I can't begin to tell you how obnoxious my contributions to Line Drills will become if we keeping rolling with this winning streak. You want winners? WE GOT WINNERS. Thanks to Tom for the Ball State/Western Michigan pick. Your January 26th MAC picks:
Ball State at Western Michigan (-12.5)
Thursday's upset darlings square off in an early afternoon Sunday game, as both look to rebound from earlier disappointments to regain serious momentum in the west. Majok Majok and Shayne Whittington face off in a battle of two of the few true centers in the league - though I've watched them play and they play very different styles. Majok is more the lumbering tree who strays little from the post, while Whittington actually doesn't mind running and will sometimes take (settle for?) a 15-18 foot jumper. Majok is definitely the bigger defensive threat, Shayne the better offensively. This would be fun to watch just for that aspect. On paper, the Broncos have the backcourt advantage with David Brown and even Austin Richie's experience against the young Ball State backcourt. But at the one end, Western Michigan doesn't tend to suffocating defense, and the Ball State kids can shoot a little.
Now that we're 5 games in, I think the most important stats to pay attention to are the ‘conference only' stats, and it's amazing how good Western Michigan looks in those. At or near the top in field goal %, defensive field goal %, 3 point shooting %, and rebounding margin. It doesn't take too much thinking to deduce why they're only 3-2, and it's the key to this game. These are the bottom two teams in the MAC in turnover margin, both averaging 8 more turnovers than their opponents. Someone will win the turnover battle here, and maybe win the game as a result.
The pick: Ball State +12.5. No, they're almost certainly not the better team. But they're not as bad as they've played either. And Western Michigan does have an Achilles heel, and two losses in their last four conference games. If you've followed us this season (why?!) you know that I'm taking the points when possible.
Kent State at Toledo (-8.5)
Tommy loves the points. I love the favorites. Kent State is headed in the wrong direction. The Golden Flashes have lost their last two, 71-60 at Buffalo on January 18th, and 75-59 at home against Western Michigan on January 23rd. Overall, KSU has lost five of seven, the two wins coming against Ball State and Northern Illinois. Kent State is third from the bottom in field goal percentage in the conference, and will be facing a Toledo squad that leads the league in that category, by a mile. This will easily be the biggest challenge of the season for the Golden Flashes. Toledo scores and scores, and then scores some more on opponents. The Rockets are dead last in the MAC in defense, yielding better than 73 points a contest. This is offset by the scorching 83 points a game UT puts up. Ever since a surprising 87-76 loss at Western Michigan on January 8th, the Rockets have run off four consecutive wins by an average of 10 points a game. Most impressively was the win at Akron on January 18th, where the Rockets thumped the Zips, exorcising the demons that have haunted UT at The JAR. Toledo is the team to beat in the MAC West, and appears to be running away with the division. Western Michigan lacks the consistency to keep up with UT and Eastern Michigan and faded into the background with their most recent slide. Kent State will prove to be relatively simple fare for the Rockets, who have Miami coming up before a tough test at Ohio on February 1st. Expect Toledo to jump out early on the Golden Flashes, cruise to an easy victory, and more than cover the 8.5. Take the Rockets, lay the points.