So by the time Cleveland State and Ohio tip off in Athens Wednesday night at 7:00 PM ET, we will have a lot of money floating out there. Not just fictional money either. I've often been asked if the contributors of Line Drills actually bet on these games that they write about. The answer is, only sometimes, part time. Actually the real answer is, if we're winning, yes. If we're not, get lost. Wednesday night we get a game only a bettor could love, the Cleveland State Vikings and Ohio Bobcats in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
Many lament the perceived dilution of the postseason due to obscure and seldom watched tournaments popping up out of nowhere. Firstly for a bettor that's a moot point. If it moves, we will bet on it. We'll even bet on it halfway through, then see who will take a second half bet. For the MAC fan, it's bliss. There's exactly one game in the NCAA Tournament I truly care about, and that's Syracuse vs. Western Michigan. Any opportunity to continue to watch MAC schools, be it Ball State or otherwise, I relish. Relish and bet on. I'm off my soapbox, let's get to the game. Your Cleveland State at Ohio picks:
Cleveland State at Ohio (+1.5)
Perhaps you've noticed this is a common theme of mine, but Ohio could've found themselves in the MAC Championship game. The Bobcats never strung together enough consecutive wins to catch a lot of eyeballs, but they remained competitive all season long in the top heavy MAC. Ohio was out of the running for one of the top seeds in the conference relatively early, but peaked at the right time, winning three consecutive games entering the conference tournament. In the first round the Bobcats drew Miami, a team significantly better than their 13-18 overall record would suggest. Ohio handled the RedHawks 63-55, before running into Akron. The Zips would cut the season short for the Bobcats, sending Ohio home with an 83-77 loss. The Bobcats led the entire game up until the six minute mark. This one was winnable. Ohio split with Akron during the regular season, only losing in double overtime. Of course that's no guarantee Ohio would get past Western Michigan, but they certainly are a very talented bunch.
Ohio is the top 3-point shooting team in the MAC not named Toledo. The Bobcats connect on 35 percent of their shots from deep. Most of those come from Nick Kellogg. The 6'3" senior guard hits 39 percent of his treys and leads the team in scoring at 15.7 per contest. Kellogg gets help from Travis Wilkins who averages 7 points a game and shoots just under 44 percent from behind the arc. Inside it's the Maurice Ndour show. The junior forward from Senegal scores 14 points and rips down 7 boards per game for the Bobcats. Expect significant contributions from Jon Smith and Javarez Willis, who has scored in double figures in five consecutive games.
Ohio's been a considerably more attractive bet on the road this season than at home. The Bobcats played this season to 14-13 overall against the spread. On the road, 9-4. At home, a cringe worthy 5-9. In the last five the Bobcats have covered three times, and four of those five games have hit the over. In the last six games played at the Convocation Center, the Bobcats have covered just once.
Cleveland State's schedule featured a major early test when the Vikings traveled to Lexington to play then third ranked Kentucky on November 25th. The Vikings gave UK their best punch, losing to the Wildcats 68-61. From there CSU played a scheduled sprinkled with MAC teams, knocking off Ball State and Kent State, and falling to Eastern Michigan, Akron, and Toledo. The Vikings placed second in the Horizon League regular season behind Green Bay, finishing with a 12-4 record. Cleveland State was then upset in the first round of the conference tournament, bumped off by Wright State 68-63 who finished right behind the Vikings in the Horizon League with a 10-6 record.
Cleveland State features four players that all score more than 10 points per game. Bryn Forbes, Trey Lewis, Anton Grady, and Jon Harris all score in double figures led by Forbes with 15.4. Grady is the leading rebounder at 6.9 a games, and Harris rips down 6 off the glass respectively. Ohio had better not let this one come down to the charity stripe. The Vikings have three starters who knock down better than 81 percent of their foul shots. Off the beach look out for Sebastian Douglas. Douglas doesn't always get minutes but when he does he can provide instant offense. Nine times this season Douglas came off the bench to score in double figures.
Cleveland State has been the safest road bet in the Horizon League this season. The Vikings are a mouth watering 13-3 when playing on the road, including five for the last five, and 7-1 in conference play. At home the numbers aren't too shabby either. CSU has covered in 8 of 13 games and in 5 of 9 home conference games. Cleveland State can score some points. In five of the last six road games for the Vikings, the total has hit the over.
The pick: Cleveland State is a good team. I do however have trouble getting over that they played such a MAC laden schedule yet failed to knock off one of our better teams. The Vikings knocked off Ball State (big deal), and beat a Kent State squad that at the time looked surely destined for the bottom of the conference. Against Eastern Michigan, Akron, and Toledo, CSU came up short. Most simply put, we have a lot of relevant data to look at. Had the Vikings been able to knock off just one of those squads, I'd be more interested in taking them. We know that the Ohio Bobcats do not look at point spreads because they are scholar-athletes of the highest caliber, but if they did, they would certainly be offended by being home dogs. Wednesday night take the Bobcats and the 1.5, and bet the over.