College Basketball Odds, Picks, Futures: 2022-23 MAC Betting Preview
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rob Senderoff (Toledo)
In a world where realignment is consuming college sports, MACtion has become a warm, comfortable blanket. The league has not added or lost a team in a quarter century (Buffalo joined in 1998).
That kind of consistency has bred glorious traditions: most notably, mid-week football.
The league has also become a feisty first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament. Until last year, the league champion had won a game for three straight Big Dances: 2018 Buffalo, 2019 Buffalo, 2021 Ohio.
And last season, 2022 Akron scared the pants off of UCLA. The Zips led, 51-47, with three minutes remaining before ultimately falling 57-53.
The strength of the league as a whole has ebbed and flowed. But the champions are consistently formidable.
The league certainly saw some attrition this offseason. For instance, Toledo lost Ryan Rollins early to the NBA. And one of Akron’s key pieces, Ali Ali, is hoping to help reenergize Butler with Thad Matta. Plus, Buffalo lost all five starters.
Despite that, the cream of the crop looks tough once again.
2022-23 MAC Futures Odds
After capturing two straight regular season crowns, Toledo (+200) once again sits atop the odds board.
Tod Kowalczyk has constructed an offensive juggernaut centered around inverting the floor. Starting forwards Setric Millner Jr. and JT Shumate form arguably the best shooting frontcourt duo in the country.
Last year, the pair combined to make 116 triples at a ridiculous 43.0%.
Opponents had constant issues defending that alignment, and the Rockets’ guards frequently had wide open driving lanes.
With Millner and Shumate back again, that should continue. RayJ Dennis and Ra’Heim Moss are also returning starters. Northern Illinois/Ball State import Tyler Cochran is another burly bowling ball in the backcourt (yes, this is his third MAC stop).
The Rockets have notably been unable to win the MAC Tournament, though. That grinding event has sapped their offensive explosiveness, and more physical foes have found success inside.
Enter AJ Edu, a towering shot-blocker whose career has been derailed by repeated ACL tears. He is finally healthy — by all accounts — and his size should give Kowalczyk more lineup flexibility against bigger frontlines.
Toledo has not just been the best team in the MAC the last two years, though. The Rockets have also been the best against-the-spread team in the entire country. They are an otherworldly 42-21 ATS (.667) over that span, so fade them at your own wallet’s risk.
The reigning MAC Tournament champ, Akron (+400), slides in next per the odds.
The Zips will lean on the inside-out duo of Enrique Freeman and Xavier Castaneda. The pair have drastically different pedigrees: Freeman is a former walk-on, while Castaneda was a lauded recruit from Chicago who began his career at South Florida.
Regardless, though, they are a tough-as-nails combination that embodies coach John Groce’s workman-like approach.
Groce has raved about this team’s defensive potential, especially on the perimeter. Combine that with the loss of Ali’s shooting, and unders could be an intriguing proposition early in the Zips’ schedule.
Kent State Golden Flashes
The preseason coaches poll selected neither of those above teams as the league favorite, though.
That would be Kent State (+550), which possess both the reigning Coach of the Year (Rob Senderoff) and Player of the Year (lead guard Sincere Carry).
Carry and his backcourt mates, Giovanni Santiago and Malique Jacobs, ensure that the Golden Flashes will be a tough out once again.
However, Kent State loses three key frontcourt pieces. The Golden Flashes’ interior size and strength was an antidote to many league foes’ perimeter-based offenses.
Senderoff has potential replacements, but they are unproven, and depth could be a question.
Still, at +550, Kent State is tempting.
The Next Tier
The Bobcats of Ohio (+700) lead the group of contenders. Jeff Boals has done a brilliant job elevating the program in just three years in charge.
Unfortunately, the portal hit Ohio hard this offseason: star guard Mark Sears is now a starter in the SEC.
Boals nimbly scooped up two potential replacements in Jaylin Hunter (Old Dominion) and DeVon Baker (Tulane), but the Bobcats may take time to mesh.
Ball State Cardinals
Speaking of which: Ball State (+1000) has a new coach (Michael Lewis from UCLA).
The roster is tantalizing, especially with Ball State boomerang Jarron Coleman returning from a one-year hiatus at Missouri. Plus, Payton Sparks could be the league’s best true big man.
Lewis’ primary task will be squeezing more consistency out of a bunch that was up and down last season.
Eastern Michigan Eagles
Eastern Michigan (+1400), meanwhile, also found its way into a headline or three this summer.
Emoni Bates will be under a thousand microscopes, but lethal running mate Noah Farrakhan will happily attack distracted defenses.
Bates’ career at Memphis was much-maligned, but EMU could be a sneaky contender if head coach Stan Heath can manage the offensive pecking order.
Western Michigan Broncos
The Eagles’ cross-state rival, Western Michigan (16/1), hired Dwayne Stephens from Tom Izzo’s staff. His arrival breeds long-term optimism, but an immediate turnaround would be a tough ask.
Better health for point guard B. Artis White is a necessity, so monitor the guard’s status closely.
For years, Buffalo (16/1) has been a perennial contender atop the conference. The Bulls have won 10+ MAC games for nine consecutive seasons, but a mass exodus this offseason has cooled expectations.
The Bulls are immensely talented, but their youth likely puts them a year away from contention.
Only eight teams qualify for the MAC Tournament, so competition at the bottom of the league table can be fierce in February and March.
Oddsmakers suggest that the below foursome are underdogs to get to Cleveland.
Northern Illinois Huskies
Rashon Burno won at Washington in his coaching debut at Northern Illinois (25/1).
Unfortunately, the rest of the season was a struggle.
Burno hails from Bobby Hurley’s staff, so more offensive potency is to be expected. The Huskies finished a dismal 337th in KenPom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency last year.
Bowling Green Falcons
If you want to throw a dart in this area, Bowling Green (33/1) could be worth a look.
The Falcons nosedived last year without Kaden Metheny. Fortunately, the steady point guard is healthy again.
There’s enough talent elsewhere for BGSU to reemerge into a contender.
Coach Michael Huger led the Falcons to a 34-20 MAC record from 2019-2021 before last year’s crash landing.
The Two Rebuilds
Finally, Central Michigan (33/1) and Miami (OH) (50/1) both appear to be in the midst of rebuilds.
CMU has a prolific pair of creators in Boopie Miller and Jesse Zarzuela, but the frontcourt is very thin.
The RedHawks, meanwhile, welcome Travis Steele after he was let go at Xavier. His teams never found enough success in the Big East, but he could thrive in a mid-major league. Doing so immediately would be shocking, though.
MAC Futures & Picks
I have little interest in betting against the regular season juggernaut that is Toledo.
However, that hesitancy is more rooted in game-by-game wagering. From a season-long perspective, Kent State at +550 and Eastern Michigan at +1400 offer more value.
The Golden Flashes have an elite backcourt led by the arguably the league’s best player in Carry. If Senderoff sorts out the interior rotation, the Flashes will be in contention.
EMU, on the other hand, is a “ceiling outcome” dart throw. Bates and Farrakhan will scorch opposing defenses, but underrated additions Legend Geeter (Providence), Tyson Acuff (Duquesne) and Jalin Billingsley (Georgetown) provide more substance beneath the surface.
There’s a world where these Eagles soar far above preseason prognostications.