The Ball State Cardinals try to extend their winning streak to three when they play host to the Eastern Michigan Eagles in a Mid-American Conference contest on Tuesday night. The Cardinals are coming off a 97-91 victory over Central Michigan, the team’s second straight game of 90 or more points.
Ball State (9-11) is trying to get to the .500 mark in league play, currently sitting at 7-8 and in eighth place in the MAC standings. Only the top eight teams in the regular-season standings make it to the conference tournament, but the Cardinals have already clinched a spot, with every team below them in the standings being more than three games behind.
One of those teams is Eastern Michigan, which snapped an eight-game conference losing streak with its win over Northern Illinois. The Eagles did it in resounding fashion, winning by 34 points
The Eagles (5-11) went nearly two months without a conference win, thanks in part to a shutdown of more than three weeks for the program due to COVID-19 troubles. Eastern Michigan’s 2-10 record against conference foes has it 10th in the MAC, a game out of last place.
When you bet online on this MAC contest, the Cardinals are eight-point favorites, with the over/under set at 146½.
The Eagles shot a season-best 50.8% from the field and scored a season-high 91 points against a Division I opponent in their win over Northern Illinois, something they could use more of in this contest. Senior Noah Morgan had a season-high 22 points in the win, while Yeikson Montero chipped in 20.
Senior forward Ty Groce is actually the team’s leading scorer and rebounder with 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s coming off a double-double against Northern Illinois with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior guard Bryce McBride is averaging 13.8 points and a team-best 2.6 assists per game. McBride is shooting 33% from 3-point range this season, but he’s been hot lately, hitting 9-of-17 (52.9%) over his last three games.
Montero is the team’s third double-figure scorer, averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. The Eagles aren’t tall — Groce being the tallest starter at 6-8 — which has led to them being last in the MAC in rebounding with 33.6 per game.
Speaking of hot shooting, Ball State senior guard Ishmael El-Amin is coming off a career-high 33-point performance in the team’s win over Central Michigan on Saturday. El-Amin is the team’s leading scorer at 16.2 points per game, ranking him seventh in the conference.
The Cardinals are fourth in the league with 73.0 points per game this season but are averaging 93.5 points over their last two wins. Sophomore guard Jarron Coleman was a big part of that, averaging 25 points and six assists in the two wins to make college basketball news by earning MAC Player of the Week honors.
Coleman, the 2020 MAC Freshman of the Year, broke a bone in his foot in preseason practice and had to sit out the first 10 games of the season. In his first five games, he averaged 6.4 points and 2.2 assists per game, but over his last five, he’s putting up 17.6 points and 4.8 assists.
Senior guard K.J. Walton provides another solid scoring option, as he’s averaging 15.2 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game, shooting 52.7% from the floor. The Cardinals are feeling much more confident now that they have Coleman back in the lineup, hoping to go on a late run in the conference tournament for a shot at NCAA March Madness.
Eastern Michigan finally got another conference win last weekend, but it was against the last-place team in the conference. The Eagles are going to be hard-pressed to repeat that effort against a high-scoring Cardinals squad.
Ball State has multiple offensive weapons and is coming together at just the right time of the season. The Cardinals will close the home portion of their schedule with a win in this one.
When making your college basketball picks, make sure to take Ball State to win and cover in this one.