There are six games left in the MAC regular season, and teams are starting to feel the effects of a rigorous campaign. To break down the MAC, you must first place the teams into three categories - good, inconsistent and bad. The only good team in the MAC is the Akron Zips. They own an 11-1 conference record . They are guaranteed a double-bye, and I really like their chances at getting an auto bid to the NCAA tournament by way of winning the MAC title.
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Then there are the inconsistent teams: Ball State (6-6), Northern Illinois (6-6), Toledo (6-6), Central Michigan (6-6), Ohio (7-5) and Buffalo (7-5). These six teams have been up and down all season. After a big win, they usually come crashing back down to earth. Currently, only Buffalo and Toledo are on a winning streak of two or more games.
And that leaves us with the bad teams: Eastern Michigan (5-7), Western Michigan (5-7), Kent State (5-7), Bowling Green (5-7) and Miami-Ohio (3-9). I've watched enough "MACtion" this year to know a bad team when I see one. All five of those teams below .500 are bad. There is not one aspect of the game they do well, which is why they are a combined 3-7 in their last 10 games.
There is a full slate of games scheduled for Tuesday in the MAC, and several teams are jockeying for position before they enter the MAC Tournament. The game of the week has to be Ball State taking on Northern Illinois ( -2.5). Both teams sit at 6-6 in the West Division, which is good enough for a share of the lead. With only six games remaining, this game could determine who has the upper hand at one of the double-byes. The rest of the card shapes up rather nicely as well - Toledo travels to Akron (-7.5) to tangle with the Zips, Buffalo takes on Central Michigan (PK), Ohio takes on Eastern Michigan (-1), Kent State (-11) hosts Miami-Ohio and Western Michigan (-7) hosts Bowling Green.
If you've been a follower of this article on a weekly basis, I have previewed just about everything there is to preview from "Game of the Week" to "Live Underdogs" to records against the spread and "letdown spots". I've given you some solid winners and unfortunately some unlucky losers. There are six games left in the MAC regular season, so not only is it crunch time for the teams in the conference but for me as well.
All odds are courtesy of BetOnline
Game of the Week
Ball State Cardinals @ Northern Illinois Huskies (-2.5)
This will be the first meeting of the season between these two teams, and luckily for the Huskies it happens on their home court where they own a solid 9-5 record. The Huskies are a weird team. They have beaten the likes of Toledo and Central Michigan and played Akron very close. Unfortunately,they have lost to teams like Western Michigan and Miami-Ohio. Those are the kind of losses that can put you behind the eight-ball in a very tight conference.
The Huskies come into this game on a two-game losing streak. They lost to Buffalo last Tuesday and Western Michigan this past Saturday. In both games, the Huskies shot the ball poorly (under 40 percent) and allowed their opponent to shoot 45 percent. Those stats alone are a recipe for disaster. And if you add in the fact that they were outrebounded and turned the ball over more than 12 times in both games, that makes it nearly impossible to win a basketball game. The Huskies are usually led in scoring by Aaric Armstead, but he had an off night in the latest loss. Armstead contributed just five points in 33 minutes of playing time. The scoring load was picked up by Eugene German, who scored 20 (career high) and Levi Bradley, who scored a season-high 16 points.
Ball State comes into this game riding a three-game losing streak . Because of that, they have been unable to pull away from the pack for top spot in the MAC West Division. In their most recent loss, a 79-77 set back against Ohio, the Cardinals got off to a slow start and fell behind by 19 at half time. They fought hard to make the score line respectable, but their comeback fell short. Five players scored in double figures for the second-highest scoring team (81 ppg) in the conference. Trey Moses did most of the scoring with 17 points, while Sean Sellers had 14, Tayler Persons and Francis Kiapway pitched in with 12 and Ryan Weber had 11. Offensively, this team has options. Defensively, this team has problems. The Cardinals give up 80 points per game, and it's very evident with their lack of attention to detail and half-court breakdowns. If you give up as many points as you score, chances are the 50/50 games that you should win, will end up as an "L" in the loss column.
From a stats perspective, this game pits the second-highest scoring offense against the top-ranked scoring defense. It also pits the worst scoring offense (NIU) against the third-worst scoring defense (BSU). Something has to give, and one of these teams will have to break form and either put up a lot of points or have their offense held in check. In the MAC, it's usually a good idea to back the home team when teams are this close in nature.
Pick: Huskies -2.5, -110
Trending Up or Down
The Buffalo Bulls are trending up. They are own a four-game winning streak and have put themselves in a position to secure a bye in the MAC Tournament and better their chances at defending their MAC title. They have beaten the likes of Central Michigan, Ball State, Northern Illinois and Bowling Green, with two of those games on the road. The Bulls are getting solid production from their guards, with all four of them scoring in double figures versus Bowling Green. Next up is a rematch versus Central Michigan. The line currently sits at a pi ck'em. I'd side with the Bulls.
The Eastern Michigan Eagles are trending down. They are the exact opposite of the Bulls, losing four straight and taking themselves out top spot in the MAC West Division. They have played sloppy basketball so far this month, with losses coming to Kent State by six, Northern Illinois by 12, Toledo by 17 and Akron by 11. They own one of the worst offensive units in the league (71 points per game) but one of the best defensive stats in the conference - 70.7 points allowed per game. Next up for the Eagles is a date with the Ohio Bobcats, whom they beat 53-49 exactly one month ago.
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