Three of four here, and Todd and I officially make you money for the season as a whole, and reserve the right to enter the MAC Tournament at the pinnacle of obnoxiousness. It's the final day of the MAC regular season. We need three of these! Let's get to work. Your March 8th picks:
Ohio (-1.5) at Miami
Battle of the Bricks on the hardwood. Bricks of cold, hard cash. Ohio travels to Oxford to do battle with the RedHawks following a 72-61 win over Bowling Green on March 4th. Nick Kellogg scored 25, with Javarez Willis chipping in 16, and the Bobcats shot a scorching 68 percent from the field in the win over the Falcons. The win snapped a brief two game losing streak for Ohio, who dropped home games against Buffalo on February 26th, and Kent State on March 1st.
The win against Kent State marked the second time in the last five games Ohio has managed to cover against the spread. Ohio hit ten treys in the win, and it was the first time in five games that a Bobcats game has hit under, with the O/U being 125.5. The Bobcats are a considerably better team on the road than at home, both straight up and against the spread. SU Ohio is 9-4 on the road including 6-2 in the conference. ATS the Bobcats are 8-3 overall and 6-2 in league play. How about you be more inviting, Athens?
Miami is a team that I think could make a little bit of noise in the MAC Tournament. Things looked bleak for the RedHawks as they dropped five in a row in February, but they've won three of four and with a win over Ohio can finish the MAC regular season at 9-9. March 4th at Kent State they scored a 73-61 victory, hitting seven treys and shooting 63 percent from the field en route to building a 20 point halftime lead. Will Felder scored 26 points in the win, with Willie Moore and Will Sullivan contributing 14 and 13, respectively.
Miami has had much more success at home than on the road, but for bettors, they're attractive wherever they play. The RedHawks are 7-5 SU when playing at Millet Hall this season, including 4-4 in conference play and 3-2 in their last five. ATS MIami is 6-5 overall and 3-2 in the last five. In the win over Kent State, Miami covered, giving 5.5 to the Golden Flashes. It was the third game in the last five overall where the RedHawks covered, and the fourth consecutive game that hit the under.
The Pick: Can't ignore the numbers for the Bobcats on the road against the spread. I can deal with 1.5. Take Ohio, lay the points.
Eastern Michigan at Toledo (-5.5)
Eastern Michigan's just been lying in the weeds, but I see you. The Eagles have won six of their last eight, with one of those losses being a double OT thriller to Northern Illinois, and climbed to 10-7 in the MAC West. March 4th EMU won their third in a row, dispatching Ball State in Ypsilanti, 72-58. On senior night Ray Lee and Darell Combs scored a dozen apiece, and Mike Talley came off the bench to score 10. As usual the Eagles did it with defense, holding the last place Cardinals to 36 percent shooting from the field.
While the Eagles don't have a sparkling road record this season, they haven't been a terrible option for bettors. SU EMU is just 4-9 overall, 3-5 in MAC play, and 1-4 in their last five. Against the spread though, EMU for the year is 7-6 overall, 4-4 in the league, and 2-3 away the Convocation Center. Eagles fans will remember fondly the first time these two hooked up. EMU put the clamps on the normally high octane Toledo offense, holding the Rockets to a season low in a 65-44 win on February 15th. EMU can expect to need to score more than 45 points this time around.
So what to expect from the Rockets? They can be a hard team to read, sprinkling in the difficult to explain loss or uninspired narrow victory over lesser competition periodically throughout the season. Their last game was a good example of the latter, a 73-69 win over Central Michigan on Tuesday. Now, one could argue that we shouldn't knock Toledo for squeaking by, we should be praising Central for keeping it close. You can argue that point, I'll pass. J.D. Weatherspoon, Justin Drummond, and Julius Brown scored in double figures for a Toledo team that had to hold on despite having a ten point lead with just over three minutes remaining. I'm not really that low on Toledo, but yikes, get it together.
Toledo is a perfect 14-0 on the season at home. So they're undefeated in conference play. Also, they're undefeated in their last five. Get it? This is it, an opportunity to finish a perfect home slate for the season. Against the spread at home, meh. 4-6-1 overall in Toledo ATS, 2-2 in the last ten, and 2-5-1 in conference play. They're not sexy to bettors, but they are 25-5 overall, and 13-4 in conference play. That's pretty good.
