Line Drills: The Presidential Preview, Third Term. MAC Basketball Previews for February 22nd

Adam Hunger

Because we are the Franklin D. Roosevelt of Mid-American Conference basketball bettors.

Listen I know that FDR actually served four terms in office, ok?  I minored in History at the Ivy League of Indiana, Ball State University.  Todd gave you the first and second terms this week, we've got two MAC matchups on Saturday (term three), and another four on Sunday.  Sunday however, is the start of a new week.  This article will likely be the first and last use of my history minor, as well as the final time I will explain to you how calendars work.  If you need another holiday to get behind though, February 23rd is World Sword Swallower's Day.  True story.  Saturday is National Margarita Day.  So grab a drink and get ready for some weekend MACsketball.  We're getting closer to .500 on the season and as FDR put it, "Happy Days Are Here Again."  Your February 22nd picks:

Buffalo (-1) at Kent State

So we're down to a three team race in the MAC East.  Buffalo and Akron are tied atop the division, with Ohio just a game behind.  The Bulls picked up a huge victory on Wednesday, knocking off the Zips at home 96-90.  Buffalo torched the nets shooting better than 63% from the field with Javon McCrea, Jarod Oldham, and Joshua Freelove all topping 20 points.  The victory marked the Bulls sixth win in the last eight games.  Buffalo has certainly come a long way from what certainly looked like a crippling 71-68 loss at Ball State on January 23rd that every MAC fan remembers.  The conference season doesn't get easier for the Bulls after Kent State, as the Bulls still have road matchups with Ohio and Akron on the horizon.

The last time these two hooked up, the Bulls took care of the Golden Flashes in Buffalo, 71-60.  Buffalo covered the five point spread and the game came in under the 140.5 O/U.  The Bulls love to cover.  For the season they're 13-6 ATS including 7-3 in their last ten.  Vegas likes the Bulls.  They've been favorites in their last five conference games, and save for the 73-70 loss to Ohio on February 15th, they've covered.  In the three games before Ohio, they covered with ease, blowing by Miami, Central Michigan, and Ball State.

BREAK UP THE GOLDEN FLASHES.  Not far removed from becoming the most mocked team in the MAC East after dropping six of seven (though inexplicably scoring a victory over Akron), Kent State has run off three wins in a row, most recently a road win at Miami on February 19th.  The winning streak has the Golden Flashes out of the Eastern Division basement and has at least this bettor thinking they'll be a tough out when the conference tournament rolls around.  In the win over Miami, KSU got 28 from Kris Brewer who drilled all seven of his three point attempts, and 15 from Devareaux Manley who hit five of eight from behind the arc.  Collectively, it was the most treys hit by a MAC team this conference season.

Kent State hasn't been so kind to bettors though.  The win over Miami marked the first time in the last five games the Golden Flashes have managed to cover.  Prior to that, KSU failed to cover in their last four ATS, against Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, and twice against Central Michigan, respectively.  Looking at the season as a whole, the numbers aren't much better.  KSU is certainly kinder to bettors on the road.  At home they're 4-9 ATS, compared to 7-3 in road games.  In the last ten, 3-7 ATS.  So while Kent State has the fans considerably more interested than a month ago, they're driving bettors, and the contributors to the column, batty.

The pick: "I do not look at the United States as a finish product.  We are still in the making."  How appropriate for both of these squads.  The growth for both teams is immense and I think they'll make plenty of noise in the MAC Tournament in March.  You'll learn more about Kent State in this game than Buffalo, and if the Golden Flashes were up against virtually any team outside of Toledo at home, I'd take KSU and the points.  At this point I like Buffalo's run more than Kent State's.  Take the Bulls, lay the point.

Ohio (+3.5) at Akron

Call it game of the day in the MAC East!  An Ohio win and we could be looking at a three way tie atop the division by the time the weekend is over.  An Ohio loss and they'll find Kent State nipping at their heels.  Last Saturday the Bobcats scored and impressive 73-70 road win over Buffalo in which Antonio Campbell held a clinic on following your own shot in the final minute of play.  Wednesday Ohio wasn't as fortunate, falling to red hot Western Michigan, 73-63 at home.  The win marked WMU's first win in Athens since January of 2000.  While Nick Kellogg, the conference leader in threes at 2.5 a game shot 4 of 9 from behind the arc, the rest of the team combined for a frigid 3 of 16.  Maurice Ndour was the only other Bobcat to score in double figures with 14.

Since a February 1st 95-90 win over Toldeo in Athens, it's been win, loss, win, loss, win, loss for the Bobcats.  Vegas tells another story.  Ohio has failed to cover in four of their last five contests, the exception being the win over Buffalo on February 15th.  Stretch it out over the last ten and OU is inconsistent at best.  4-6 ATS, including 1-4 at home and 3-2 on the road.  When we look at just road games however, the Bobcats are 6-2 straight up, and 4-2 ATS.  The last time these two played it was Akron scoring the 83-80 road win in a game where Ohio was favored by five.

So if you like inconsistency, I give you the Akron Zips.  Three wins, three losses in February.  Most recently, a 96-90 loss at the hands of Buffalo on February 19th in what was only the second highest scoring game of the night thanks to Ball State and Central Michigan.  In the loss Demetrius Treadwell went for 21, Nyles Evans 18, and Quincy Diggs chipped in 14, but most notable was the job the Zips did taking care of the ball.  Akron committed a MAC season low four turnovers.  The loss created a tie atop the MAC East as we enter the final stretch towards conference tournament time.

Here's some consistency for you though.  ATS Akron's a loser.  0 for their last 5.  Though they scored wins against Northern Illinois, Bowling Green, and Eastern Michigan, the Zips failed to cover spreads of 11.5, 2.5, and 6.5.  At home for the season they're 3-6 overall, 1-3 in their last 10, and 1-4 in the conference.  Against Ohio however, the numbers are sparkling.  The Zips are 5-0 ATS in a statistic reeking of irrelevancy because really how many players have played in all five of those games?  Some bettors like that stat though, so you're welcome.

The pick: "The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself."  Despite the aforementioned inconsistencies of both teams of late, the Ohio win over Buffalo really impressed me.  Akron's three most recent wins were against Eastern Michigan, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois.  Despite being favored, they've failed to cover, and the Zips need to break this bad habit of playing down to lesser competition.  STOP DESTROYING YOUR OWN SOIL AKRON.  They're a lot better than the teams they're playing closely.  Make with some blowouts already.  For now, take Ohio and the 3.5.

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