Rockets will be flying inside Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in this Mid-American Conference tournament game that features a pair of offenses operating in high gear.
The Rockets and Cardinals are fighting to survive in a quest to make the NCAA Tournament, in which Toledo has won only one game in its history, over Iowa in 1979.
Ball State has fared better on the game’s grand stage, winning twice in 1990. Ultimately, and oddly, a defeat might register as its singular claim to fame. Of six opponents, it was the only one to give UNLV a game (69-67) in the Rebels’ route to the national championship that year.
- Toledo -8 vs. Ball State, Total 154, Thursday, 11 am ET
- Action: Over 154
Over their past three games, top-seeded Toledo (20-7, 15-4) and Ball State (10-12, 8-9) have been clicking so well with the ball both are among the top dozen offensive efficiencies in college hoops.
At 1.179 on the TeamRankings chart, the Rockets have been the eighth-most efficient team on the business end of the court in their previous three games. Overall, they’re fifth in the country, at 1.120, over the entire season.
The Cardinals are tied for 11th, at 1.167, in their past three tilts.
|Toledo||-8 (-110)||O 154 (-110)|
|Ball State||+8 (-110)||U 154 (-110)|
Over Toledo’s past 16 games, it has scored fewer than 76 points just once. That’s a run of 89, 79 (in a loss), 91, 80, 87, 81 (in another defeat), 91, 84, 90, 76, 89, 94 (in another loss), 96, 95 and 84 points.
Last week in Toledo, the Rockets defeated Ball State, 89-70.
The Rockets shoot 38.6% from beyond the 3-point arc, second best in the MAC and tied for 13th in college hoops. They aren’t shy from what they do best, either, as 45.2% of their field goals are from the perimeter, among the top 30 in the game.
And they don’t err at the line, either, where they nail 78.5% of their freebies, best in the conference and 13th in the game.
Ball State isn’t shy, either, from scoring. Of teams that have played a significant number of games this season, Cardinals games have finished Over at a national-best 18-4 clip.
Sixteen of Toledo’s 27 games have gone Over, so between them that’s a combined 34-15 to the Over, an astounding 69.4% success rate that should be trumpeted.
In its four games before that loss to the Rockets last week, Ball State tallied 100, 97, 90 and 79 points.
Today, you’ll need a bigger abacus to keep track of this beauty.
Marreon Jackson (17.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 6.1 apg, 1.9 spg), the Rockets’ 6-foot-1 senior guard, will be right at home inside the Fieldhouse since he hails from Cleveland. He is as unselfish as he is talented, and he sports a 91.2% touch at the line, top 12 in the country.
Guards Ryan Rollins (13.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg), a 6-4 freshman, and 6-4 senior Spencer Littleson (13.7 ppg) are part of coach Tod Kowalczyk’s quintet of double-digit scorers who have lit up scoreboards all season.
In Kowalczyk’s 11 seasons, this is his best offense, with a Ken Pomeroy adjusted efficiency of 115.9 that is bested by only 13 other teams.
The scary part—for the other guys—is that the Rockets are shifting into a higher gear at the right time. Their assists-to-turnovers ratio of 1.490 is 10th in the country, but in their past three games that’s 2.000, one of only five programs with a ratio of at least 2 over the past couple of weeks.
Part of the fun of this one is that both are sterling at the line, as Ball State connects on 74.7% of its free throws. That’s in the top-20-percentile in college hoops, and it will be gratifying to see two teams who care about the details.
The Rockets will not want to foul Cardinals 6-3 senior guard Ishmael El-Amin (16.3 ppg), who drills 88.1% of his freebies.
KJ Walton (16 ppg), a 6-3 senior, and 6-5 senior Jarron Coleman (12.3 ppg) round out Ball State’s arsenal, and the fact that this game will be dominated by guards who know how to score, run the floor and feed open teammates.