No fancy intro for the second part of the mid-week Presidential Line Drills tribute. We're just exhausted reading the box score of the MAC game of the year between Ball State and Central Michigan. Scalpers are already looking for four figure sums for courtside seats to the rematch.
With apparent thanks to Braylon Rayson and Blake Hibbits, Line Drills survives with a 2-2 Wednesday mark and now stands at 36-39-1.
Away we go.
Eastern Michigan (-5) @ Northern Illinois
As seems to be the theme this mid-week, these two divisional rivals meet up for the first of two games to be played in the next two weeks. Coach Rob Murphy's Eagles have won three straight and come off of a dominant performance against Toledo. They do it as a team - with balanced (or perhaps unpredictable) scoring at the offensive end and a marvelous execution of the 2-3 zone on defense. Toledo's inability to penetrate the zone did mask a pretty ugly-looking offensive effort from the Eagles, but the talent is there to score. I like this team better when Mike Talley is the main ball handler - Ray Lee makes a lot of questionable decisions and is primarily looking to score.
Northern Illinois continues to impress, though they've lost two of three. They're playing almost everyone fairly close, which makes them attractive getting five points at home. But does anyone else remember the ghost of the four-point half? There are some better weapons on this much improved Huskies team for sure, and that includes some reasonably successful 3-point shooters. Trayvon Baker and the Armstead brothers have all contributed from outside.
The problems for NIU in this game are two-fold. First, I think their most important player recently has been Jordan Threloff, who has really come into his own averaging 15 points and five boards in their last three. But you do not want to rely on anyone inside against Da'Shonte (might as well be Dikembe) Riley. Second, while the Huskies are certainly improved, they come in at 0-6 against the top five teams in conference, and only one of those games was played to within a five point deficit.
The line: "I know I am getting better at golf because I am hitting fewer spectators." Even President Gerald Ford might have trouble hitting a spectator at either end of this home and home series, with average home attendance for both squads at just about 1000. These are going to be well-played games, I suspect - if you live close enough, do yourself a favor and support these good teams.
The pick: Eastern Michigan -5. You know, the difference in records is only from 7-5 to 5-7, so you'd think maybe you should take the home team and the points. But for the matchup reasons above, and because I watched the Eagles dismantle Toledo, I have to go with the team with the better pedigree.
Toledo (-4) @ Bowling Green
At the least, this ought to be a close game. Bowling Green has had eight of their last nine games decided by seven points or fewer, including a seven point loss at Toledo two weeks ago. The Falcons seem to be able to play up (road wins at Western Michigan and Ohio) or down (home losses to Northern Illinois and Miami) to any competition. They're also 4-0-1 against the spread in their last five games. Who knew you could have been making bank on a bunch of close losses by this team?
Toledo has three wins against the spread all season (3-9). They just came off of their worst played game of the year, in which a good defensive team with a big man who can block a lot of shots shut them down. Da'Shonte Riley leads the league in blocks... but look who's second: Richaun Holmes of these very same Falcons.
The line: "There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again." Sorry - can't help picking on W. I think what he's saying is that I've lost too many games this year betting on Toledo, and even though they might be better and might win, I need to try not to get fooled again.
The pick: Toledo -4. No wait! But it's so tempting! Oh alright. Bowling Green +4.