Mountain West Conference Tournament Betting Preview: Four Teams at the Top
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Mitchell.
The Mountain West might have the most exciting conference tournament on deck this week.
San Diego State arrives as the top seed, looking for revenge from last season’s championship game loss. Colorado State, Utah State, and Boise State each currently reside on the tournament bubble. All three are lumped between 43rd and 50th in the NCAA’s NET rankings, with possible matchups this week certain to decide the fate of each.
For bettors, there’s a value to be found in analyzing the match-ups and the odds of each of those four teams, while keeping an eye out for teams ready to play spoiler and make a move of their own.
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) March 7, 2021
The Favorites: San Diego State (+125) and Utah State (+245)
Last year, we didn’t have any NCAA Tournament magic.
We missed out on almost all of the classic moments that make March our favorite month on the sports calendar. I say “almost” because the Mountain West Conference Tournament title game was an all-time classic. Sam Merrill’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave the Aggies the win over the Aztecs in what will go down as the defining on-court moment of March 2020.
These teams would love to meet again in the final this year as they enter the tourney as the top two seeds in the tournament. It’s certainly a possibility given how well each has played, yet for bettors, the value is found elsewhere in this bracket.
The Bubble Team: Boise State (+400)
The Broncos need to perform well this week to find their way into the Big Dance.
Bracket Matrix places Boise State among the final teams into the NCAA Tournament. That’s a precarious place to sit with bid thieves lurking and power conference bubble teams given a greater chance to impress the committee this week.
Boise State sits in a scary spot in the conference tournament bracket, given the Broncos’ need for big wins. In their matchups with the other three top teams in the conference, the Broncos were swept by San Diego State, split with Colorado State, and swept Utah State. They wouldn’t, however, get a chance to face the Aggies until the championship game.
Worst of all, Boise State’s quarterfinal game comes against a Nevada team that beat the Broncos in back-to-back meetings in February. That quarterfinal game is all risk and little reward for Boise State. A win doesn’t earn the Broncos much in the eyes of the committee, but a loss could be the final nail in their coffin.
The Value Pick: Colorado State (+370)
In the four-way round-robin between the top teams in the conference, only the Rams were able to win at least once against all three of its foes. San Diego State was swept by Utah State, which was swept by Boise State, which was, of course, swept by San Diego State.
Colorado State, however, split with all three. The Rams have the most efficient offense in the Mountain West, thanks to the inside-outside attack of David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens.
When shots are falling, Colorado State has proven itself capable of beating any team in the conference. There’s real value in betting the Rams at longer odds than the Aztecs and Aggies.
The Party Crasher: Nevada (+2500)
Everyone’s already looking toward the semifinals, with the possibility of two fantastic, high-stakes games between the top four teams in the conference. While that would be a ton of fun, that’s the kind of perfect matchmaking that the chaos of March loves to interrupt.
If one of the four teams at the top is going to fail to reach the semifinals, Boise State is the prime candidate. The Broncos lost to Nevada twice already this season, and the Wolf Pack are dangerous.
Nevada leads the conference in free-throw rate and percentage of points coming from the free-throw line. The Wolf Pack also allow the highest percentage of points from the foul line. If Nevada can turn this week’s tournament into an ugly slop fest that’s decided by officiating, the Wolf Pack are capable of pulling off some upset wins.
Nevada may not be good enough to run through the top tier of the conference, though it is being undervalued by the oddsmakers. The Wolf Pack are a top-100 KenPom team, more closely linked to the top teams in the Mountain West than the also-rans at the bottom of the standings.