The past weekend's "MACtion" was mostly beneficial to favorite and "under" bettors. If you played every game separately and took the chalk and the under you would have walked away with an 8-4 record - and that would be a pretty decent 24-hour period. There was only one shocking result that left me scratching my head, and that was the Ball State vs. Western Michigan outcome. The Cardinals went on the road to Kalamazoo and ultimately forgot they had a basketball game. They were beaten handily in both halves and ultimately lost the game by 25. Had they shown up and put up a fight, they could have been in a much better place this week, needing only one win to secure a bye into the quarterfinals. Instead, they have two tough games that could ultimately be their undoing.
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This is the final week of regular season play in the MAC conference, and there are only two things we know for certain. Akron has secured their spot in the quarterfinals as the top seed, while Miami-Ohio will finish last and play as the 12th seed. The final 10 teams have it all to play for over the next two games, and their performances will either help or hinder their chances at securing a better seed and better first-round matchup.
Tomorrow's card features several key games that will determine the final standings. The biggest game of the night features the Toledo Rockets hosting the Ball State Cardinals. The Cardinals currently sit tied atop the MAC West at 9-7, but a loss could potentially drop them to third spot. Toledo is 8-8 and is coming off an impressive win against the Central Michigan Chippewas. The rest of the schedule shapes up as follows: Buffalo travels to Ohio, Miami-Ohio travels to Akron, Central Michigan hosts Eastern Michigan, Kent State takes on Bowling Green and Western Michigan takes on Northern Illinois.
The final couple of games of conference play are always tricky in terms of being able to handicap and understand a team's mentality. Securing a high seed early can allow teams to take their foot off of the gas and hurt bettors who back them. Teams like Miami-Ohio who have very little to play for over the last couple of games could make for good fade material as well. That still leaves us with 10 teams that are playing meaningful games. Late in the season there are usually two things I like to be on the right side of - team depth and good defensive numbers. With that said, let's end the regular season on a high note. I will give you a quick break down of every game and give you my pick against the spread.
All odds are courtesy of BetOnline
Buffalo @ Ohio (-4.5 )
Both teams enter this game after suffering defeats in th eir latest games. Buffalo was topped by Akron, while Ohio was beaten by Kent State. If Ohio can pull off the victory here, it will guarantee them a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. If they lose, Buffalo will pull even with the Bobcats with a 10-6 conference record - leaving it all to play for in the regular-season finale. Both teams are averaging 79 points per game, while Ohio is allowing 72 points per game and Buffalo is allowing 75. I mentioned earlier that the key factors I look to back when handicapping games this late in the season is depth and defense. Buffalo has four players averaging in double figures and can give three or four bench players meaningful minutes. Ohio hasn't seen a team like this since they played Akron at the beginning of February. I think the plethora of scoring options the Bulls possess will undo a stingy Bobcat defense and help the Bulls pull off the upset.
Eastern Michigan @ Central Michigan (PK)
Both Eastern and Central Michigan have 6-10 conference records, which puts them in second-last and last place in the MAC West. It is possible for the winner of this game to move up to fourth and earn a better seed, but they would need Northern Illinois to lose both remaining games. The last time these two teams met was in the first game of conference play. Eastern Michigan won handily, 85-63. The main factor that is stopping me from backing the Eagles, despite better recent form, is their home/road splits. They are just 4-10 on the road, while the Chipps' are 10-4. Central Michigan averages close to 86 point per game, and I think that'll be enough to secure the victory in this game.
Pick: Central Michigan
Ball State @ Toledo (-6)
This is the game of the week. Ball State sits at 9-7 in conference play and currently holds the top spot in the MAC West Division. If they win this game, they will all but assure themselves a bye into the QF. Toledo sits at 8-8, and a Rockets' victory would leave it all to play for in the regular-season finale. These two teams are pretty even in terms of points scored per game, but it is Toledo that has the better defensive stats. Toledo rarely loses at home (11-3), and after watching Ball State lay an egg on the road to Western Michigan nobody should be confident backing the Cardinals away from home. Toledo has won four of their last six games, while Ball State has won just three of their last seven. Give me the solid home team in this one.
Kent State @ Bowling Green (+2.5)
Both teams come into this game on multi-game win streaks. Kent State has won four straight, while Bowling Green has won back-to-back games. Both teams are almost identical in terms of points for and points allowed, so I think the key factor here will be motivation. Bowling Green sits at 7-9 in conference play, which will likely see them end up as the seven or eight seed. Kent State, on the other hand, is only one game back of Ohio for second in the MAC East. And should they catch the Bobcats, they will have a good chance at securing one of the four byes into the quarterfinals. Kent State lost the previous meeting in this series by one point, and I expect them to extract some revenge.
Pick: Kent State
Western Michigan @ Northern Illinois (-2)
The hottest team in the MAC right now is the Western Michigan Broncos. They are riding a six-game winning streak and have climbed up the standings to sit tied atop the West Division. They have done so with a combination of high offensive outputs and solid defensive displays. They topped 80 points three times and held opponents to fewer than 60 twice. The only problem backing the Broncos is that they rarely win on the road. They are just 2-10 but have won the last two road games. Northern Illinois is about as mediocre as you can get, posting a 15-14 overall record and a 7-9 record in conference play. They are also just 9-7 at home. It's tough for me to back a team that is poor on the road, but they racked up the road losses early on in the season. They are a different team now.
Pick: Western Michigan
Miami-Ohio @ Akron (-15)
Two teams at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Akron has the top seed locked up and Miami-Ohio will be No.12. It's tough to guess how Akron will distribute minutes to starters and bench players. The Redhawks score 67 points per game, so if I had to play this, I would look for that to continue and take the "under".
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