MAC Rivalry: Take Kent State +9.5 As Your NCAA Basketball Pick vs. Akron

Willie Bee

Friday, March 4, 2016 12:08 PM GMT

Kent State is fighting for a 1st-round bye in the MAC Tournament, and the Golden Flashes will need a win as underdogs on the NCAA basketball odds Friday at Akron to get it.

Having already secured the regular season MAC title and No. 1 seed in next week's tourney that goes with it, the Akron Zips don't have much on the line in their season finale on Friday. Their opponent, the Kent State Golden Flashes still has plenty to play for when the Mid-American Conference rivals get together.

The Golden Flashes and Zips tip things off for the 145th time in their history, and one can't help but wonder if their will be a 146th meeting next week given how things have gone in the past. ESPN2 will carry the contest from Rhodes Arena in Akron beginning at 7 PM (ET), and playing the home side will mean laying 9-9½ points. And total is set around 149 for the early scoreboard mark

Having been atop the MAC East most of the year, Akron wrapped up that division as well as the top record in the conference this week with a win over Ohio. That means the Zips get a bye into the quarterfinals of next week's league bracket at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

The top 4 teams will get that treatment, and heading into the final evening on the regular season fixture, four teams are tied at 10-7 in the MAC standings, meaning one of them isn't going to make the cut. Kent State is among that quartet that also includes Ohio, Ball State and Central Michigan.

 

Flashes Have Dropped Last 5 MAC Roadies
Rob Senderoff and Kent State (19-11 straight up, 11-14-1 against the spread) looked to be an easy pick to secure one of the first four slots before dropping a pair of games last week at Miami (OH) and Buffalo. The Golden Flashes were 5½ point underdogs on the NCAA basketball odds in the 87-70 loss to the Bulls, and 2 point road chalk against the RedHawks who prevailed 74-65.

They did bounce back with a 70-54 win Tuesday in their final home game of the year, the 70-54 decision vs. Bowling Green more than enough to cover the -6 spread. The victory was bittersweet, however, since guard Galal Cancer suffered a foot injury that will keep the senior out of the lineup for the rest of the season. Cancer had been playing more the last month or so due to fellow guard Xavier Pollard suffering a similar injury at the end of January. Pollard, the team's third-leading scorer, did take the floor in Kent's final home game, but isn't expected to play Friday evening.

If there's any incentive for Akron (23-7 SU, 14-9-1 ATS), it is to avoid a second loss to the Flashes in the last few weeks. Head coach Keith Dambrot knows that being swept by Kent State could cause a mental block should the teams meet in the conference tourney, which has happened four of the last five seasons. The Zips also have a player questionable for Friday's battle as 6-11 center Pat Forsythe continues to endure shoulder trouble. The senior has missed the last five games, and we could see something like what Kent did with Pollard this week, Forsythe getting a start but coming out at the first whistle.

 

Last 3 In Akron Remained 'Under' Totals
Kent State drew first blood in this rivalry with an 85-76 win at home two weeks ago. Kaliq Spicer and Kellon Thomas each scored 22 to pace the Flashes who connected on over 51% of their field goal tries and forced the Zips to turn it over 23 times. Kent was a 3 point home 'dog and the final went past a 146 point total.

The win gave the Golden Flashes a 73-71 edge in the series; the last three played in Akron have been 'under' winners, Kent State covering two of the affairs. My free NCAA basketball pick will be on the Golden Flashes to cover once again.
 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Kent State +9½ 
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes