College Basketball State of the Mountain West Betting Report: What Teams to Buy, Sell & Hold
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Mountain West play has gotten off to a difficult start because of all of the COVID-19 pauses and game cancellations.
San Diego State is the current favorite to win the conference following its dominant win against Colorado State on Saturday. However, the Aztecs have since entered a COVID pause and had a game against UNLV canceled mid-week.
Colorado State looked sluggish and struggled to shoot out of its own COVID pause, barely squeaking by Air Force and losing by 30 to SDSU. The Rams bounced back with a five-point home win against Utah State on Tuesday night, though, and remain the clearest challenger to SDSU.
Nevada played another quality opponent and was extremely underwhelming in a 15-point home loss to Boise State. The Broncos are now the dark horse to watch in the conference following double-digit wins against both Fresno State and Nevada.
The original dark horse I wrote about in the first conference preview was Wyoming, but the Cowboys still haven’t played a league game yet and their road trip to Utah State on Saturday will be their first game since Christmas day.
Here’s a look at the conference standings:
Here’s the teams I’m buying, selling and holding in the mid-major conference as (hopefully) a more consistent schedule is played.
Odds via DraftKings
The addition of freshman sharp shooter Tyson Degenhart has helped improve Boise’s perimeter offense considerably, and Marcus Shaver Jr. is playing at an elite level right now.
The Broncos are an elite defensive unit and rank 21st in ShotQuality allowed at that end. The Broncos chase opponents off of the 3-point line, which makes them a good matchup for Colorado State and Wyoming, fellow teams in the conference that love to shoot from deep.
Shaver tallied 15, 18 and 28 points in the Broncos’ last three wins against Washington State, Fresno and Nevada, respectively.
Finally getting consistent offense as a unit would be the key to unlocking the potential that this Broncos team has had but failed to reach in past seasons.
They may not win this conference, but looking at the current board, no one is more appetizing with a higher ceiling than the Broncos.
Given how well they defend, they should play low-scoring, toss-up games with San Diego State when that time comes. They also might be the team in the conference to handle the Aztecs on the glass.
Wyoming was +1500 to win this conference when league play was set to begin right after Christmas. Everyone has played at least one game except the Cowboys, who have had COVID issues themselves and then within the ranks of scheduled opponents.
Now, COVID rust becomes a concern for a club that relies so much on jump shooting. The Cowboys have positive regression coming from their 3-point shooting, but it might take them time to find their range after 3+ weeks without a game.
And a road trip to Logan and Utah State is a difficult starting game off of that pause.
The Wyoming offense has been even better than anticipated based on underlying metrics and shot quality. If the Cowboys start making more 3s — as they should — this team could make a run and try to win a relatively wide open conference as a big underdog.
They’ll be a team I’ll be backing more often than not in games in this conference because it doesn’t seem that the market is showing them enough respect.
The Jeff Linder fan club might gain some more members in the next two months.
It was another disappointing performance for Steve Alford’s Wolf Pack in a 85-70 home loss to Boise State. For as much as the Broncos profile as a team that struggles to consistently score in the half-court offensively, Boise had no problems dismantling the Nevada defense.
Boise averaged 1.13 PPP, its best per possession game all year against a top-100 opponent. Nevada is now outside the top 100 in both offensive and defensive adjusted ShotQuality, and its offense doesn’t have anything it does particularly well to offer some optimism.
For a team that began the year in the KenPom top-50, had the second-best odds to win this conference and was expected to contend for the title with SDSU down, Nevada has done anything but.
There’s more room for Nevada to fall, as the Grant Sherfield offensive showcase can only take the Wolf Pack so far.
There’s no value in buying the Aztecs at this number, and I still have major questions about the offense, even though the unit dazzled at home against Colorado State.
Against the Rams, Matt Bradley had the kind of game head coach Brian Dutcher expected him to have more often. Bradley had 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field and carried an otherwise very middling offense to an impressive 1.18 PPP.
The Aztecs’ elite defense will always give them a high floor, and that was the case on Saturday when they totally shut down the Rams. CSU had scored at least 66 in every game and hadn’t lost all year until it was held to 49 points and 0.73 PPP on Saturday.
But until Bradley is more consistent, the Aztecs are nothing more than a solid mid-major NCAA Tournament team. They currently have little upside to surprise people, given how bad the offense is and how much they rely on bad shot selection and isolation shot-making.
It could change, and Bradley could improve, but until then, I’m in wait-and-see mode on SDSU. I will be picking off spots to fade the Aztecs as an overvalued favorite.
I’m surprised to see the Aggies priced so far ahead of Wyoming on this odds chart, given that the Aggies already have two conference losses (one to Air Force and one to Colorado State).
Utah State is fully in a transition year under new head coach Ryan Odom, and is replacing a lot of lost talent from last year.
The Aggies shoot and concede a lot of 3-point field goal attempts and that makes them a high variance team. That is important to keep in mind when they lose to Air Force, nearly lose to New Mexico, but also nearly upset Colorado State in Fort Collins.
The Aggies don’t have the consistency to compete for a conference title night in and night out, but they are a pain to play and Logan is a difficult place to travel to. That means Utah State is sure to surprise some teams as underdogs this year.