College Basketball Odds & Picks for Akron vs. Kent State: How to Bet MAC Tournament Championship Game
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Malique Jacobs
- Akron takes on red-hot Kent State in the MAC Tournament title game.
- The Flashes have won 14 straight games to this point, and look to make it one more in order to make the Big Dance.
- Ky McKeon breaks down where the value lies.
Akron vs. Kent State Odds
-110o / -110u
|Kent State Odds|
-110o / -110u
Akron and Kent State meet in the MAC final for a chance at an NCAA Tournament bid. This wasn’t the matchup anyone expected after the Zips and Flashes were picked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the preseason poll. But March is mad, and these teams got hot at the right time.
Akron had the tougher road to the final, knocking off Buffalo and Toledo. A win would bring the Zips back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2013.
Kent State handled business against Miami Ohio and Ohio. The Flashes haven’t lost since Jan. 21 and are looking for their first bid since 2017.
The Zips want an ugly game. They are the slowest team in the MAC and rank 350th nationally in tempo. In two matchups with Kent State this season, the possession count was a tortoise-like 60 and 62. Kent State doesn’t mind playing at this speed, but it’s the only tempo at which Akron can win this game. The Zips are outgunned when it comes to talent, but not scrappiness.
As one might expect from a team that wants an ugly affair, Akron plays predominantly through the post. The Zips rank 14th nationally in percentage of plays ending in a post-up, per Synergy.
MAC Defensive Player of the Year Enrique Freeman is the fulcrum on the block and do-everything combo forward Ali Ali can exploit mismatches down there, as well.
Continuing with the ugliness theme, Akron also lives at the free-throw line. Whereas every fan in the country wishes the referees would let the boys play, Akron begs for whistles for all 40 minutes.
The Zips lead the MAC in free-throw rate and rank fourth in the country. Freeman gets to the charity stripe frequently, as does Ali, as does South Florida transfer Xavier Castaneda, Akron’s point guard who has been key down the stretch. Yesterday against Toledo, Castaneda had 26 points including a perfect 7 of 7 from the charity stripe.
One of the primary concerns for Akron is depth. Since Bryan Trimble went out, Akron has kept just a 7-man rotation. That works for the regular season, but it has to catch up with a team who is playing its third game in three days – even if that team plays at a crawl. Any foul trouble at all could spell doom for the Zips.
Kent State is hot, hot, hot. The Flashes haven’t lost since Jan. 21 and are 14-0 straight-up and 11-3 against the spread over that span. The emergence of MAC Player of the Year Sincere Carry, Kent’s point guard and former Duquesne transfer, has been the key. He’s averaging 18.5 PPG and has a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“Balanced” is the word that best describes Kent State. The Flashes are so dangerous because they can beat you in so many ways. They have high-level guards in Carry and Giovanni Santiago, who can handle and shoot. They have big wings in Malique Jacobs, Andrew Garcia, and VonCameron Davis, who can bully smaller foes on offense and guard multiple spots on defense. And, they have legitimate post size in 6-foot-11 Justyn Hamilton and 230-pound Tervell Beck.
This balance has worked wonders on offense down the stretch, but it has especially shown through on defense. Kent State boasts the best defense in the conference, leading the MAC in block rate and ranking second in defensive rebounding rate, turnover rate, and 2-point FG% allowed.
The Flashes are highly equipped to handle Akron’s inside attack. While the Zips’ post play might have exploited a smaller Toledo squad, it will not be successful against the like of Hamilton and Beck.
However, to take care of business and wrap up a bid to the Dance, Kent State must control its fouling. The Flashes rank 303rd nationally in FT rate allowed, which is bad against a team that lives at the line like Akron. The Zips have shot 35 free throws in two games this season against Kent State.
Akron vs. Kent State Betting Pick
Kent State has proven twice already this season that it is the superior team. The Flashes are one of the hottest squads in the country and have shown no signs of slowing down through two MAC Tourney games.
Kent State has answers for Akron on defense and are too versatile to be stopped consistently on offense.
Kent State has the best player on the floor in Carry.
Akron’s short rotation should be affected by its third game in three days.
I’m riding the hot team and laying the points with Kent.
Pick: Kent State -2.5
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