Last Tuesday's MAC action started off so promising in terms of wagering . I was looking dead set on going 2-0 with my free picks, until disaster struck and the Ohio Bobcats forgot how to play defense and score the basketball. Ohio held a 19-point advantage at one point in the first half before allowing Western Michigan to pull to within six at the break. From there, it was all Broncos as they poured in 52 second-half points en route to a five-point win. To make matters worse, the late game followed a similar script. Northern Illinois held a 14-point half time lead before allowing Akron to roar back and eek out a three-point victory. A push isn't the worst thing in the world, but in this case, it feels like a loss.
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Tomorrow's "MACtion" features all 12 teams in action. The game everyone is looking forward to takes place at the James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron, Ohio, between the first-place Akron Zips and the first-place Ball State Cardinals. Both team lead their respective divisions but are coming off blowout losses. As of right now, the Zips are 10-point favorites . The rest of the schedule shapes up like this: Northern Illinois travels to Buffalo (-6), Bowling Green takes on Kent State (-9), Western Michigan (-1) tangles with Miami-Ohio, Central Michigan squares off against Ohio (-7.5) and Toledo (-2) hosts Eastern Michigan.
Moving forward on a weekly basis, I will be breaking down the full MAC slate. Game days are Tuesdays and Saturdays, so there will be plenty of time in between games to digest the results and regroup and fire off some more winners. I'll be focusing on key matchups, teams trending up or down, best ATS squad, letdown spots, live underdogs and lots of picks and predictions. This conference has been kind to me over the years, and I believe it's one of the most underrated conferences to bet on.
All odds are courtesy of BetOnline
Game of the Week
Ball State Cardinals @ Akron Zips (-10)
Despite losing their last game by 15 points, the Akron Zips are still the class of the MAC. They boast so many offensive weapons, and when push comes to shove they can clamp down on the defensive end of the floor. The Zips own a 19-4 record overall and a 9-1 conference record, which has them in line for a double bye in in the MAC Tournament. That means they would only have to win two games (the semis and finals) to get an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. If they fail to do so, I believe they will be overlooked due to their weak SOS and lack of notable wins. It's essentially all or nothing for the Zips.
In their last game, the Zips shot the ball very poorly from the field, connecting on just 25-of-66 attempts (38 percent). They shot 24 percent from three-point land and just 69 percent from the charity stripe. They were led in scoring by Isaiah Johnson, who poured in 18 points. Antino Jackson pitched in with 14, and Kwan Cheatham Jr. had nine. Their undoing was the defense. They allowed Ohio to shoot 48 percent from the floor, including 41 percent (9/22) from beyond the arc. The 85 points allowed was the second-highest total they have given up in 10 conference games. They will need to be a lot sharper in order to handle the Cardinals' offense.
Ball State, on the other hand, is in a similar boat. They will most
definitely have to win the MAC Tournament in order to go dancing in March.
The Cardinals own a 15-8 record overall and a 6-4 conference record, which
has them tied atop the MAC West division. They have been one of the hottest
teams in the conference, winning six of their last eight games. Ball State
usually wins games with their offense, averaging 83.2 points per game. The
defense, however, continues to struggle, allowing opponents to score an
average of 83 points per game.
In their last game, the Cardinals were trounced by the Buffalo Bulls on their home court to the tune of 96-69. The Cardinals allowed the Bulls to shoot 50 percent from the field and make 11-of-24 three-point attempts. They were outrebounded, and they committed seven more turnovers than the Bulls -- that is exactly how not to win a basketball game. They were led in scoring by Franko House, who put up 25 points and six rebounds. Teammate Tayler Persons chipped in with 15 points.
In my opinion, this game is going to come down to who can knock down the three-point shots. Akron averages 11 makes per game, while Ball State averages just more than eight. I also expect Akron to be hungry and pissed off about their last performance and come out strong in front of their home crowd. They have not lost at home yet this year.
Pick: Akron (-10), -110
Western Michigan @ Miami-Ohio (+1)
While this may not exactly classify as being a "live underdog" considering how close the spread is to a "pick-em", I believe the Redhawks have the edge in this matchup for several reasons. The Redhawks on a 9-5 record at home, while the Broncos have yet to win a game on the road (0-10). Both teams are last in their respective divisions, but the Redhawks play in the East, which is the tougher of the two divisions.
Miami-Ohio lost a heartbreaker last time out against Kent State by a score of 66-62. They shot the ball as poorly as humanly possible and still lost by only four points. Had one or two shots gone in, we'd probably be looking at the Redhawks as a favorite in this spot instead of an underdog.
Western Michigan also lost by four points to Central Michigan. However, it was the Broncos who blew a 13-point half time lead despite shooting 52 percent from the field. I'm not exactly sure how that's possible, but it happened, and because of that I expect them to come out flat and revert back to their old ways of losing handily on the road. This game will also be their third road game in the past four games.
While this may not be an attractive matchup on paper, I expect the home team to emerge victorious and cash our ticket.
Pick: Miami-Ohio (+1), -110
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