NCAA Basketball Pick: Akron Zips vs. Ohio Bobcats

LT Profits Sports Group

Sunday, January 12, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

Two hot teams square off in a MAC rivalry when the Ohio Bobcats, winners of four straight games and five of six, host the Akron Zips, winner of three straight, on Sunday.

Two hot in-state rivals that each won their MAC conference openers collide Sunday evening when the Akron Zips (9-5, 2-3 away) pay a visit to the Ohio Bobcats (11-3, 7-1 home) at the Convocation Center in Athens, OH at 6:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Akron as a moderate underdog for this contest with the current line at +4½ with odds of -111.

Ohio comes off of a 24-10 season a year ago that included a terrific 14-2 mark inside the MAC, but the Bobcats were denied an NCAA Tournament berth when they lost to these Zips convincingly 65-46 in the MAC Tournament, marking the third straight time Akron beat Ohio last year after sweeping the regular season series. Yes, that makes Ohio a dangerous, revenge-minded team here, especially in light of the Bobcats’ 11-3 start and four-game winning streak.

However, the Zips are also on a winning streak in their of right having won three straight after opening up MAC play with a 72-68 road win at Ball State. Also, a major reason for the Akron sweep last season was because the Zips out-rebounded Ohio in all three games, and they seem equipped to do so again this evening.

Remember that it was Akron the won the MAC last season, finishing an identical 14-2 in the regular season as Ohio but earning the top seed by handing the Bobcats their only two conference losses, and then after beating Ohio for the third time in the MAC Tournament Championship Game, it was the Zips that went on to the Big Dance where they were unceremoniously routed 88-42 by VCU in the second round.

This has become an excellent rivalry in recent years, which in itself makes Akron attractive getting points at a venue where it won 88-81 last season and the Zips again figure to have a nice edge on the offensive glass. That is because Akron is ranked 20th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage at 38.2 percent, significantly above the national average of 31.7 percent. That should lead to a lot of second chance opportunities for the Zips, which figure to add up in an otherwise close game. That is an excellent trait for an underdog like this.

Now, Ohio is an excellent defensive team that is ranked 36th in the country in defensive efficiency while allowing 64.1 points per game, and that has been the main reason for its hot start that continued with a 59-53 road win at Kent State in the MAC opener Wednesday. However, the Bobcats are only 176th in offensive efficiency and, unlike Akron, they are a poor offensive rebounding team ranking a dismal 225th in that category.

Plus Ohio’s inability to beat Akron while beating everyone else in the MAC with relative ease in recent years could be starting to have an effect on the Bobcats’ psyche. Yes Ohio could start to put an end to that with a win here, but we still think Akron will take the Cats down to the wire in any event.

With this in mind, take the points with the Akron Zips at Ohio on Sunday.

[gameodds]14/254562/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NCAA Basketball Pick: Akron +4½ (-111)

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