Three MAC games Wednesday night and we picked three winners. We (I) also foolishly elected to expand Line Drills to include the over/unders, and promptly went 0-3. You're smart, you can see which way we're trending. Nevertheless, we're still giving you the over/under, so proceed with caution. In a week full of MAC postseason action there's still one installment of Line Drills I'm most looking forward to.
Picking Western Michigan's game against Ohio State on Saturday.
Put your dancing shoes on friends, there's plenty of upset potential in Buffalo! Your Western Michigan vs. Syracuse picks.
Western Michigan (+13) vs. Syracuse
Your Western Michigan Broncos, champions of the mighty MAC come into Thursday's matchup with Syracuse rolling. Adversity? They've conquered. I don't know a bettor in America who could overlook the little 11 hour bus trip from Kalamazoo to Cleveland the Broncos endured leading up to their MAC Tournament contest with the Akron Zips. The trip looked like it took its toll on weary Western as the Broncos 18 points in the second half and then 15 with just 10 minutes remaining. What followed was a furious run to force overtime, and a dramatic 64-60 victory to earn a spot in the MAC Championship game. With the hard part done WMU blazed past Toledo in the title game, 98-77, and earned and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The win was the fourth consecutive for the Broncos, who have won 12 of the last 13 dating back to February 1st, and were awarded the number 14 seed in the South bracket.
This Western Michigan squad can attack opponents in a variety of ways. First up, David Brown. Brown torched Toledo for 32 points in the conference championship game, en route to earning tournament MVP honors. The senior guard averages better than 19 points a game this season, but isn't afraid to put up in excess of 20 shots a game if he's not hitting. For consistency the Broncos go inside. Shayne Whittington is a 6'11" senior center who averages 16 points and 9 rebounds, third in the MAC on the glass. Connar Tava is a double digit scoring sophomore forward who was second in the MAC in field goal percentage, and Austin Richie is a threat from behind the arc, hitting better than 41 percent of his treys. Weapons abound for the Broncos.
Western's been a solid bet this season, especially recently. For the season the Broncos have gone 16-12-1 against the spread including 11-8-1 in conference play. The last ten though WMU has been even more pleasant to the pocketbook. 8-2 ATS, and for those who want to consider Thursday's game a roadie, 3-1 in that stretch away from University Arena.
On the surface one could argue that Western Michigan is catching Syracuse at the right time. 27-5 overall and 14-4 in the ACC are gaudy numbers for sure, but the Orange find themselves in a bit of a slide. Number one ranked nationally and undefeated 'Cuse squeaked by Pitt and North Carolina State in mid February before the proverbial wheels fell off. The Orange were upset by ACC doormat Boston College in Syracuse on February 19th and the bleeding didn't stop there. 'Cuse lost three of the next five entering ACC Tournament play against North Carolina State where the Wolfpack exacted a measure of revenge and sent the Orange home early, 66-63. A team that once looked surely headed for a number one seed in February, is now slotted as a three seed in the South bracket. The South bracket games are obviously being played in Buffalo, which should amount to a home game for the Orange.
Syracuse is chock full of nationally recognized talent that you've probably heard on national broadcasts too afraid to cover the Mid-American Conference. Chiefly, C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis. Fair, a 6'8" senior forward from Baltimore leads the Orange in scoring at 16.7 per contest. Fair has demonstrated this season that he can flirt with the 30 point game, but he's not immune to putting up a clunker. In the ACC Tournament loss to N.C. State, Fair shot just 3 of 16 from the field and pulled down five rebounds in 40 minutes.
Ennis is the sometimes Buffalo Sabre, freshman sensation from Ontario who has taken the college basketball world by storm. Second in scoring at just over 12 a game, Ennis capable of 18 points and 7 dimes on any night. Trevor Cooney and Jerami Grant both average better than 12 points a game for the Orange, and Rakeem Christmas is a 6'9" junior forward who's a double double threat.
The recent slide for Syracuse certainly hasn't gone unnoticed by bettors. For the season the Orange are 16-11-1 against the spread. In the last ten however, 'Cuse is a pedestrian 3-6-1 ATS. In the last five they're 1-4, with four of those contests hitting the over. Obviously early in the season Syracuse was covering some pretty big spreads, spreads that shrunk as the Orange began to sneak by inferior ACC competition. The recent slide brought those numbers back down to Earth, numbers that we now find inflated as the Orange are dealt a cupcake first round opponent from the lowly MAC. Do I sound bitter? Western Michigan should've been a 13 seed. They also should've been sent out to sunny San Diego. I'm looking out for you Broncos Nation.
The pick: I can't in good faith tell you to take the Broncos in the upset. Oh sure, we've seen 14s beat 3s, and we'll likely see it this season. I will tell you it's on my bracket, even if I haven't made that bet straight up. Nevertheless this is a Broncos team that has only gotten better as the season has progressed, and thirteen is just entirely too big of a number for me to ignore. I expect this one to be anybody's game with five minutes remaining. Thursday afternoon take the Broncos and the points, and bet the over.