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Mountain West Odds, Second State of Conference Betting Report: Does Boise State Have Value?

Mountain West Odds, Second State of Conference Betting Report: Does Boise State Have Value? article feature image
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Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Leon Rice (Boise State)

Mountain West league play began right where it finished last season, with parity and late-game drama up and down the league.

While Colorado State and Wyoming have stepped down from the upper echelon of the conference this season, new upstart teams have emerged to compete for the league title.

San Diego State remains the clear conference favorite, and the Aztecs have taken care of both Air Force and UNLV to begin league play.

New Mexico was the last unbeaten team in all of college basketball, but the Lobos lost their conference road opener in Fresno on Tuesday.

Colorado State and Wyoming were expected to compete near the top of the league, but they’re a combined 0-5 in the conference.

New Mexico may have gone unbeaten in the non-conference, however, betting markets are clear on who it thinks is the closest challenger to SDSU: Ryan Odom and Utah State.

Here are five things to know from the first few games of conference play and what to expect going forward.


Nevada Wolf Pack

1. Nevada may be 3-0 in conference play, but regression looms for Steve Alford’s team

The Wolf Pack have won their first three conference games against Boise State, Colorado State and Air Force, but the underlying numbers suggest that regression is coming for Nevada.

The Wolf Pack trailed for most of the game against Boise State and needed a late run to pull away from Colorado State at home.

Nevada relies more on getting to the line than any team in the country, except for Tarleton State. It ranks second in percentage of points coming from the charity stripe, and I’m always skeptical of teams that rely that much on the whistle to produce offense.

The offense is too reliant on the isolation production of Jarod Lucas, too. He’s an excellent off-the-dribble scorer with elite range, but the offense doesn’t really take advantage of being the biggest team — by height — in the Mountain West.

From a rebounding perspective, the Wolf Pack don’t dominate the glass as much as they could. They do have an excellent post defense (per Synergy), but they struggle to guard ball screens and in transition.

The perimeter defense has plenty of holes, and upcoming games against physical SDSU and jump-shooting Utah State are going to be big regression spots for the Wolf Pack.


Utah State Aggies

2. Utah State is the No. 1 shooting team in the country, but will the defense hold up its end of the bargain?

Odom is most famous for his UMBC upset against Virginia in the first round of the 2017 NCAA tournament. UMBC used elite floor spacing to shoot over the Virginia pack-line defense, had a hot shooting night, and the rest is history.

Now in Logan, Odom has brought similar principles.

The offense is the best in the country in perimeter shooting. That alone suggests that the Aggies are at the top of the market offensively. They’re getting everything possible out of this group from a talent and efficiency perspective.

The Aggies benefitted from a soft landing into conference play with a home game against Fresno State and a road trip to Air Force. Almost no game in this league is easy now that San Jose State is improved, but Utah State hasn’t really been tested yet defensively.

Given how passive the Aggies’ defense is — 311th in turnovers forced and bottom-10 in the country in steal rate — they’re upset prone when on the road.

The defense doesn’t give away many second-chance opportunities, but the unit is primarily built to sit there and wait for you to miss.

If you’re not forcing the issue defensively, winning as a road favorite in this league can be daunting. As shown in its losses to SMU and Weber State, Utah State is plenty upset prone.

Utah State can shoot anyone in this league out of the gym — at least, when the shots are actually falling.

But there’s nowhere to go but down when you’re making 41.9% of your 3-point attempts. Colgate is second at 41.8%, and no one else is higher than 40.4%.

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Wyoming Cowboys

3. The loss of Graham Ike is showing in the Wyoming statistical profile, but they’ve been one of the most unfortunate teams in the country, too.

Wyoming is shooting the ball way more from the perimeter this season for two reasons.

First, Ike hasn’t played. His post-up ability and down-low game was most of the Cowboys’ offense last season.

Second, the other big part of the Wyoming offense was Hunter Maldonado. He hasn’t been the same player this season that he was when he willed the Cowboys into the NCAA tournament.

Wyoming is ninth in the country in percentage of shots from beyond the 3-point line. It went from the highest-usage post-up team in the country to a team that ranks in the 43rd percentile in post-up usage.

The rest of the offense has held up, though. Wyoming is using more pick-and-rolls this year and grades out really well. Jeff Linder is still an excellent offensive play designer and schemer, and Wyoming has schemed open plenty of open 3s.

Those 3s are just not falling.

But I believe positive regression is coming. KenPom’s luck rating has the Cowboys amongst the most unlucky in the league, as does Bart Torvik’s “Fortune Unexplained by Numbers” ranking.

They’re 0-5 in close games, including a heartbreaking loss to New Mexico after leading most of the way.

Even opponents are shooting a ridiculous 77% against the Cowboys from the charity stripe.

The Cowboys will surprise people in this league this season, and I like the spot against San Diego State on Saturday in Laramie.

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Home Court Advantage

4. If you’re new to the Mountain West, it’s important to know how valuable home court advantage is in the league. 

Even lowly Air Force owns a top-five home court advantage in the country, while New Mexico is a top-10 home court.

Going to Utah State, Colorado State and Wyoming is always tricky due to elevation.

There’s perhaps no conference where home court is more valuable than the Mountain West.

All of those schools generally are worth 3.5 or more points per 100 possessions when they’re on their home court, per KenPom.


Boise State Broncos

5. The Mountain West looks like a three bid league right now — San Diego State, Utah State and New Mexico — but Boise State might be the fourth in the mix in the long run.

If you look at the league standings in the NET, Utah State, New Mexico and San Diego State look safely in the field right now. All three are in the top 34 of the rankings and have other solid metrics that will earn them respect in the eyes of the committee.

Next up is Nevada at 43, but I’ve already written why I think the Wolf Pack are at the top of the market and likely to regress from here.

That leaves room for Boise State as the potential fourth MWC team, if the league gets one.

Bart Torvik’s current TourneyCast has them at 25%, behind both Nevada and UNLV.

I think the market is too high on both of those teams, but it might be the time to buy in again on the Broncos — given the defensive improvements in the last few weeks.

They’ll get both SDSU and Utah State home and away, which should present excellent opportunities to grab Quadrant I wins.

There’s still questions as to whether Boise can maintain this top-15 defense, but there’s more to bank on with the Broncos under Leon Rice than there is the rest of the conference right now.

Otherwise, it might be a three-bid Mountain West in 2023.

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