Mountain West Tournament Betting Preview: Bid Thieves Lurk in Vegas
© Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Nevada is the team to beat in the Mountain West, but a few other teams could legitimately make some noise. While UNLV will have the advantage of playing on its home court, that hasn’t helped in previous years. In fact, UNLV hasn’t won a conference tournament since Wink Adams won tourney MVP in 2008. Bubble teams across the nation that exhaled after BYU’s loss last night will now turn their attention to the MWC. If any team other than Nevada wins the MWC tourney, a bid will be stolen.
Let’s jump into the bracket to see who could realistically challenge Nevada to determine if there is any value in the futures market. I will finish up with ATS predictions for each of the Mountain West games today.
2018 Mountain West Tournament Overview
Dates: Mar. 7-Mar. 10
Location: Thomas & Mack Center – Las Vegas
Defending Champion: Nevada
Notable Injuries: Fresno guard Jaron Hopkins (OUT), Wyoming guard Louis Adams (probable), Wyoming guard Hunter Maldonado (?), Utah State guard Koby McEwen (probable), Utah State guard Sam Merrill (probable)
All 11 league teams head to Vegas to play in the Mountain West tournament, with the bottom six seeds squaring off in today’s three play-in games. The winners will join the top five seeds (Nevada, Boise State, Fresno State, New Mexico, San Diego State) in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Let’s jump into the bracket and then finish up with ATS predictions for today.
Who Should Win
The Pack won the league title for a second consecutive year, despite battling major injuries all season. Nevada is a difficult matchup, as head coach Eric Musselman runs a pace-and-space system revolving around position-less players. Few teams in the country (even high majors) can match the versatility and length of the Martin twins (forwards Caleb and Cody) and the Pack’s two 6-foot-7 guards in Kendall Stephens and Jordan Caroline (pictured above).
The Pack can have issues defending at the rim, which No. 8 seed UNLV can certainly exploit that with 7-foot-1 future NBA Draft pick Brandon McCoy and 6-foot-7 forward Shak Juiston. (That duo averages more than 30 points and 20 rebounds per game combined.) The in-state rivals split in the regular season, but Nevada didn’t have Caleb Martin in the first meeting. The Pack also recently sent a message with a 101-75 beatdown of the Rebels on this very floor a week ago. UNLV of course must get past No. 9 seed Air Force first, but Marvin Menzies has had time to re-prep his Rebs for the Falcons’ Princeton motion offense and compact zone defense. Due to the government shutdown, the Falcons also had to cram an extra game into their end of the year schedule.
If Not Nevada, Then …
San Diego State +555
No one in the league is playing better than the Aztecs, who have won six straight, including back-to-back wins over Boise State and Nevada to close the regular season. Getting senior guard Trey Kell back and healthy has been the common denominator in all of SDSU’s big wins. Additionally, the rise of 6-foot-10 forward Jalen McDaniels in the post and on the glass has been a game-changer for the Aztecs.
SDSU will have a stiff challenge with No. 4 seed Fresno State in the quarterfinals. Fresno head coach Rodney Terry modeled his program after what Steve Fisher built at SDSU. The Bulldogs, which relish every meeting with the Aztecs, swept SDSU this year. However, Fresno will be without “point forward” Jaron Hopkins for the tournament.
Another Viable Option
Boise State +335
I have to mention No. 2 seed Boise State, as wing Chandler Hutchison (19.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg) could carry the Broncos to a title. Leon Rice’s 3/4 court zone traps can also be difficult to prep for on no rest. Boise is the best defensive team in the league. The combo of that defense and Hutchison could be enough to win the Mountain West tournament.
The Broncos head to Vegas as a fringe bubble team and will first take on the winner of No. 7 seed Utah State and No. 10 seed Colorado State. USU is somewhat of a difficult matchup for the Broncos, as the Aggies’ stellar, big backcourt of Koby McEwen and Sam Merrill can penetrate against Boise State’s man-to-man defense or shoot over its 2-3 zone. In theory, Colorado State shouldn’t pose a problem for the Aggies. The Rams look like a team just trying to play out the year after all of the off-the-court drama involving head coach Larry Eustachy. CSU’s defense has been getting absolutely shredded under its third head coach of the year, Jace Herl.
New Mexico +1005
The Lobos have played with a chip on their shoulder all year. Plus, head coach Paul Weir’s full-court press and ever-shifting lineup will be hell to prep for on no rest. The Lobos arrive in Vegas on fire, winning five in a row and wracking up the points in the process. This is the tournament’s most volatile team with its ability to generate a plethora of turnovers and fire away from deep with abundance and accuracy. UNM shot the 3 at the second-highest rate in the league, while still hitting at a 40% clip. And as always, the Lobos will have a strong crowd contingency in Vegas.
The Lobos will play the winner of No. 6 seed Wyoming and No. 11 seed San Jose State. Wyoming is another intriguing team that actually profiles similar to UNM. The Pokes spread the floor in transition and have big men like Hayden Dalton and Alan Herndon who can play inside and out. Just a few weeks ago, the Lobos and Pokes played a 96 possession game that New Mexico won 119-114 … IN REGULATION! Assuming Wyoming gets by the scrappy Spartans, who just won their first MWC game of the year last week, Wyoming-New Mexico could be the game of the tournament in Vegas.
Wednesday ATS Predictions
Air Force +10.5
Utah State -6
MWC Final Prediction
Nevada over New Mexico
Photo credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports