Akron takes to the road to battle Kent State in a Mid-American Conference matchup. Akron comes into this game having won 7 of 8 games after a slow start this season. Kent State has dropped 6 of their last 8 games to fall under .500 for the season. Game time is set for 8pm EST.
Zipping AlongAfter a bit of a slow start, the Akron Zips find themselves at 9-4 and winners of 7 of 8 games heading into a crucial MAC battle at Kent State. The Zips, like many teams across the college basketball landscape, have endured two cancelations over the past two weeks but are still rolling along. After having their six-game winning streak snapped by Ohio at home, the Zips returned to form on Tuesday night with an 84-74 defeat of Ball State.
For much of the night against Ball State, it appeared the Zips were still shaking off the rust of lost time due to cancelations and were on their way to another home loss. Trailing by 8, 43-35, in the second half, the Zips woke up and went on a 49-31 closing run to take out Ball State. Xavier Castaneda exploded for a career-high 29 points along with six assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals to propel Akron to its second conference win. Enrique Freeman also had a big night with a 14 point, 12 rebound double-double. Bryan Trimple poured in 19 points and Mikal Dawson rounded out the Zips' double-figure scorers with 10 points.
Xavier Castaneda (@castaneda_x) Leads Akron @ZipsMBB Comeback with Career-High 29 Points for an 84-74 Win Over Ball State...— Akron Zips MBB (@ZipsMBB) January 12, 2022
Recap 👉 https://t.co/fNcpcKOq6p#GoZips 🦘 #1Akron | #FindAWay pic.twitter.com/VtoVEx7txj
Akron has been a second-half scoring team this year, scoring nearly 100 more points in the second 20 minutes of each game, 530 to 435 in the first half. Overall, the Zips are outscoring their opponents by an average of 74 to 62. Akron is shooting the ball 46% from the field and holding its opponents to 40% field goal shooting. The Zips are an above-average 3pt shooting team, drilling 108 long balls on the season while containing their opponents to just 80 triples. Akron is fairly efficient with the ball, turning it over an average of 12 times per contest. Akron opponents turn the ball over at a similar rate, roughly 12 times per game as well. Akron's other distinct advantage is in rebounding. The Zips average 38 rebounds per game while holding teams to just 30 per game.
Rough PatchAfter a 4-2 start, Kent State has struggled over the month of December into January to head into its home matchup with Akron at just 7-8. The Golden Flashes have lost two straight games but have been able to avoid cancelations due to COVID excluding one game in late December. With 15 games already under their belt, they are running out of time to get momentum back in their corner.
Kent State's latest loss came on Tuesday night at home to Northern Illinois, 65-63. The loss dropped the Golden Flashes to 2-3 in the MAC this season. Kent State led 37-33 at the half but watched Northern Illinois to come out of the gates fast in the second half and could never quite get over the hump. Trailing by 7, Kent State got the game back within a basket but never could tie the game up. The end of the game summed up Kent State's woes as of late. After cutting the game to two points with under 5 seconds to play, Kent State's pressure defense nearly got a steal but the ball harmlessly rolled away as the clock struck 0.00. Sincere Carry and Malique Jacobs led the Golden Flashes with 16 points apiece in a losing effort.
Kent State is averaging 69 points per game and is outscoring teams by an average of nearly 6 per game. They are not, however, a strong shooting team, shooting at just a 41% clip. The Golden Flashes have drilled 104 3pt field goals on the season but they are a high volume, high total type team, shooting the 3-ball at just 29%. Defensively, they have given up a whopping 114 3pt field goals but at just a 31% rate. Kent State is a decent rebounding team at 35 boards per contest, good for 2 more per game than its opponents. Lastly, the Golden Flashes turn the ball over 12 times per contest but do force 14 turnovers per game.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
I absolutely love this matchup for Akron. The Zips are playing high-level basketball at the moment and head into Kent State with a game under their belt after a brief layoff due to COVID issues. The Zips do a couple of things very well that flies in the face of Kent State's deficiencies. Akron is an above-average 3pt shooting team and Kent State is terrible at defending the long ball. Akron has held their opponents to roughly 40% shooting this season and Kent State is a below-average shooting team. Finally, Akron is a solid rebounding team and Kent State is not a very good rebounding team. This is a recipe for an Akron win and, perhaps, not a particularly close win either. If you look up at halftime and see that Akron is winning, light the victory cigar. Akron typically starts slow but is a very strong second-half team, outscoring its opponents by an average of 12 points per game.
Take the points (+1.5) with a smile and cash in on Akron over Kent State.
Full-Game Total Pick
Akron is averaging 78 points per game in their past 3 games. The Zips are also averaging 78 points per game in its last 7 victories. If the Zips push close to 80 points, as I expect that they will, going over the total will not be a problem in this game. Even by going back and exploring Kent State's last five losing efforts, the Golden Flashes are averaging 69 points per contest. With that in mind, the 133.5 game total seems low to me. Akron should not have difficulty getting good offensive looks against Kent State's subpar defense. I'm also taking into account that Kent State is a high-volume 3pt shooting team so the Golden Flashes will get their share of 3pt field goals. This game looks like it will get well past the total.
Take the over, 133.5.