For our Top Plays of the Day, check out today’s Fab Five:
Western Michigan at Akron
When and Where: Saturday, Jan. 5, Rhodes Arena, Akron, Ohio, 2 p.m. EST.
Looking to position itself as the primary challenger to Buffalo in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference, Akron looks to begin league play on a positive note as it hosts Western Michigan on Saturday.
Broncos hope tough road sked provides strength for MAC play
Western Michigan (6-7) had a challenging road schedule in non-conference play, absorbing defeats at Mississippi, Cincinnati, then-No. 5 Michigan and most recently, Dayton.
The Broncos did pick up a pair of road wins at Oakland and Youngstown State and snapped a three-game overall losing streak in their most recent game Sunday, defeating Cal Riverside 73-64.
— WMU Men's Basketball (@WMUMBB) January 2, 2019
Michael Flowers continued his breakout season with 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists as he, Kawanise Wilkins and Seth Dugan combined for 56 of the team’s points. Flowers alone outscored the Highlanders at the foul line, sinking 12 of 13 free throws as the Broncos amassed a 22-5 edge in points at the charity stripe.
After averaging only 3.4 points in 23 games as a freshman in 2017-18, Flowers leads Western Michigan with 16.2 points and 3.7 assists per game. He’s also second on the team in rebounds (5.2) and has combined with Jared Printy to make 51 of Western Michigan’s 108 3-pointers.
The Broncos have made more free throws (213) than opponents have attempted (212), which accounts for 22.2 percent of its 74.0 points per game. They do have some issues with ball control, averaging 14.6 turnovers and owning a minus-3.9 turnover margin per game.
Zips look to be toughest foe to Buffalo in East Division of MAC
While coming up short in almost all of its high-profile non-conference games — the Zips (8-5) did beat St. Bonaventure at a neutral site — John Groce’s team acquitted itself fairly well in non-conference play.
The Grit. The Intensity. The Excitement.
— #MACtion (@MACSports) January 4, 2019
Its five losses came by a combined 18 points and included 2018 NCAA Tournament teams Clemson, Marshall and current No. 6 Nevada. The Zips bounced back from that 68-62 loss to the Wolf Pack by thrashing Carnegie Mellon 82-55 on Sunday behind five 3-pointers and 22 points from Daniel Utomi.
Channel Banks added 13 points as he made 3 of 7 from long range. Akron has hit 10 or more 3-pointers in five straight games and at least seven in every contest. The Zips are shooting 35.0 percent from beyond the arc, and their 10.3 treys made per game are good for 16th in the country.
Utomi is averaging a team-high 16.2 points while shooting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc as he, Banks and Loren Christian Jackson all have the green light to shoot from deep. The trio have accounted for 96 3-pointers and all three are shooting 35 percent or better from long range.
A key for the Zips will be forcing turnovers, something they do well at 14.5 per contest. They have a plus-2.7 turnover margin per game and are limiting opponents to 61.4 points per contest — the best mark in the MAC.
- 5-1 ATS in its last six games vs. sub-.500 teams.
- 7-3 ATS in its last 10 home games vs. Western Michigan.
- 9-4-1 ATS in its last 14 home games vs. teams with a sub-.500 road record.
- The under is 4-0 in its last four home games vs. Western Michigan.
- The under is 4-1 in its last five games vs. MAC opponents.
- The under is 55-25-1 in its last 81 home games.
Western Michigan is:
- 2-6 ATS in its last eight games vs. above-.500 teams.
- 1-6 ATS in its last seven games vs. MAC opponents.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games following a straight up win.
- The under is 19-7 in its last 26 games following a straight up win.
- The under is 12-5 in its last 17 road games vs. teams with an above-.600 home record.
- The under is 8-3 in its last 11 games vs. above-.500 teams.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Despite coming up short in those high-profile games, there were lessons to be taken in the losses for the Zips, lessons they can apply throughout conference play. The big key is the near seven-possession combined difference in turnover margin between the teams coupled with a fairly solid Akron defense.
If the Zips get near their normal volume of 3-pointers made, they should cruise to a win.
Prediction: Pick: Akron -10.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Akron is one of two teams in the MAC holding opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field, and Western Michigan has not done a good job dictating tempo on the road. While the Broncos are the quicker team in terms of pace, their sloppiness offensively gives confidence the under will hit here.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 137.5 points
Half-Time Side Pick
Western Michigan has trailed by nine or more points in four of its six road games and led only once. The Zips have led by eight or more in three of their five contests against D-I teams at home, with Marshall the only team to lead at Akron after 20 minutes.
Prediction: Pick: Akron -6
Half-Time Total Bet
Though Akron has played to 70 and 78 in the first half its last two home games, the Zips did not clear 55 in the other three. That means the truth is somewhere in between, but with Western Michigan’s sloppiness potentially providing extra possessions for Akron, the over is a slightly better play here.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 64.5 points