"The greatest miracle I have ever seen is compound interest." - Albert Einstein (almost certainly apocryphal)
Welcome to MAC Madness!
First, let's recap what has happened with Line Drills over the last several weeks. It was a rough start to the season for Todd & Keith, as they struggled to find the kind of good cop / bad cop chemistry that inspires all great partnerships. Through early February, the combined record stood at 25-34-1. Ouch.
Cue Rocky music.
Since then, team Line Drills has been super, scintillating, and sensational. Although it has never been done in the entire history of online betting advice columns for MAC basketball, we rallied. Todd posted a good week in Keith's absence, then Keith returned with two monster Saturdays.
The rest of the season totaled 32-15-1.
Line Drills finishes the regular season with a 57-49-2 record.
This means the following: if you had taken our advice and a pile of C-notes to the betting window each week, and placed one Ben Franklin portrait on each game, you would currently be up $282. That's a profit of 2.7% on your total investment in only two months. Compounding that for a year gives you... about a zillion dollars. We are just that good.
Well, as any good gambler can tell you, the key to winning blackjack - and making piles of pretend money on MAC basketball - is doubling down. With that in mind, it's time to see what you can do with your profits as the MAC Tournament plays out this week.
No fancy movie lines. And we'll let you read elsewhere for Hustle Belt's comprehensive game coverage (which really is, in fact, way the hell better than the lousy AP reports).
Just. Making. Bank.
No. 12 Ball State @ No. 5 Ohio (-13)
This game features two opponents who are hard for bettors to trust. Ohio is clearly the better team, but how confident can you feel laying that many points? Ohio enjoys one of the serious home court advantages in this league, which ought to help. But they've dropped three straight at home. Since January 18th the Bobcats are 8-6 in MAC play, with only one of those eight wins (at Akron!) coming by more than 13 points. And if you've paid any attention at all, you know about their distressing tendency to fall behind by about 50 points in the first half.
But Ball State is probably a worse bet. The Cardinals have more or less stunk all year, having been afflicted with injury, youth, and a first-year head coach. Away from home they have been downright putrid, including a 20 point loss to these same Bobcats on this same court on January 15th. In fact, four of their last six road losses in conference were by more than 13 points.
The pick: Ohio -13. That's a lot of points, enough to make the squeamish, well, squeam. But Ball State has been awful and we think Ohio comes out charged up behind a raucous home crowd. If you bet Ohio, you might consider not watching the first half without a prescription strength acid blocker. But they're the better choice.
No. 9 Kent State @ No. 8 Miami (-2.5)
Bryan's recent season recap nailed it when it comes to Miami. Here's a team we all thought would stink badly. They outperformed early, then seemed to completely lose their mojo in a five-game losing skid in early February. Meanwhile, their last five games have seen a return to competitive form, with three wins (including a road win at Kent State, and a home win over Akron) and two losses, one of which was an overtime loss to talented Ohio. Bottom line: these RedHawks salvaged an amazing season given what they had to work with, hence why coach Jon Cooper was our No. 3 choice for coach of the year.
Kent State has had virtually the opposite season. A hot non-conference start and 2-1 conference start gave way to an early conference season plummet in the standings. The Flashes won three straight in mid-February to return to the pack a bit, then dropped four of their last five. They did win three times on the road in conference, including at these RedHawks on February 19th.
The pick: Miami -2.5. This is a fairly even matchup, though Miami may have the slight edge. But for those who remember the Q-gazing data (see 2/9/14 column), home teams dominate in the first round of the MAC tournament. This includes eight of ten wins by the eight seed in the eight / nine matchup over the last decade. Slightly better team. Just beat Kent State last week. Historical stats on their side. Have to go with Rock Chalk RedHawk.
Central Michigan @ Eastern Michigan (-13)
The young Chippewas had a reasonable mid-season run of three wins in six games, and covered the spread as often as not during the season. But they wilted in the end, losing their last four to Ball State and three of the west division's elite. Central Michigan's only win away from home this year was a Pearl Harbor day win at SIU-Edwardsville, a team with a current RPI of 318. So there's not much of a question of who will win. Unless the March Madness fairy pays a visit.
Meanwhile the Eastern Michigan Eagles have won their last six at home. In the four games against lower tier MAC competition in there, the average win has been by 16 points, and that includes a 22 point spanking of the Chippewas. In fact, the Eagles beat the Chippewas twice this year by a combined 35 points. That's all the data we need to predict this matchup.
The pick: Eastern Michigan -13. Yes, we hate laying double digits. But the Eagles' smothering defense seems to kick it up a notch at home, and we think there are real expectations in Ypsilanti, with a hope to prove themselves in March.
Bowling Green @ Northern Illinois (-3)
And finally we come to the only somewhat surprising spread of the night in DeKalb. The Falcons' young guard started the conference season with promise, but has dropped eight of their last ten, including the last three by double digits to the east conference leaders. In the only matchup of the year against NIU, the Falcons scored all of 36 points in an embarrassing home loss. They also lost twice to Eastern Michigan, an analogous hard-nosed defensive team. There's really not much to point to optimism for coach Louis Orr and the Bowling Green faithful.
We respect the Hustle Belt readership who voted coach Steve Hawkins of Western Michigan our Hustle Belt coach of the year. But our vote was for Mark Montgomery of Northern Illinois (Editor's note: HELL YES IT WAS), a team that figured to be historically awful, and instead has been consistently competitive. The Huskies have won their last four at home - including wins against EMU and Toledo. They are healthy and playing well, and in an encouraging sign for tired March basketball teams, they feature one of the deeper rotations in the league. We knew they wouldn't get much respect, but a three-point spread is begging to be bet.
The pick: Northern Illinois -3. Begging.