I like this spot for the Falcons on the road at Akron tonight.
Akron has been favored at home in every game except the game in which they hosted Buffalo. That was a bit surprising to me, but also explains the line being the way it is. Oddly enough, this is the smallest that Akron has been favored by at home this season.
In Akron’s non-conference home games (that were lined), the Zips won but did not cover against Detroit as 13-point favorites, lost straight up to Marshall as 4.5-point favorites, and covered against Tennessee State as 14-point favorites.
In Akron’s conference home games, they have only outscored opponents by an average of 2 points per game. They have been favored by less than 10 in five conference home games, and only covered one of them (Miami). They won but did not cover three of them, and they lost outright to Ohio Saturday, badly.
Bowling Green outscores opponents by an average of 8.4 points per game on the road in conference play. Their only conference road losses were to Miami (lost by 14 pts) and Ohio (lost by 5 points, overtime). Each of their conference road wins have been by 10 points or more.
How They Match-Up
Akron averages 70.5 points per game at home while shooting 43% from the field, 34.1% from three, and 64.7% from the FT line (which is crazy because they average 77.6% on the road). They allow opponents to score only 59.2 points per game against them at home, while shooting under 40% from the field and under 30% from three. However, these numbers include four games against far inferior opponents: Cedarville, Chicago State, Alabama State, and Tennessee State. Those four teams scored 50, 46, 54, 60 points respectively against Akron.
In conference play, Akron’s averages 63.4 points per game on 37.8% shooting from the field and a disgusting 27.7% from three. In their last three games, they averaged 64% from the free throw line. Against conference opponents, they allow 65.1 points per game on 41% shooting while boasting a MAC-leading three point defense, allowing opponents to shoot only 28.8% from deep.
Bowling Green averages 76.2 points per game on the road while shooting over 42% from the field, over 36% from the three point line, and 65.8% from the charity stripe. They allow their opponents to score an average of 76.2 points per game as well, while shooting over 43.5% from the field and over 37% from three. However, these numbers include road losses against St. John’s, VCU, Detroit, Hartford, and Cleveland State in which the Falcons’ offense decided not to show up. Losses to Detroit, Hartford, and Cleveland State may have been a wake up call for Bowling Green, as they have gone 16-4 straight up since December 8th, including a 5-2 road record.
In conference play, Bowling Green averages 79.7 points per game while shooting 44.6% from the field and a MAC-best 38.7% from three. They have allowed conference opponents to score 72.9 points per game on 42.8% from the field.
When I look at the performance of these teams recently, I see that Bowling Green has maintained at a steady pace, winning 4 of their last 6. They had a two-game losing streak last week, which was the first losing streak they have encountered since December. They are scoring efficiently and winning most of their close games. On the other side, Akron comes into this game having lost 6 of their last 8, while scoring over 70 points in only two games (the games they won).
Looming Foul Trouble for Riak?
In Akron’s win over Ohio University in Athens, Zips center and leading rebounder, Deng Riak, fouled out. It was only the second game during which he fouled out, but I noticed a trend surrounding this detail. In the seven conference games before Riak fouled out against Ohio, he averaged 2.28 fouls committed per game. He reached four fouls only once in those games. In the 8 conference games since Riak fouled out, he’s averaged 3.38 fouls per game and has had four fouls in five of those contests. On the season, he is averaging 4.8 fouls committed per 40 minutes.
It seems to me like opposing offenses have realized how to attack the Akron defense, and it is by going at Riak, who is the only rim protector that the Zips have that plays any sort of meaningful minutes. Riak ranks 219th out of 2190 eligible players in block percentage (4.5%) and also leads the team in rebounding, ranking 411th (8.1%) and 426th (18%) in offensive and defensive rebounding rate, respectively.
Going against Bowling Green again may be a nightmare for Riak. He committed only 3 fouls in the first contest against the Falcons, but I have a feeling he may have more trouble tonight. Bowling Green draws an average of 19.8 fouls per game on the road, and in their last three games, have drawn an average of 21 fouls per game. They have three players ranked in the top 450 (out of 2190) in fouls drawn per 40 minutes: Justin Turner (4.6, 431st), Antwon Lillard (4.9, 310st), and most importantly, Demajeo Wiggins (6.8, 24th), who Riak will be matched up with every time they are on the court together. Wiggins fouled out of the first game against Akron, but still played 30 minutes. While he was only 1-5 from the field, he out rebounded Riak 12-4. Wiggins is 15+ pounds heavier than Riak and I believe owns a physical advantage in the paint.
I expect a motivated Falcons team to come in to Akron tonight and force the Zips on to their heels defensively. The best way to attack this Zips defense will be to go at Riak early by feeding Wiggins in the post and working an inside-out game. Wiggins will draw all of the attention in the interior and should create openings for Justin Turner and Antwon Lillard on the perimeter.
Ultimately, I think the Bowling Green offense will be too much for the Zips. The Zips have a great defense on paper, but they lack the shooters needed to pull this one out. Akron has played 14 games against teams that have an effective field goal percentage of over 50%, per Ken Pom. They have lost 12 of those games. Their two wins? By 2 and 3 points, respectively. Bowling Green has an effective field goal percentage of 50.8%. Akron has also struggled with teams that run high-tempo offenses, as they have only won two games in 12 contests against teams that rank in the top 100 in average offensive possession length. Bowling Green ranks 88th.
While Akron boasts a very good three point defense, Bowling Green has seen similar style defenses and has been successful against them. The Falcons have had nine games against opponents that allow less than 32% shooting from three point range, and won seven of them. The only losses were at VCU, who is a tournament-caliber team, especially on defense, and to Toledo at home.
Akron is the worst team that Bowling Green will play this season in terms of effective field goal percentage, as they average only 47.5%. Bowling Green’s average margin of victory against teams with under a 50% effective field goal percentage is +8.9 points.
Akron lacks the offensive prowess needed to keep them in this game. Akron does not have much to play for tonight, except for a chance of playing spoiler. Meanwhile, Bowling Green still has a chance to win the division if they win tonight and win at Buffalo on Friday.
This should be a great game tonight in the MAC!
The Pick(s): Bowling Green +3 (-110) to win 1.5 units & Bowling Green ML (+135) to win 1 unit.
6-1 ATS as underdog this season
20-7 ATS L27 as underdog of 0.5-6.5 / 13-3 ATS L16 as road dog of 0.5-6.5
4-0 ATS L4 as road underdog
9-5 ATS vs conference opponents
9-3 ATS coming off of a win at home
2-8 ATS L10 as favorite
2-7 ATS L9 as favorite of 0.5-6.5
2-5 ATS L7 as home favorite
7-9 ATS vs conference opponents
0-4 ATS L4 coming off double digit home loss