyes outrank the Big Red in offense, defense, and roster depth according to Lacrosse Reference. Cornell does lead OSU in caused turnovers and ground balls but OSU has the edge in clearing and faceoff percentages, man up and man down special teams, as well as turnovers given up per game. Cornell did take the regular season matchup in a 14-11 win but that was back on March 5th. I don’t see why OSU can’t keep it within 1 goal here or maybe even win outright (notice as a moneyline dog they are still -110 and not plus money which helps signal they have a shot), but I’ll play it safe with the Buckeyes plus the points.
Pick: BET Ohio State University +1.5 (-145)
Sunday 5pm #6 Rutgers -2.5 (-140) ML -290 vs Harvard +2.5 (+110) ML +215
Over 25.5 (-120) / Under 25.5 (-110)
Here we have #6 seed (#8 nationally) Rutgers hosting (#14 nationally) Harvard. To be honest Harvard is the Ivy I thought might have been left out of this tournament (was expecting Notre Dame to get in). Rutgers on the other hand was very high in the national rankings most of the season only losing to Maryland twice and Princeton (who Harvard actually beat). Yet Rutgers did beat Ohio State 18-7 who Harvard had lost to 17-12. This game is a tough one to call and becomes a question of is Big 10 Rutgers really as much better as they appear this year or is Harvard battlen sharpened enough from Ivy League play to prevail? In this case I’m going to be inclined to lean with the dog and the points, possibly might dig more into a look at the total of 24.5 as well.
Pick: LEAN Harvard +2.5 (+110)
Sunday 7:30pm #2 Georgetown -6.5 (-120) ML N/A vs Delaware +6.5 (-110) ML N/A
Over 24.5 (-130) / Under 24.5 (+100)
Closing out the weekend and round 1 is #2 seed (#2 nationally) Georgetown hosting (unranked) Colonial Athletic Association Champion Delaware. Not to be too chalky but there isn’t really much to debate here, it’s pretty much Georgetown to cover the huge -6.5 goal spread or pass. Georgetown has played significantly tougher competition all year and flourished doing so, becoming a force to be reckoned with. Georgetown also leads Delaware in pretty much every statistic I usually look at. The Blue Hens did well to win their conference and play-in game just to be here, but this is most likely the end of the road for them. Keep it simple and side with Georgetown.
Pick: BET Georgetown -6.5 (-120)
Sport Betting Tips & Conclusion
So there it is, previews for all 8 first round NCAA tournament games this weekend!
Remember the book puts lines up on all the games and I previewed them all with bets or leans, but that does not mean you have to have a wager on all 8 games. Every time you place another bet you’re taking on more risk. Keep in mind the bankroll management strategies we’ve discussed previously to keep yourself within your means.
Also don’t forget you want to build such a strong case (made up of multiple factors) for a bet before placing it, that you feel very confident and would still feel good about the bet you made if it loses. The statistics on the NCAA website as well as the website Lacrosse Reference are great resources and it’s also important to watch as many games as you possibly can (even replays you already know the outcome of).
I hope that you’ve been enjoying lacrosse betting this NCAA season, let’s cap it off with a great May!
Be sure to check out my twitter for more updates and plays throughout the weekend and as always my DM’s are open with any questions you may have about lacrosse or sports betting @bCostigan84.
Best of luck and let’s cash some bets!