New Mexico vs. Air Force Odds & Picks: College Basketball Betting Preview (Friday, Jan. 27)

New Mexico vs. Air Force Odds & Picks: College Basketball Betting Preview (Friday, Jan. 27) article feature image

AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images. Pictured: Ethan Taylor (5) of the Air Force Falcons. men’s basketball team.

New Mexico vs. Air Force Odds

Friday, Jan. 27
10 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
New Mexico Odds
-105 / -115
Air Force Odds
-105 / -115
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Friday night, Mountain West Conference action is appointment television in my house.

Despite the difference in talent levels, as evidenced by the 12-point spread, I'm excited to see Air Force battle New Mexico at The Pit.

The question is, can the Falcons keep up with Richard Pitino's powerhouse Lobos?

Air Force Falcons

What Air Force lacks in talent, it makes up for in preparation, scheming and magic tricks.

That's hyperbole, but the Falcons are hard to prepare for. They run a methodical, Princeton-based motion offense and a tricky zone-matchup defense.

Joe Scott's offense uses plenty of off-screen and cutting motions, combined with smart and smooth passing that results in numerous 3-point shots.  Meanwhile, the Falcons allow almost no 3-point shots on defense.

Air Force is top-25 in 3-point rate and top-35 in 3-point rate allowed. The Falcons' assist rates follow a similar trend.

Additionally, the Falcons operate at one of the slowest paces, ranking 345th in tempo.

Everything is paradoxical with Air Force. The Falcons are uber-efficient in transition, but spend all their time in the half-court. They're excellent at defending 3-point jump-shooters, but allow almost no jump shots.

If you're ill-prepared for Air Force, you will get burned. But if you prepare correctly, you can usually out-physical the Falcons and win on talent alone.

So far, Pitino has had mixed results.

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New Mexico Lobos

It's a weird spot for New Mexico. The Lobos are looking to bounce back following the loss to Nevada, but they've also played three overtime periods in the past two games.

Are the Lobos motivated? Or burnt out?

New Mexico's backcourt tandem of Jamal Mashburn and Jaelen House is the best among mid-majors. As such, Pitino utilizes them significantly, running an obnoxious amount of pick-and-roll action while pushing in transition as often as possible.

And, per ShotQuality, no team in the nation is more efficient at attacking the rim than New Mexico.

Image credit: CBB Analytics

That said, New Mexico's style of play requires a lot of athleticism and physicality. So, I ask again: Are the Lobos motivated, or burnt out?

I actually think the Lobos might be a little tired, or at least at the end of their rope.

New Mexico is seventh in the MWC in 2-point shooting and 11th in 2-point shooting allowed. Meanwhile, the Lobos are 3-1 in the past four games, despite a ShotQuality record of 1-3.

Interestingly, the Lobos' pick-and-roll and off-screen numbers have gone down the drain. Meanwhile, they're the highest-frequency isolation team in the conference during league play, which is part scheme, but doesn't bode well efficiency-wise.

Defensively, the Lobos can still blow up ball screens with the best teams, although they've seen serious negative regression in rim-and-paint protection.

New Mexico vs. Air Force Betting Pick

The Action Network App has already tracked sharp money coming in on Air Force, and I'm willing to back the early sharp money.

New Mexico is overvalued. From a regression standpoint, the Lobos are begging for a loss. And playing back-to-back overtime games only increases the likelihood of a letdown performance.

Additionally, there are a few advantageous matchups for Air Force.

For starters, this game will be played entirely inside the arc and New Mexico's interior two-way numbers have been dragging since conference play began.

Throw in Air Force's glacial pace and the game script is not conducive to a 12-point favorite covering.

Plus, Air Force has been a solid transition defense all season, even if it's partly because the Falcons play at such a slow tempo. Air Force is 20th nationally in transition points per game allowed, which should keep Mashburn and House at bay.

Air Force covered in three of its past five games against New Mexico, including at The Pit last season, with the Falcons losing by four as eight-point dogs.

ShotQualityBets projects the Falcons as only 8.4-point underdogs Friday night, giving us enough value to play Air Force as double-digit underdogs or better.

Pick: Air Force +12.5 ⋅ Play to +10.5

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