New Mexico State vs. UConn Odds, Picks, Predictions: Expect Low-Scoring First-Round NCAA Tournament Showdown
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyrese Martin (UConn)
New Mexico State vs. UConn Odds
|New Mexico State Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
New Mexico State enters the Big Dance in search of the infamous 12-seed upset over Connecticut.
The NCAA Tournament is familiar territory for New Mexico State, which has made the event seven times over the last decade. The Aggies lost all seven of those first-round matchups, most recently losing by one point to Auburn in 2019.
An upset is very possible this season after New Mexico State finished 26-6, winning both the WAC regular season and conference tournament titles. It has the size needed to compete with the Huskies and a terrific coach in Chris Jans.
The Connecticut Huskies are a popular sleeper pick to make some noise this March. To make that a reality, they will obviously need to first avoid a first-round upset.
The program finished third in the Big East thanks to a dominant home court advantage. The Huskies lost at home just twice this season, with seven of its losses coming on the road.
Both teams like to play at a slow pace and both own a dominant inside presence that helps provide value on the total in this matchup.
The Aggies are a bonafide WAC dynasty. The boys from Las Cruces have gone dancing eight times since 2012 and dominated their conference tournament once again.
But for all of NMSU’s success at the mid-major level, it has struggled to break through in the NCAA Tournament. New Mexico State has lost its last 11 opening-round games.
Can the Aggies break the losing streak against UConn? Well, they do have a chance to neutralize UConn’s number one calling card, which is a good start.
UConn is ferocious on the glass, but the Aggies can hold their own. New Mexico State enters as the 18th-best offensive rebounding unit nationally, and it reins in 76% of its defensive rebounding opportunities.
This is key against the Huskies, who generate more second-chance scoring opportunities than any team in the field.
If NMSU can prevent UConn from reaching double-digits on the offensive glass, it’ll then need to clean up its turnover problem. Despite two high-end scoring options in Teddy Allen and Sir’Jabari Rice, NMSU’s offensive efficiency checks in at 107th nationally because of over 14 turnovers per game.
If the rebounding goes NMSU’s way and it handles UConn’s on-ball pressure fairly well, the Aggies’ defense could tip the scales in their favor.
Jans’ team is top-35 in both 3-point and 2-point defense, and an impressive 24th in opposing shooting efficiency. If UConn tries to run, NMSU is 16th in transition defense and 15th in defending shots at the rim.
It may be asking a lot, but if they can put it together on defense and on the glass, Allen (19.3 PPG) has the goods to deliver a vintage March Madness performance. The Nebraska transfer has seven games of 25+ for the Aggies this season.
The Huskies may not have built the perfect resume for the NCAA Tournament, yet if you’re looking for a recipe for success in March, UConn checks a ton of the right boxes.
Connecticut is the top offensive rebounding team in the nation, buffeting an offense that can be sluggish at times. It’s hard to go long stretches without a bucket when swarming to the glass and grabbing 38% of your own misses.
That fuels a lot of easy looks.
On the other end, UConn has allowed the fifth-lowest 2-point shooting percentage in the nation, thanks to rim protection by Adama Sanogo and Isaiah Whaley. The UConn perimeter players are quick and aggressive defensively, forcing teams right into their waiting bigs.
The Huskies have experience, athleticism, attitude and enough shooting to get by.
There are flaws, of course. UConn isn’t very deep and gets stagnant offensively in crunch time, yet there’s enough to like here that the flaws fade into the background.
The offensive stagnation, in particular, could look like a thing of the past if R.J. Cole has a breakout month, ala UConn greats of the past Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier.
He isn’t the same level of shot-maker as those players, but he could propel a Huskies run this month.
New Mexico State vs. UConn Betting Pick
If New Mexico State wants to find its first tournament victory in a decade, its defense will need to shine. The Aggies rank 15th in the nation in rim and transition defense, which is where the Connecticut offense thrives.
Dan Hurley’s squad finds offensive rebounds at the second-highest rate in the country. The offense is reliant on second-chance points, and the Aggies are a terrific rebounding team. New Mexico State has the size to bang down low and avoid getting bullied by the Huskies.
Both teams play at a slow tempo, ranking outside the top 200 in the nation.
With each program ranking inside the top 25 in defensive field goal percentage, I anticipate this game to be a grind that should stay under the 130 range.