North Dakota State at Akron Picks and College Basketball Odds
by Alan Matthews - 2/22/2013
ESPN created its BracketBusters event back in the 2002-03 season in an effort to match strong mid-major programs against one another in nonconference matchups to improve those teams’ strength of schedule and, thus, RPI rating. It was a great idea because most traditional powers won’t schedule dangerous mid-major teams and certainly would never travel to one of those schools.
Unfortunately, this weekend will mark the finale of BracketBusters. There will be 122 schools from 13 conferences represented, with 13 games on ESPN-affiliated networks. There never really was a great explanation as to why ESPN pulled the plug, although some conferences and prominent schools have pulled out in recent years. Perhaps the recent NCAA Tournament success of Butler and VCU influenced things (they don’t need this event any longer, for example).
“BracketBusters has been a unique event for 11 years, producing memorable games and moments while generating national exposure for the participating schools and conferences,” ESPN said back in December in a statement. “Given the evolving college landscape, we felt the event in its present form has run its course. … Our goal is to maintain the BracketBusters brand in some fashion in the future.”
One of the best matchups in this season’s BracketBusters is Friday night in Akron when the Mid-American Conference-leading Zips, the only team without a conference loss in the MAC, host North Dakota State, which is a game out of first in the Summit League.
North Dakota State at Akron Betting Story Lines
North Dakota State (20-7) has to win the Summit League Tournament for an NCAA bid. The Bison have reached the Big Dance just once, losing to Kansas in the first round four years ago. NDSU has an RPI of 85 with just two wins over Top-100 teams and those are South Dakota State and Oakland, not exactly resume-building wins. The Bison did play Big Ten teams Indiana and Minnesota on the road and lost both by at least 13 points.
NDSU enters off one of its best efforts of the season, beating IUPUI 75-39 last Saturday. The Bison tied a school record with just four turnovers and have 16 combined in their past three games. They are among the nation’s best teams in not giving the ball away and also in points allowed. The team is 5-4 since losing leading scorer Taylor Braun (15.5 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game) as he suffered a fractured foot on Jan. 12. He had made 66 straight starts. The team believes he will be back for the conference tournament.
Akron (21-4) is a team no one will want to face in the first round of the Big Dance. The Zips beat Bowling Green 67-50 last Saturday for their national-best 17th straight victory (tied with Memphis); they are beating teams by nearly 15 points per game in that run. It’s the longest winning streak for a MAC team since Kent State won 21 in a row in 2001-02.
The 12-0 start matches the 1957-58 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks for the best start to league play in MAC history. Senior seven-foot center Zeke Marshall, the team’s lone four-year senior, is the star. He leads Akron in averaging 12.6 points per game and ranks fourth nationally in shooting (65.7 percent) and No. 5 with 3.48 blocks per game.
Akron could get an at-large bid even if it doesn’t win the MAC Tournament. It has an RPI of 51 with a best win over Middle Tennessee and very close losses to ranked teams Oklahoma State and Creighton. A loss at RPI No. 241 Coastal Carolina doesn’t help. The Zips have reached three NCAA Tournaments, last in 2011.
This is the first meeting between the schools. NDSU is 2-0 in BracketBusters games, Last year at home it beat MAC team Western Michigan, 86-73. Akron is 3-6 all-time in BracketBusters games, with all three wins at home. It lost at Oral Roberts a year ago.
North Dakota State at Akron College Basketball Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Akron is a 6.5-point favorite with the total TBA, which I project around 129. NDSU is 15-10 ATS (7-6 on road) and 2-13 “over/under” (1-7 on road). Akron is 11-8-1 ATS (5-4 at home) and 4-11-1 O/U (2-5 at home).
NDSU is 6-0 ATS in its past six Friday games. It is 0-4 ATS in its past four vs. teams with a winning record and in its past four road games. Akron is 5-1 ATS in its past six Friday games. It has covered nine of its past 14 nonconference games. The under is 9-0 in NDSU’s past nine after an ATS win. The under is 5-2 in Akron’s past seven nonconference games.
North Dakota State at Akron Picks and Betting Predictions
Akron has become one of the best mid-major programs out there. A win here would make the Zips just one of three teams to win at least 22 games in each of the past eight seasons (Duke and Gonzaga, but with a few more to join that club soon). And the Zips are tough at home, going 13-0 this year and 117-17 (.873) overall under head coach Keith Dambrot. I would think he would get a job at a BCS school sooner rather than later.
While I know little about NDSU, I have seen Akron play a few times. The Bison simply have no one to match up size-wise with the Zips’ Marshall, and I don’t know how they can score enough against a good offensive team without Braun. Take Akron and the under.
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