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Mid-Money Madness: Breaking down 1st-place matchups in the Big West and Mountain West

Hope you’re ready to stay up late tonight.

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

We have another mid-major Friday to break down for all the degenerates trying to get action on a great college basketball slate. There are couple great games on the West Coast that are worth staying up late for, highlighted by Boise State and Utah State, who will play their second consecutive matchup with first place in the Mountain West on the line.

We also get the rising UCSB Gauchos, who have won 10 straight playing the second-place team in the conference, CSU Bakersfield. The Mid-Money Madness column is 9-8 on the season and we are hoping to continue to remain in the green.

As always, we are not professionals and this column is written for entertainment purposes- please gamble responsibly.


Akron at Ball State
7 p.m., CBS Sports Network
Spread: Ball State +4.5
Total: 143

We are going to start the slate off with a little bit of #MACaction. This is a situation where we have two teams going in opposite directions. Akron is looking to continue to cruise through the conference after winning 10 out of its last 11 games. On the other side, Ball State is trying to gain some momentum after dropping five out of its last six. However, Ball State's one win did come against first-place Toledo. While Akron is on a roll, we are going to fade them in this spot. Akron is a team that shoots the three at the sixth-highest rate in the country. Ball State is great at defending the perimeter, ranking 19th nationally in defensive field goal percentage. Akron shoots a lot of ill-advised shots and it's shocking how they keep winning.I realize Akron beat Ball State by 30 earlier in the year, but I think this is the perfect revenge spot for Ball State. I expect the Cardinals’ defense to keep this thing competitive. Take Ball State to pull off a minor upset.

The pick: Ball State +4.5


Toledo at Buffalo
9 p.m., ESPN 2
Spread: Buffalo -2
Total: 161.5

This is one of the more entertaining games on the entire slate. We get a matchup between the MAC’s best offense (Toledo) against the conference’s best defense (Buffalo). Toledo has been lights out on offense, ranking 16th nationally in offensive efficiency, and it shoots the lights from three (38%). Toledo is also averaging 1.19 points per possession in MAC play, but Buffalo is the third-best team in the country in three-point percentage defense. Toledo is also the best offense in the MAC inside the arc, as they’re shooting over 57% from two-point range. However, Buffalo has a good defensive presence at the rim, so things won’t be easy there either. Buffalo has benefitted from destroying the weaker teams in the conference and is 0-4 against Ken Pom's top 150 teams. Toledo is a big challenge and it’s Buffalo’s toughest so far. I trust the Rockets offense to make more shots down the stretch.

The pick: Toledo +2


Saint Louis at Dayton
7 p.m., ESPN 2
Spread: Dayton +6
Total 136.5

The Billikens are living on the edge after being dropped down to Joe Lunardi’s first four out in ESPN’s bracketology. A slow start after their COVID-19 pause has put their at-large tournament chances in jeopardy, so this might be a must-win game. After back-to-back losses to Dayton and La Salle, the Billikens have rattled off four straight wins and have covered in all four games. Saint Louis’s leading scorers have found their offensive rhythm. It needs big performances from Javonte Perkins (17.9 PPG) and Jordan Goodwin (15.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG). ayton won the first matchup after Saint Louis shot just 23 percent from three. I don’t think we see that kind of miserable performance again. The Billikens do a great job of passing and they get baskets near the rim. Dayton allows opponents to shoot 50% on two-point shots and has shown lapses on defense during conference play, ranking ninth in the A-10 in defensive efficiency. Look for the Billikens to avenge their early season loss and make a statement for the committee on national TV.

The pick: Saint Louis -6.


Cal Baptist at Grand Canyon
9 p.m., ESPN 3
Spread: Grand Canyon -11.5
Total: 144

Let’s get wacky and break down a late-night game in the WAC. These two teams have a weird rivalry since Cal Baptist mimicked essentially everything GCU did when transitioning to Division I athletics. This game has all the makings of an over. Cal Baptist leads the nation in three-point attempts and three-point field goals. Their four-guard, space-the-floor offense will make it extremely difficult for GCU to play its two-center lineup. In addition, the Lopes like to play zone defense for long stretches and that's not going to go well against Cal Baptist. On the other side, the Lopes should be able to get easy baskets at the rim all night. The Lopes rank second nationally in a two-point field goal percentage. Cal Baptist ranks 341st overall in defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pom. I see this game getting played in the 150s, so we will take the over.

The pick: Over 144


Utah State at Boise State
10 p.m., FS1
Spread: Boise State -1.5
Total 140.5

Boise State took down Utah State, 79-70, on Wednesday night in the first game of the two-game slate. This game has major implications for the Mountain West regular-season conference standings and both teams’ statuses as at-large tourney teams. Boise State took over the top spot in the Mountain West regular-season standings, but Utah State can take right back with a win on Friday.

This is a matchup I have gone back and forth on. I was originally leaning Utah State to bounce back in the rematch. The Aggies went into the Wednesday game coming off a short COVID pause. I certainly expect them to shoot better than 3-16 from three. However, I feel Boise is simply a bad matchup for the Aggies. Utah State generates a lot of its offense from second-chance points, but Boise cleans up the glass well, ranking 13th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Boise's consistent length throughout the lineup gives Utah State major problems. Boise State simply has a huge athletic advantage, and the Broncos can use a team defensive effort to limit Quetta. I’m just going to take the better team giving up a short number at home.

The pick: Boise State -1.5


CSU Bakersfield at UCSB
11 p.m., ESPNU
Spread: UCSB -8.5
Total 130.5

I highly recommend you to stay up for this awesome Big West matchup. I know most of you guys suffering in the cold are going to be annoyed by all the broadcast pictures of the Santa Barbara beach. But just pretend that California warmth transfers from your TV screen into the living room. It will make things better.

But seriously, this UCSB team may be the most underrated team in the entire country. The Gauchos are damn good. UCSB hasn’t lost since December, winning 10 in a row, however, Bakersfield will be its toughest test during that stretch. The Gauchos are led by Big West player of the year favorite JaQuori McLaughlin, who leads the team with 16.6 points per game. While I have praised the Gauchos, I’m not sure Bakersfield is the best matchup for them. UCSB runs an inside-out offense that relies on dribble penetration. Rod Barnes’ CSUB teams are notoriously stingy defensively. They incorporate a half-court press to stop the flow of the offense. The slow flow of this game ironically favors the Roadrunners. I like UCSB to take care of business at home, but 8.5 points is too much to give a tough Roadrunners team. Expect this game to be a nail-biter.

The pick: CSU Bakersfield +8.5