Mountain West Tournament Picks for Wyoming vs New Mexico, More (Wednesday, Mar. 8)

Mountain West Tournament Picks for Wyoming vs New Mexico, More (Wednesday, Mar. 8) article feature image
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Mountain West Tournament · Quarterfinals Betting Preview

The 11-team Mountain West Conference Tournament tips off at 2 p.m. ET as Colorado State battles Fresno State. The Rams and Bulldogs are the first of three games scheduled for Wednesday before Thursday's quarterfinal round. The winner will play top-seeded San Diego State on Thursday.

For a full preview of the MWC Tournament, I wrote about the top storylines and matchups, and where I'm betting this conference tournament earlier in the week.

Let's break down Wednesday's matchups.



Fresno State vs. Colorado State Odds

Wednesday, March 8
2 p.m. ET
MW Network
Fresno State Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
+1.5
-102
134.5
-110o / -110u
+112
Colorado State Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
-1.5
-120
134.5
-110o / -110u
-134
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Fresno State's defense is better than its efficiency numbers suggest because teams have made an absurd rate of 3s against them. The Bulldogs have allowed a 40.9% field goal percentage on 3s in MWC play, which is 2.3% worse than every other defense in the league.

It's not like Fresno State is allowing a particularly high percentage of unguarded jumpers, either. The Bulldogs are 130th nationally in most unguarded jumpers allowed, per Synergy. But teams have a 64.9% effective field goal percentage and are getting 1.3 PPP on those shots. That's compared to an expected 1.08 PPP, per their metric.

Colorado State's defense has fallen off a cliff this season, but it has positive regression coming, too. Fresno State wants to grind games down in the half court and play at a snail's pace. CSU's defense is designed to force shots from the perimeter and ranks top 30 in 3-point attempt rate against.

Fresno is one of the worst perimeter shooting teams in the entire country. The Bulldogs won't be able to expose CSU's defensive weaknesses there. They lost the only meeting between these two teams at home, 60-57, and both offenses had 0.95 PPP or worse in the game.

Neither team is able to get any offensive rebounds or second chance points against the other defense, so that will limit the PPP efficiency of these offenses.

With an early tip-off, lengthy Fresno State possessions and an underrated Fresno defense because of shooting splits, I'm betting the under in the MWC opener.

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Air Force vs. UNLV Odds

Wednesday, March 8
4:30 p.m. ET
MW Network
Air Force Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
+6.5
-102
133.5
-115o / -105u
+245
UNLV Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
-6.5
-120
133.5
-115o / -105u
-310
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

If you just looked at the line and were thinking this is a neutral court game, you'd be surprised to see UNLV this big of a favorite.

But this is played at the Thomas and Mack Center, the home of the Runnin' Rebels. They may be home, but home court advantage has been basically nothing for UNLV, per Haslametrics. It's mostly noise, but it should be noted that UNLV has played better relatively away from home this season.

These two teams played in the same gym on Feb. 24, and UNLV snuck out a one-point win while failing to cover the spread. Air Force led the game by as many as seven and blew a three-point lead in the final 30 seconds of an eventual 54-53 defeat.

That result is a bit of a surprise in hindsight because this isn't a good matchup on paper for the Falcons. Air Force is the worst offense in the MWC at protecting the ball and preventing turnovers, and UNLV is one of the best pressure defenses in the entire country. Because UNLV is so aggressive and gambles for turnovers, it concedes a lot of open 3s and offensive rebounds.

Air Force can shoot a bit from the perimeter, but is also the worst offensive rebounding team in the league. The Falcons shouldn't be able to protect the ball offensively or take advantage on the glass. If the 3s are falling, Air Force can hang in this game. If they're not, Air Force is in danger of getting blown out.

UNLV isn't a great shooting team, but expecting the team to go 3-of-20 from 3 again or turn it over 17 times seems unlikely.

I'll be staying away from this matchup on Wednesday.

Pick: Pass

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Wyoming vs. New Mexico Odds

Wednesday, March 8
7 p.m. ET
MW Network
Wyoming Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
+6.5
-102
149.5
-110o / -110u
+240
New Mexico Odds
SpreadTotalMoneyline
-6.5
-120
149.5
-110o / -110u
-300
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

A brutal season for Jeff Linder and the Wyoming Cowboys is likely to come to an end on Wednesday in Las Vegas. But that doesn't mean the Pokes won't be good for one last cover.

Despite all of the injuries and program dismissals, the Cowboys haven't stopped fighting in MWC play. They won at New Mexico in The Pit on Feb. 15 and then beat Nevada on Senior Night in Laramie on Feb. 27.

In the last month, New Mexico has slipped all the way to 95th in Bart Torvik efficiency. Wyoming is 145th in that same time frame. The Cowboys shoot a ton of 3s and New Mexico has been average guarding the perimeter all season. Most of the Lobos' early conference success was built around teams missing a ton of open looks against them from the perimeter.

In the last month, we've seen a more mediocre Lobos defense and one that's closer to the reality as the open 3s have begun to fall against this defense.

New Mexico does have a couple major advantages — Wyoming's defense is terrible at guarding mid-range jumpers and that's where the Lobos are at their best when Jaelen House and Jamal Mashburn can pull-up off the dribble and score. The Lobos also have advantages in transition that they could exploit here.

Despite that, the Cowboys are well coached, they're usually good at keeping games in a half court setting and they'll make New Mexico's guards defend pick-and-rolls all game long.

New Mexico is a popular underdog pick to make a run in Las Vegas, and it may do just that. But the spread is inflated in this first round matchup with Wyoming.

I'd bet the Cowboys at +7 or better.

Pick: Wyoming +7.5 (+7 or better)

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