College Basketball Preview - Western Michigan at Ball State (Tuesday 7:00 ET)
By Matt Fargo
We catch a great number with a team that is on the rise and that is a clear buy signal. Western Michigan got off to a slow start and that is why the line is as low as it is.
The Broncos were picked by many to win the MAC West and a lot of people were turned off by their 4-10 start.
The Broncos were unable to get into any early season rhythm as they were playing all over the place as they have had a stretch of 12 games in 12 different cities since November 16th.
They have now put together three straight wins and are atop the MAC West. The Broncos are the only unbeaten team in the MAC West, and they have a chance to further distance themselves with a victory tonight as a win already puts them in front by two games.
Ball St. is playing pretty admirably right now but how long can this possibly last? The Cardinals came into the season an inexperienced team and were picked by the majority to finish dead last in the MAC West.
They have exceeded expectations with a 2-1 start in conference play but the opposition has been fairly tame. Wins over Eastern Michigan and Northern Illinois were good but those two teams are a combined 8-24.
The lone loss came against Central Michigan who is 4-11 on the season. While Western Michigan's overall record is not much better, we are talking about a completely different class here.
The home floor is not going to aide Ball St. that much as it comes in 4-4 and has been outscored by 4.2 ppg and outshot by 7.2 percent at John E. Worthen Arena.
The Cardinals will now have to move forward without leading scorer Anthony Newell who was lost for the season three games ago with a compound fracture in his leg.
He was one of only two players on the team that were averaging double figures in scoring. Looking at the overall number do not show much of an advantage for Western Michigan in any one category with the exception of free throw shooting.
The Broncos are shooting 70.4 percent and 70.3 percent on the road and in their last five games respectively while the Cardinals are hitting at clips of only 59.3 percent and 58.5 percent.
Those discrepancies are pretty major and can no doubt decide the outcomes of games, especially late. Western Michigan also has an edge in offensive efficiency with a 98.5 rating compared to 93.4 for Ball St.
That rating for the Cardinals is 10th in the MAC and 275th in the nation. Compounding that is the fact that the Broncos have held three straight opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.
Ball St. has scored more than 70 points only twice all season and has not done so in 11 straight games.
The Broncos meanwhile have topped 70 points in each of their last three games. Defensively for the Cardinals, they have been solid for the most part, allowing 62 ppg on the season but they have given up 71 or more points in four of their last nine games after not doing so in any of their first six games.
As mentioned, home court is not very beneficial here as Ball St. is just 9-22 ATS at home over the last three seasons.
Western Michigan meanwhile is 20-6 ATS in its last 26 games against teams averaging fewer than 64 ppg. This includes a 6-0 ATS mark on the road in the second half of the season.
The Broncos have won six straight meetings in this series, going 5-1 ATS and they have gone 6-1-1 ATS in the last eight games played in Muncie.
Western Michigan keeps its recent run going on Tuesday.
Pick: Western Michigan -2½ (-106) at 5dimes.com.
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