The Pick: This is a coin flip. Let's say that the Rockets are jazzed for the start of the conference tournament and out run the over matched Iggles. Take the Rockets, lay the points.
Bowling Green at Buffalo (-11)
So my final pick of the MAC regular season is Bowling Green at Buffalo. Hopefully by this point in the day Todd is following closely knowing it could all come down to his Ball State/Northern Illinois pick. Bowling Green enters Saturday last in the MAC East and losers of two in a row. Tuesday at home against Ohio, the Falcons found themselves on the wrong end of a 72-61 decision. In the loss Richaun Holmes scored 20 points and Anthony Henderson tallied 12 points and 5 steals. A win and the Falcons could've secured a winning record on their home court, a bright light in an otherwise dim season.
The Falcons haven't been too rough on bettors though. When playing as the road team this season, Bowling Green is 4-9 overall and 3-5 in league play straight up. Against the spread the Falcons are 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the MAC. Bowling Green is 2-3 in the last five ATS, just the way that Vegas likes it. The last Falcons/Bulls matchup, it was Bowling Green pulling the upset, 74-68 on February 2nd. Expect a considerably different result on Saturday afternoon.
So MAC East leader Buffalo is going to wrap up their conference schedule seeking a little revenge. To this point Buffalo has not lost back to back games in the conference season. Akron knocked off Buffalo 83-71 on Tuesday night. Joshua Freelove scored 17 and Javon McCrea contributed 15 points in the loss. Will Regan led all players with nine rebounds Tuesday night. Buffalo's won eight of their last ten, with their other loss coming at home against Ohio, 73-70 on February 15th.
As good as Buffalo has been this year, they're even better to bettors. (See what I did there?) Buffalo holds a home record this year of 12-2 overall and 7-1 in the conference straight up. Against the spread the Bulls record is 8-2 overall and 7-1 in MAC games. The Bulls have covered in four of their last five games overall, with the lone exception coming in the loss to Akron. In that game Buffalo was the underdog, getting 2 points in the 12 point loss. Against the spread Bowling Green has been the winner in the last four matchups.
The Pick: So with that said, we're going Buffalo. Hard to give up 11 points, but I think the Bulls are going to go out on Saturday intent on making short work of the Falcons and entering the MAC Tournament on a high note. Take Buffalo, lay the points.
Ball State at Northern Illinois (-7.5)
Unbelievable. I totally dump on my partner Keith with a nearly impossible job - close the year with a 5-1 weekend to give us a plus-money season - and he promptly goes 2-0 on Friday. And not only that, but in a rope-a-dope of incomprehensible magnitude, it may all come down to my pick in the regular season's last game, Keith's Ball State Cardinals at (sort-of) my Northern Illinois Huskies.
The Huskies are 3-4 in their last seven games - 0-4 on the road, and 3-0 at home including wins against Eastern Michigan and Toledo. With Kent State's Friday night loss to Akron, NIU is assured a first round home game as either the seven or eight seed. If Miami wins against Ohio, the Huskies will be locked into the eight seed with very little (actually, nothing) to play for here. If Miami loses, NIU could ascend to the seven with a win. It may seem like a nothing but the change has some meat to it - NIU would draw slumping Bowling Green instead of intermittently feisty Kent State in the first round. And if seeds hold, the second round would likely be a matchup against an Eastern Michigan team that NIU has played tough. As the eight seed, NIU would likely draw an Ohio team that would have a massive home court advantage at the theoretically neutral Q.
Ball State took the Huskies to overtime in a two-point loss on February 1st. While the Cardinals have routinely played tough at home, they've lost all but once (Central Michigan by six) by nine or more points on the road in conference. Majok Majok is coming off of one of his best games of the year in the Eastern Michigan loss mid-week, but Franko House may have hit the freshman wall, and the Cardinals just don't yet have the talent or depth to compete with some of the better MAC teams. And amazingly, the Northern Illinois Huskies really are a pretty decent team.
The pick: Northern Illinois -7.5. The honest truth is this: if Miami loses early in the day, I like this pick pretty well. Not great - Ball State played NIU tough - but good enough. If Miami beats Ohio early in the day, this would still be my pick, but I wouldn't be doing that pick at a betting window.