Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down New Mexico, UNLV & Boise State

Mid-Major Betting Report: Breaking Down New Mexico, UNLV & Boise State article feature image

Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images. Pictured: Richard Pitino (New Mexico)

In our second edition of the Mid-Major Report, I'd like to look at one conference specifically: the Mountain West.

With seven teams ranked inside KenPom's top 100, the conference is stacked this year.

All but two teams enter conference play above .500, with five teams having already notched double-digit wins.

So, before conference play begins on Wednesday, I want to look at the two teams currently atop the Mountain West, as well as one team that I think could have some serious value in regards to the futures market.

New Mexico Lobos


The Lobos are one of three teams left in the country that have yet to lose a game. However, a lack of competition has heavily influenced their rankings and stats, in my opinion.

The only team in the Mountain West with a worse ranking in non-conference strength of schedule is Air Force.

And while the Lobos did beat Saint Mary's — one of the best mid-major teams in the country — that victory came early in the season and was due largely to the Gaels' foul trouble and an unusually bad night from beyond the arc.

The Lobos rank second in the Mountain West in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and points per game. They also boast three of the top five scorers in the league.

However, I think this is not a result of their lacking competition, but their desire to run-and-gun on offense.

New Mexico leads the conference in Adjusted Tempo and ranks in the 97th percentile nationally in field goal attempts at the rim. They also average 18.2 fast-break points and 18 points off turnovers per game.

I fully expect the six Mountain West teams that rank inside the top 100 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency — as well as any of the seven who are outside the top 200 in Adjusted Tempo — to be a problem for New Mexico.

The Lobos are eighth in the conference in points allowed, which again, I think is due largely to their lack of competition.

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UNLV Rebels


The Rebels are second in the Mountain West standings behind New Mexico. And much like the Lobos, I have some concerns about them heading into conference play.

UNLV is fourth-worst among Mountain West teams in non-conference strength of schedule, ahead of only San Jose State, New Mexico and Air Force.

New Mexico was at least tested on the road against SMU and Saint Mary's — UNLV can't say the same. The Rebels' only true away game came against San Diego, a team that ranks worse than any Mountain West squad (via KenPom).

While New Mexico has relied heavily on its offensive output, the Rebels may be in worse shape. UNLV relies heavily on its defense, along with a high output of 3-pointers and free throws.

UNLV is fourth in the Mountain West in points per game, holding teams to an average of 62.7 a night. The Rebels also hold opposing teams to an effective field goal percentage of 49.1% and allow opponents to hit just 31.9% from 3.

And while I do think the Rebels own a solid defense, they have benefited immensely from creating turnovers against teams that struggle to hold onto the ball. That's something I don't see continuing against conference opponents, especially those at the top of the league.

The Rebels rank inside the top 150 when it comes to 2- and 3-point attempts. While they're also 38th in free-throw attempts, their scoring could suffer severely against Mountain West opponents who slow the pace down and limit fouling.

Much like New Mexico, the Rebels benefit immensely from points in transition or off of turnovers, which I don't see continuing with the step up in competition.

Boise State Broncos


Not only has Boise State faced a tougher non-conference schedule than New Mexico and UNLV, it nearly has a better record than both. Two of the Broncos' three losses came in their first three games of the season.

Boise State has been solid on offense and has improved of late in 3-point and overall field goal percentage (its seen an uptick over its last five games).

Unlike New Mexico and UNLV, some of Boise's most impressive wins have come away from home. The Broncos beat Colorado on a neutral court, Texas A&M on a semi-away court and pulled out a win at Saint Louis.

The Broncos lead the Mountain West in defensive scoring, holding opposing teams to 58.3 points per game. They run at an average pace and have proven their ability against different opposing styles.

Boise State is one of the best in terms of limiting turnovers, giving up just 10.2 per game on the season. The Broncos don't rely too heavily on forcing turnovers, and they've been able to hold teams to a true shooting percentage of 54.5%.

While they haven't been a force on the offensive glass, the Broncos limit teams to an offensive rebounding percentage of just 22%.

This Boise team is not only well balanced at both ends of the court, but it's done it against strong competition.

The main reason I wanted to highlight this Boise team is its current odds listed to win the Mountain West. Boise is currently as high as +1100 at BetRivers and Barstool Sportsbook, while it's as low as +700 at other shops.

It's also likely that the Broncos' last two games of the season — hosting San Diego State and then at Utah State — could be matchups that decide which team wins the league.

Getting something even smaller down on Boise State before conference play begins could be huge.

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Daniel Preciado
May 24, 2024 UTC