Line Drills: Shooting for the Stars. Or .500.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday Funday! Grab a beer and some points.

Bowling Green (+3.5) at Miami

The Bowling Green conference season was certainly one that started with plenty of promise.  Exceeding early expectations the Falcons ran off three in a row between January 15th and January 22nd, against Central Michigan, Western Michigan, and Ohio, respectively.  The last two of those wins on the road, no less.  Since then BGSU has falled upon hard times, and they enter Sunday's game against Miami 11-15 overall and 5-8 in the MAC East.  They've lost four of their last five by an average of three points a contest.  Thursday exemplified how close the Falcons have been all season.  Down 14 at the half against Toledo, Bowling Green stormed back to tie the game only to fall on a Rian Pearson jumper with 5 seconds remaining.  Consistent with the season to this point, the Falcons relied heavily on the starting five, and lacked the depth of their opponent.  Anthony Henderson, Cameron Black, and Richaun Holmes all scored in double figures for BGSU, but the bench only chipped in four points against the Rockets.

Playing close matchups as underdogs has endeared Bowling Green to bettors, however, particularly on the road.  For the season the Falcons are 7-4 ATS when playing away from the Stroh Center.  In the last five overall, the Falcons are 4-1 ATS, only failing to cover the three points they were giving to Ball State in a 66-64 win on February 15th.  That marked the only game in the last five in which the Falcons were favored, and Vegas got it right with their recent 1-4 run SU.  The Falcons manage to cover the meager spreads, though.  This Bowling Green team is better than their record would indicate.

These two share a similar, sad story.  Miami stood at 8-9 overall and 4-2 in the conference after traveling to Bowling Green and earning a 70-65 win on January 25th.  Since then the RedHawks have dropped six of seven and now find themselves fighting with Bowling Green to stay out of the MAC East basement.  Don't be mistaken though, Miami is not playing nearly as competitively as the Falcons.  Those six RedHawk losses are coming at an average of better than 11 points a game.  Wednesday it was Kent State who took care of Miami, 75-63 in Oxford.  Will Felder scored 23 with Geovonie McKnight and Willie Moore contributing 12 a piece, but Miami lost this game on the perimeter.  Kent State connected on 15 treys, the high mark in the conference this season.

Miami was favored in the game against Kent State, giving two.  The loss ATS marked the fourth time in five games the RedHawks failed to cover.  The one win ATS they were able to muster in the last five is on February 8th, when they were getting 8.5 against Ohio and played to a 82-75 loss.  While the RedHawks are 12-10 ATS the spread for the season, they're much more likely to cover on the road.  Miami is 8-5 for the season as a road team versus just 4-5 ATS when playing at Millett Hall.  The RedHawks did manage to cover the 3.5 they were giving to Bowling Green in the win earlier this season.

The pick:  Just enough points for me.  Take the Falcons and the 3.5.

Northern Illinois (+3) at Central Michigan

Jordan Lynch, Jordan Lynch, JORDAN LYNCH.  Because every mention of Northern Illinois, particularly with the NFL Combine going on, has to mention Jordan Lynch.  Forget Jordan Lynch and learn Jordan Threloff!  The junior center from DeKalb poured in 27 points and ripped down 18 rebounds in NIU's thrilling double overtime win on Thursday.  The Huskies also got twelve boards from Darrell Bowie, and another 10 from Aaric Armstead, out-rebounding the Eagles 63-42 in the win.  The win was the fifth in the last seven games for the Huskies, who now find themselves just a game behind Eastern Michigan for third place in the MAC West.

OH AND THEY'RE COVERING TOO.  How often are we able to say that?  I love a team that's clicking, winning on the court, and putting money in your pocket.  The last five games NIU has covered four times, the exception being a push against Western Michigan on February 9th, a 74-71 loss.  In four of those five games the Huskies have played the underdog. only favored in their 88-63 blowout victory over Central Michigan on February 12th where they were giving 3.5.  The road numbers are attractive as well.  The Huskies are 8-3 ATS as well as 5-1 on the road during the MAC season.

I hate you Central Michigan.  They've got me closer everyday to excepting the reality that my beloved Ball State Cardinals are going to finish in the basement of the MAC.  Do you know about February 19th?  It was game of the year if you like offense.  (We do.)  Central Michigan delivered Mount Pleasant a second conference win this season, earning a 101-95 victory over the Cardinals in triple overtime.  Ball State lead this game by seven with just 31 seconds left.  If you want to read more about how the game ended, look it up, because it's already making my stomach hurt.  All five CMU starters finished in double figures, with Braylon Rayson scoring a career high 30, and Blake Hibbitts and Austin Steward going for 17 apiece.  It was a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable season for the Chippewas.

