3-3 on Wednesday for the Internet's premiere leader in Mid-American conference betting. We don't have stupid prop bets like "what number will be higher on Sunday, catches for Julius Thomas or birdies for Tiger Woods?" Hustle Belt doesn't have time for such foolishness. Speaking of time though, we would like to buy you a fancy new watch. The instruction manual to get this done is below. You're welcome. Your February 1st MAC Hoops picks:
Toledo (+2) at Ohio
I think this is the gimme of the week. That the Rockets are getting points against the Bobcats is mind boggling. Vegas can see me coming I'm sure. Toledo has rattled off six wins in a row, most recently an 83-70 win over Miami on Wednesday. Toledo continues to be the class of the MAC, and is showing no signs of releasing the stranglehold they have over the Western Division. On Wednesday against the RedHawks, Toledo scored as only they can, exploding out of the halftime break with a 17-5 run, and essentially putting away Miami. The Bobcats are no slouches though. Entering Athens and coming away with a victory will take an A+ effort. Ohio will need this W if they're to catch Akron in the MAC East. The Bobcats looked like they were going to take a significant step back in the division race on Wednesday against Central Michigan. Down 18 with under 15 minutes to play, Ohio put together a furious 21-3 run tying the Chips with eight minutes remaining, before toppling CMU 71-67. You can be sure that if OU falls behind like that against Toledo, it will only get uglier. I expect a tight one though, with Toledo continuing their winning streak. Take the Rockets, and the points.
Central Michigan at Western Michigan (-8.5)
So while I staunchly refuse to pick the Ball State games, I am going to make a bit of a homer pick with this one. It's entirely possible the Cards don't win another conference game the rest of the season, so we all need for CMU to continue to do CMU things and finish winless in the MAC. The Chips thought they were going to get in the win column, and probably should've, but Ohio blazed past CMU in the aforementioned comeback. That's got to be pretty deflating for a squad with little going for it to begin with. I expect a flat performance against Western Michigan. Don't get me wrong, the Broncos were embarrassed on Wednesday against Buffalo getting slapping around to the tune of 84-63. Nevertheless, Western has talent, Central does not. That's not very scientific is it? Science is hard. Expect Western to get out in front early and make short work of Central Michigan. Take the Broncos, lay the points.
Northern Illinois @ Ball State (-3)
Congratulations to the Huskies, who continue to pass the eye test of decency against all odds in the 2013-14 season. A road win at Kent State was nice validation of the competitiveness this young squad has shown this year. What's the upside for them now? This is a winnable game. Then it's home for Miami, Western Michigan, and Central Michigan - they'll be solid favorites against the Chips. Could they split the other two? Did you think they could be 5-6 in conference? After that they'll be big dogs in 5 of their last 7, but there would be winnable games at CMU and home Ball State. Coach-of-the-year nominations if they really go 7-11 in conference. Meanwhile, this is a season-defining game for what has to be a desperate Ball State Squad. It is only marginally hyperbole to say that they're nose down into the abyss if they lose this one, and I think they'll come out swinging. Ball State most definitely can't pass any eye test that involves having eyes open at the offensive end, but my guess is they'll be desperate enough and just good enough to win this. The pick: Ball State -3.
Eastern Michigan (+1) at Miami
This will be a good one. Eastern is unlikely to catch Toledo in the MAC West, but will certainly be a tough out when conference tournament time rolls around. Last time out the Eagles beat Bowling Green 69-57 in a game not nearly as close as the score would indicate. Glenn Bryant came off the bench to score a career high 26 points and rip down 10 boards. Eastern looked good bouncing back from a bitter 58-56 loss against Ohio last Saturday. Miami was Toledo's last victim, falling 83-70 on Wednesday. The RedHawks have turned things around after losing two of their first three conference matchups. Miami has won three of the last four, including two road contests. Expect a low scoring game in this one. Miami doesn't score a lot of points, and Eastern Michigan has demonstrated that they can play elite, lockdown defense on several occasions this season. That Eastern is getting a point going to Oxford is a testament to how competitive the RedHawks have played recently. Still, the Eagles need the win more, and have talent that Miami won't be able to keep up with. Saturday take Eastern Michigan and the point.
Akron (+1) at Kent State
Weird lines this week. I mean playing on the road is hard, but it ain't THAT hard. On one hand you have the Akron Zips, your Eastern Division leading Akron Zips. Your Akron Zips who have won three in a row, and for all intents and purposes are the second best team in the conference behind Toledo. Last time out the Zips destroyed Ball State, 73-46, utilizing runs of 24-2 and 24-4. So they're good, real good. On the other hand you have Kent State, a basketball team in free fall. The Golden Flashes have lost four consecutive games, most recently a stinger at home to Northern Illinois 50-49, and have fallen into the basement of the MAC East. They're losing tight ones, and put up a fantastic effort against Toledo last Sunday, before fading 81-78. Still, even if the Golden Flashes were not in the midst of a cringe worthy losing streak, I'd take the Zips. They've got more talent and more to play for, and Kent State will need to show me something before I'm going to put some dough down on them. Expect KSU to continue to struggle, and for the Zips to maintain their MAC East lead. Take Akron and the point.