Buffalo vs. Ohio College Basketball Odds & Pick: How to Bet the MAC Championship Game (Saturday, March 13)
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Ohio’s Ben Vander Plas and Lunden McDay.
- Ohio and Buffalo meet on Saturday night to determine the MAC Tournament championship.
- Both teams feature high-flying offense and it should be a high-scoring game.
- Stuckey previews the matchup and gives his pick below.
|Moneyline||+117 / -139|
|Time | TV||Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2|
|Odds as of Saturday morning and via DraftKings.|
Do you like offense and pace? This is the conference tournament final for you. Buffalo and Ohio will square off tonight for the MAC title and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth. The winner of this game will be the lone representative from the MAC in your bracket next week.
The Bulls were in the dance the last time we had an NCAA Tournament and also upset Arizona the year before in the first round. Meanwhile, the Bobcats are looking to get back to the tourney for the first time since 2012 when they upset Michigan in the first round. They also pulled off an upset over Georgetown back in 2010. Whichever team comes out on top in this one certainly has the offensive firepower to pull off another upset next weekend.
Let’s take a quick glance at each team and then look at where the betting value may lie.
Buffalo Bulls (16-7, 12-5 MAC)
Buffalo got here with a relatively easy win over Miami Ohio followed by an overtime win Friday night against Akron. The Bulls want to play at warp speed, ranking 10th in the country in Adjusted Tempo. They are an experienced and balanced group that loves to get out in transition, which they do at the 12th-highest rate in the nation. And when they do, they thrive with their abundant athleticism and versatility of their top four.
Bottom line: whether it’s in transition or in the half-court, Buffalo wants to get to the rim at all costs. Not surprisingly, the Bulls are one of only two teams in the country (Stephen F. Austin) to attempt more than 50% of their shots at the rim, per Hoop Math. They have a few capable shooters (especially Ronaldo Segu), but they’re just not a very 3P-reliant bunch.
Buffalo is dominant on the offensive glass (fifth in the country) and also attacks the defensive boards so it can push in transition. The Bulls actually ranked first in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates during MAC play.
The defense is actually the stronger unit for the Bulls, who boasted the league’s most efficient defense in league play and ranked 48th in that category nationally. Their aggressive length on the perimeter can really bother opponents. Not only do they allow few threes, but they held teams to only 27.5% shooting from beyond the arc on the year. That’s the third-best rate in D-1.
Buffalo does have some weaknesses worth pointing out:
- Struggle at the free throw line (299th).
- Can be exploited on the defensive end off the dribble and in transition.
- Extremely streaky, so they are never out of a game but neither are their opponents.
Ohio Bobcats | (15-7, 9-5 MAC)
Ohio coasted to the MAC final after a blowout win over a shorthanded Kent State squad and then another easy win over top-seeded Toledo.
The Bobcats feature an electric offense that ranks in the 93rd-percentile in overall points per possession, per Synergy. They are a phenomenal passing team (top-25 in assists per made field goal) and rarely turn the ball over.
The star of the show is pro prospect Jason Preston — a wonderful facilitator who has also put up 46 points in two MAC tourney games on 19-of-27 shooting (7-of-11 from deep). Earlier this season, he went for 31 (with six rebounds and eight assists) in a one-point road loss at Illinois. He’s an absolute treat to watch.
However, it’s not just a one-man show for an offense that ranks 11th in 2P FG%. Senior Dwight Wilson is an efficiency monster on the low block and Ben Vander Plas (who dropped 26 against Toledo) is an extremely effective and versatile four. Preston also has reliable shooters to look for on the perimeter for a team that shoots better than 36% from three. Also, freshman Mark Sears has emerged into a reliable secondary point guard option as the season has progressed.
The Bobcats have struggled on the defensive end this year and can be attacked at the rim. However, they’ve certainly picked it up on that end since the start of the conference tournament.
Betting Analysis & Pick
These two teams split the regular season series with each winning on the other’s home floor. So, who will take the rubber match? I actually think Ohio finds a way in what should be a super exciting game.
I just think the Ohio offense is on another level at the moment and the market is undervaluing a team that had to deal with many COVID issues late in conference play. Everything is clicking now and the defensive effort has risen to another level.
A few other notes:
- Ohio excels on the defensive glass and has been much better defending in transition than in the half-court this season. Those are two critical areas when facing Buffalo.
- The Bobcats have had an easier path with two easy wins, while Buffalo went to overtime Friday night. That could play a role in the third game in three days for each team, especially since Buffalo isn’t very deep right now. Their top-four players all played at least 40 minutes in the semifinal.
- Ohio can also shred in transition and off the dribble — the two most exploitable areas of the Buffalo defense.
- The Buffalo perimeter defense is undoubtedly elite, but I do think it’s enjoyed a bit of good fortune. The variance monster could make an appearance here.
I expect another huge game out of Preston and an Ohio offense that is firing on all cylinders at the moment. In a game that I make Ohio a tiny favorite (virtually a coin flip), I gladly scooped up the +2 and the line has since moved to 2.5 at most spots. Also, don’t forget how streaky Buffalo is when it comes to live betting. I’ll be looking to play either side live if/when they get down by six or seven-plus.
Pick: Ohio +3 (+2 or better)