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Middle Tennessee vs. Abilene Christian CBI Odds & Picks: Blue Raiders Have Edge in Semifinals?

Middle Tennessee vs. Abilene Christian CBI Odds & Picks: Blue Raiders Have Edge in Semifinals? article feature image

Photo by Frank Mattia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

  • Middle Tennessee takes on Abilene Christian for the right to play for the CBI title.
  • The Blue Raiders are elite defensively while the Wildcats love to get to the free throw line.
  • Here's how Keg is betting this CBI semifinal showdown.

Middle Tennessee vs. Abilene Christian Odds

Tuesday, March 22
9 p.m. ET
Middle Tennessee Odds
-110o / -110u
Abilene Christian Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders will square off with the Abilene Christian Wildcats in the CBI semifinals on Tuesday. The winner will go on to face either Northern Colorado or UNC Wilmington in the CBI title game on Wednesday.

Middle Tennessee went back and forth with Boston University for the first 10 minutes or so in its last game, but once the Blue Raiders went on a 10-0 run, it was all Middle Tennessee the rest of the way.

MTSU won in a 76-46 blowout over the Terriers, and while it shot the ball incredibly well, the Blue Raiders’ defense is what extended the massive lead over BU.

Abilene Christian, meanwhile, went down to the wire with Ohio. But after three Bobcats players fouled out and ACU won the free throw competition in the second half, the Wildcats were able to come away with a win.

These teams play two very different styles of basketball, and it will be interesting to see which squad can control the pace and force their style of basketball in this matchup.

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Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

The MTSU defense has been impressive all season, ranking 77th in the nation in adjusted efficiency. The Blue Raiders held opponents to an average of just 67.1 points per game on the year, but through two games in the CBI, they have been even better, holding both opponents to less than 60 points.

The Blue Raiders are a defensive team first; it’s what won them games all season. However, when matched up against ACU, they will be the better team on the offensive end of the court, as well.

Middle Tennessee ranks just 203rd in 3-point shooting and 74th in 2-point percentage, but is considerably ahead of the Wildcats in both.

The Blue Raiders may be a better shooting team and better on defense, but there are still some weaknesses that the Wildcats can take advantage of if given the chance.

First and foremost being turnovers. MTSU averages a turnover on 19.2% of offensive plays, per KenPom. The ACU defense, meanwhile, leads the country in forcing turnovers, creating them on 28.2% of defensive possessions.

Abilene Christian has also been able to draw fouls at a game-changing rate. Opponents average 20 fouls per game against the Wildcats.

Avoiding turnovers and fouls will be the biggest focus for the Blue Raiders. If they can do that, it could be an easy win for MTSU.

Abilene Christian Wildcats

The Wildcats aren’t particularly great on offense or defense, but they are aware of that. Knowing their weaknesses and their strengths has been their biggest advantage throughout the season, and the Wildcats have gotten this far because of it.

ACU is great from the free throw line, averaging 74.6% from the charity stripe. As a result, it draws more fouls and takes more free throw attempts than almost any team in the country.

The Wildcats also aren’t afraid to rack up fouls themselves and put opposing teams — specifically ones that aren’t great at free throws — on the line.

Abilene Christian isn’t a great shooting team, but it makes up for it with its blistering pace (37th in Division I in adjusted tempo).

The Wildcats don’t do well at defending shots and therefore focus on steals and turnovers to throw off an opposing team’s rhythm. They rank second in the country in steal percentage and are first in turnover percentage.

The Wildcats know their game, and they play it well. If Middle Tennessee allows them to play their style, it could be the last of the Blue Raiders’ season.

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Middle Tennessee vs. Abilene Christian Betting Pick

Middle Tennessee is the better team at both ends of the court, and I think it can slow this game down enough that ACU’s advantages against it won’t be enough to get the win.

The Raiders may get forced to the foul line by ACU, but they have been consistent there all season, averaging 74.8% from the charity stripe.

ACU also depends on free throws, with 23.1% of its points coming from the line this season. MTSU has struggled overall this year with fouls, averaging 18.1 per game. But in its last two games during the CBI, it has recorded 16 or less in both.

I think the Blue Raiders can continue to limit the fouls, while also being the better team at both ends of the court.

I would back the Blue Raiders as high as a 2.5-point favorite here.

Pick: Middle Tennessee -2.5 or better 

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