The same can be said for their recent trends in Vegas.  CMU has covered twice in the last five games, though interestingly, all five of those games have hit the over, so the Chips are scoring some points.  When playing at home their effort ATS is mirroring their effort SU.  Central Michigan is just 3-8 at McGuirk Arena, including 1-5 in conference play.  In that thrilling win against Ball State, Central actually failed to cover the 6.5 points they were giving to the Cardinals.  (Geez, 6.5 against CMU, c'mon Ball State.)

The pick:  Should've save some of those points Chips.  I hate you.  Take the Huskies and the points.

Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan (-3)

I don't know if I said this is i a prior article, but I'm going to say it again, because I know you read each and every one of my contributions.  Multiple times.  I really thought Eastern Michigan was going to challenge for the top of the MAC West.  More appropriately put, I didn't think they'd be behind Western Michigan at this point in the season.  Yes, I know Western Michigan was picked to finish ahead of the Eagles, but the EMU does it with defense and I like that.  Defense.  In this conference.  I should be committed.

The double OT loss to NIU was especially hurtful to an Eagles squad that was coming off of their most impressive win of the season, a 65-44 thrashing of Toledo on February 15th.  We outlined earlier how bad EMU was beaten on the glass by NIU, and perimeter shooting wasn't a positive note either.  Karrington Ward hit 2 of 4 treys en route to scoring 13 points.  The rest of the team was a combined 0-15.  Mike Talley scored 17 and Ray Lee 10 for an EMU squad that shot an ice cold 27 percent from the field.

EMU was giving four points to the Huskies in their matchup.  Prior to that EMU had covered in four straight games against Toledo, Ball State, Kent State, and Akron, respectively.  In those four games the Eagles shot no worse than 40 percent from the field.  So if you're going to shoot 27 percent from the field and cover, you damn well better be the best defensive team in the MAC.  Let's hope it doesn't come to that.  On the road ATS, EMU isn't a bad option.  7-5 overall, including 4-3 in the conference.  For the season EMU is actually 13-9 ATS so if fans are maddened by the inconsistent play of an Eagles squad capable of more, lay some bucks down.  Money makes losing more palatable.

Damn Western, how you play basketball so good?  Easily the hottest team in the MAC, the Broncos are currently riding high on a six game winning streak.  Their last victim was Ohio.  WMU entered Athens on February 19th, and left with their first win on the Bobcats home court since January of 2000.  It was a balanced effort for the Broncos who got 23 from David Brown, 18 from Connar Tava, and 11 points and 10 boards from Shayne Whittington.  The win has the Broncos tied atop the MAC West with Toledo.

Running off a win streak like that can often mean winning with bettors, and inflated point spreads along the way.  The Broncos played to a push against Northern Illinois on February 9th.  Otherwise they've covered in four of their last five contests.  At home WMU is 6-65 overall and 4-2 in conference play ATS.  No Mid-American Conference basketball bettor will forget however (and I assure you there are dozens of them) the first time these two met.  EMU scored a 56-37 victory victory on January 14th.  Even P.J. Fleck blushed at that 37.  How cold is 37 points?  Four field goals in the first half cold.  Don't expect to see that Broncos team this time around.

The pick:  Broncos too hot.  I've got to go with WMU until they give me reason not to.

Ball State (+16) at Toledo

And Todd caps off the winning weekend with this gem:

At first glance, this seems completely ridiculous.  Ball State and Toledo have both spent most of the season playing close games, so this huge spread seems like a gimme.  Look closer and there's some reason to think blowout.  Ball State has to be deflated after blowing multiple opportunities to beat Central Michigan in the triple overtime thriller on Wednesday.  And although the Cardinals have only lost three times by this many points in their 12 conference losses, those represent three of their six road games.  Furthermore, the three blowout losses were the games at Akron, Buffalo, and Ohio - teams with comparable records to the Rockets.

The Rockets return home after five of their last seven on the road.  They've probably faded from NCAA at-large competition, but Toledo keeps on winning, posting an 8-2 mark in their last ten games.  This is a team that knows how to win, but also a team that has frustrated bettors by posting a putrid 3-10 mark against the spread in conference.  Furthermore, in their 21 wins against Division I opponents this season, the Rockets have won by more than 16 exactly... twice.  Once again mid-week, Toledo built a big lead against an inferior opponent, only to give it away in the second half and struggle to a narrow victory.
These two just played on February 8th, when the inspired homestanding Cardinals trailed only by two with two minutes to play.  I don't think Ball State has it in them to do quite that well in this one, but they'll probably keep it closer than 16.

The pick: Ball State +16.

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