New Mexico State vs. Grand Canyon Odds, Pick, Prediction: Lopes Present Value as WAC Championship Underdog (March 13)

New Mexico State vs. Grand Canyon Odds, Pick, Prediction: Lopes Present Value as WAC Championship Underdog (March 13) article feature image
Credit:

Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images. Pictured: Grand Canyon’s Dima Zdor

  • New Mexico State is a short favorite over Grand Canyon on Saturday night in the WAC Tournament Championship Game.
  • The Lopes beat the Aggies twice during the regular season and won the conference handily during the regular season, so why are they a dog?
  • Ky McKeon breaks down Grand Canyon vs. New Mexico State below and makes his pick.

New Mexico State vs. Grand Canyon Odds

New Mexico St Odds -2
Grand Canyon Odds +2
Moneyline -135 / +115
Over/Under 125.5
Time Saturday, 10 p.m. ET
TV ESPNU
Odds as of Saturday and via PointsBet.

This spread is interesting to say the least. Grand Canyon won the WAC outright this season, beat New Mexico State twice by an average of 10 points per game, and currently ranks higher in KenPom than the Aggies. KenPom has this spread as GCU -2. I have this spread at a pick ’em.

So why are the Lopes catching nearly three points? I don’t know!

But my theory is what I wrote about a little yesterday. NMSU was expected to steamroll this conference heading into the season, but ridiculous COVID complications both internally and within the state of New Mexico caused the Aggies to relocate and severely limited their ability to practice. Recently, we have seen NMSU play more to its expectations, winning seven of its last eight games by double-digits.

Grand Canyon on the other hand has sputtered a bit following a 20-day pause from Jan. 31-Feb. 19. The Lopes finished the regular season just 3-3, splitting series with Cal Baptist, Seattle, and Utah Valley.

Conference tournaments can act as reset buttons for certain teams; they’re an opportunity to shake off the recent rust, re-focus, and play your best basketball. GCU looked like it hit the reset button last night when it brutalized Seattle by 34 points. The Redhawks are not in the same class as Grand Canyon, and the Lopes proved that in their opening WAC tournament game.

New Mexico State is the only team in the league that can match Grand Canyon’s talent level, but that coin has two sides. GCU is the only team in the league wthato can legitimately compete on the glass with NMSU and bully the Aggies in the paint.

NMSU owns the 15th best offensive rebounding rate in the country this season (first in the WAC), grabbing over 35% of its misses overall and nearly 38% in WAC play. Yet, GCU held NMSU to just 19 total offensive rebounds in its two games against the Aggies and under a 30% offensive rebounding rate.

Grand Canyon will destroy NMSU inside tonight. The Lopes rank 25th nationally in FGA rate near the rim and 33rd in FG% near the rim. The Aggies rank just 279th in FG% allowed near the rim (all stats per Hoop-Math). Twin towers Asbjorn Midtgaard, a 7-footer who sounds like he’s straight out of a Thor comic, and Alessandro Lever, a 6-foot-10 versatile forward with range, are tough matchups for the Aggies. In two games this season against NMSU, the pair are averaging a combined 26 PPG and 12.5 RPG.

One final matchup point: the Aggies certainly have a lot of talent, but they also take a lot of bad shots. The Aggies are an extremely jump shot-reliant offense, which compounds against GCU’s stout interior defense. No team attempts a higher rate of 3s in the WAC than NMSU, but the Aggies are converting them at just a 31.6% clip. GCU has allowed opponents to shoot just 28.3% from deep in league play; the Lopes have length and speed for days on the perimeter.

This game has some historical significance to it. GCU has never made the NCAA Tournament (it’s only been in Division I since 2014) and New Mexico State has beaten the Lopes twice in the WAC tournament championship to steal the auto-bid. GCU has been sort of like NMSU’s little brother since joining the conference, and nothing would be sweeter for Lopes fans and players than to beat the Aggies in the championship tonight.

Pick: Grand Canyon +2

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