Mountain West Odds, Third State of Conference Betting Report: Takeaways From Boise State, San Diego State & More

Mountain West Odds, Third State of Conference Betting Report: Takeaways From Boise State, San Diego State & More article feature image

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: San Diego State’s Matt Bradley.

San Diego State had a chance to take firm control of first place in the Mountain West standings on Saturday, but a home loss to New Mexico has reopened the conference race.

The Aztecs sit second in the league as of Wednesday, a half-game behind 5-1 Boise State at the top of the league. The Broncos are also now the top KenPom team in the league as well.

Boise State may sit atop the standings and the KenPom efficiency ratings, but the Broncos still aren't the favorite to lift the conference trophy. The market isn't totally buying them, and KenPom is definitely inflating them a bit after five consecutive league wins by 10-plus points.

The Broncos followed dominant road wins at UNLV and Wyoming with a 15-point home victory over Nevada in a revenge spot.

Here are the current conference odds of all teams with a realistic chance of winning the league.

San Diego State+110
Boise State+230
Utah State+650
New Mexico+900
Odds as of Wednesday and via FanDuel.
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Boise State Broncos

Major Perimeter Shooting Regression Looms for Boise State

The Broncos have been both the most efficient offense and most efficient defense in the Mountain West since league play began. They suffered a last-second two-point loss to Nevada to open play and have steamrolled everyone since.

But a look under the hood suggests that regression looms in a big way. The Broncos have made 42.9% of their 3-point attempts in conference play.

For the season, Leon Rice's squad has made just 36.8% from deep. ShotQuality's data suggests Boise is really expected to shoot about 33% from beyond the arc. That means it's shot about 10% above their expected season-long average from beyond the arc in the conference. That's not going to continue forever.

It's not just the offense that has regression looming. The Broncos haven't seen a team make anything from the perimeter against them in weeks, and that's unlikely to continue. Teams have shot just 29% from 3 against the Broncos, but Boise is seventh in the conference in percentage of open 3s allowed.

The expected 3-point field goal percentage against is 4% higher at 33% as well.

Boise State remains elite on the defensive glass and a well-coached group overall.

However, I don't expect it to win the league unless it runs as well as it did in close games last season. I'm going to play against them in the Pit on Friday if New Mexico is -3 or shorter. The Lobos are still better on a neutral in my view, and the Pit is one of the toughest home courts in America.

San Diego State Aztecs

Now Is the Time to Buy San Diego State to Win the Conference 

If you look at San Diego State's statistical profile, you'd be surprised to see the Aztecs have slipped really far down from last season's 2-point defense. But since conference play began, they've tightened up considerably.

The Aztecs may have lost to New Mexico on Saturday, but ShotQuality graded that as a seven-point win. They also remain excellent in defending post-ups, per Synergy. And since conference play began, the Aztecs are first defensively in rim defense and 3-point defense, per expected points per possession allowed.

You can pick some holes in the transition defense, but they're still an elite half-court defense, which will make life very difficult for Boise State in their respective matchups.

San Diego State has had major issues breaking presses, and that's probably its biggest flaw as a favorite.

The Aztecs are sitting at +115 to win the league right now, and they're still tied in the loss column with Boise State as the class of the league. I'd bet San Diego State at +100 or better.

New Mexico Lobos

Lobos Defense has Holes, but Jamal Mashburn and Jaelen House Make Them Dangerous as an At-Large

Now is the time I'm typically looking for a mid-major darling that could be undervalued come tournament time. New Mexico is the third-best team in the conference and will likely earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament barring a second-half collapse.

The Lobos have proven they can win away from the Pit with victories at Saint Mary's and San Diego State. The committee will reward those true Quadrant I wins come March.

House is one of the best guards in the entire country and will be one of the best mid-major players when conference tournaments roll around. Similar to a Jamaree Bouyea for San Francisco or Tommy Kuhse from Saint Mary's last season, House is the engineer of this offense.

The Lobos aren't really flying under the radar because they were one of the final unbeatens in the nation and Richard Pitino is their coach. But guard play is what wins in March, and the Lobos are as good as anyone in the backcourt thanks to Hosue and Mashburn.

The biggest reason I can't trust them to win the MWC is their lack of defensive quality and consistency. The Lobos lack the interior defensive presence night in and out in the league, and the 3-point defense has been fortunate to this point.

But for a game or two in March, House can take over and win any game.

Wyoming Cowboys

If Wyoming Gets Healthy, Major Positive Regression Is Coming

By just about any metric, Wyoming has been one of the most unfortunate teams in the entire country. The Cowboys have dealt with injuries to every major contributor, and they've had terrible close-game luck and horrendous shooting variance all season.

Their actual record is 4-13, and they're winless in league play at 0-6.

The Cowboys still haven't had Graham Ike play a game yet this year, and it's looking like he might not play at all. Hunter Maldonado missed Tuesday night at Air Force. Noah Reynolds, Hunter Thompson and Brendan Wenzel have also missed multiple games.

Wyoming's projected ShotQuality record is 9-8, and we've reached its defensive floor. It's true that the Cowboys are a miserable transition defense, as some teams like Utah State clearly exposed that weakness.

But the Cowboys are a well-coached offensive unit under third-year head coach Jeff Linder.

Laramie is a tough place to win basketball games. The Cowboys rank 358th in KenPom's luck rankings, and teams have just shot ridiculously well against them all season.

It's true Wyoming was pretty fortunate in close games last year and had some positive defensive shooting variance, but the pendulum has swung the other way completely.

I'm eyeing a road trip to UNLV on Jan. 24 as another potential buy-low spot for Wyoming once Maldonado returns.

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