Odds & Pick for San Diego State vs. Utah State Basketball: Expect Low-Scoring Affair Between Elite Defenses
Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Mitchell.
- The Mountain West's two best defenses will face off in a critical clash at the top of the conference's standings.
- San Diego State was the preseason favorites in the Mountain West, while Utah State has beaten inferior opposition en route to a 6-0 conference start.
- BJ Cunningham breaks down how he's targeting the total for value in this game.
San Diego State vs. Utah State Odds
San Diego State goes for its fourth straight Mountain West win on Thursday night when it battles Utah State.
The Aztecs came into the season as one of the favorites to win the Mountain West and aside from a loss to Colorado State, they have taken care of business thus far. They won an absolutely thrilling game against Nevada the last time they were on the floor, which featured a fantastic ending.
BUZZER BEATER. @ALEXANDER_HOOPS.
AZTECS WIN. pic.twitter.com/XAp0RIXgAe
— San Diego State Men's Basketball (@Aztec_MBB) January 10, 2021
Utah State is the hottest team in the Mountain West right now, off to a 6-0 start in conference play. However, all six of those wins came against teams ranked No. 270 or worse in the KenPom rankings. The Aggies are yet to beat a team ranked in the top 100.
That means Thursday’s matchup could be a major shock to the Aggies’ system.
When San Diego State has the ball
The Aztecs like to slow the tempo offensively and try to beat teams in the half-court, as they are 336th in Adjusted Tempo, per KenPom.
However, despite that slow pace, San Diego State loves to shoot a ton of 3-pointers. The Aztecs rely on 45% of the field goal attempts coming from behind the arc and can justify that high rate by shooting 43.2% from downtown during conference play.
However, despite shooting a high percentage from 3-point land, the Aztecs are pretty much average in every other offensive category, scoring only 1.04 points per possession in conference play. They better shoot a high percentage from deep on Thursday because they’re facing the conference’s best defense.
Utah State has played three of the worst teams in the conference in Air Force, San Jose State and New Mexico. In six games against those teams, the Aggies have held opponents to only 0.71 points per possession. In those six games, they allowed more than 60 points once.
However, Utah State is likely going to regress against an offense like San Diego State.
In the Aggies’ three losses at the beginning of the season to VCU, South Dakota State and BYU, they allowed 1.09 points per possession. However, in those three losses, they showed why they are one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the conference, only allowing 12 total offensive rebounds.
Bottom line: Utah State won’t continue to put up similar defensive performances, but it is capable of keeping San Diego State’s attack in check.
When Utah State has the ball
The Aggies have been lighting up the scoreboard on offense against inferior competition, scoring 1.17 points per possession in conference play.
Their identity is much different than San Diego State because they like to get the ball into the post as much as possible. Utah State has the best center in the Mountain West in Neemias Queta, who will be a matchup nightmare for San Diego State.
Utah State has one of the highest offensive rebound rates in the country, mostly due to the fact that they are the 26th-tallest team in college basketball. They have two 7-footers, while San Diego State’s tallest player is 6-foot-10 Nathan Mensah.
For Utah State to win this game, it will have to run its offense through Queta.
San Diego State’s defense has taken a step back from last year, as it’s allowing 0.98 point per possession in conference play, compared to 0.94 a season ago. The good news: The Aztecs’ defense matches up well with Utah State because it excels at defending the paint, allowing only 44.9% from 2-point range with an 11% block rate.
Aside from Queta, San Diego State isn’t totally outmatched height-wise across the court, so it should be able to keep Utah State in check.
Where the Aztecs struggle is defending the opponent’s 3-point shot. They are allowing opposing offenses to shoot almost 37% in conference, and that has been the main reason for their two losses to BYU and Colorado State.
Utah State doesn’t shoot a high percentage from beyond the arc, so as long as the Aztecs can defend the paint well, they should be able to slow down the Aggies’ offense.
Betting Analysis & Pick
To me, this game has under written all over it, especially because these are two of the best defenses in the Mountain West. Not to mention, San Diego State is going to try and slow this game down to a snail’s pace, which means this game will likely be played in the half-court.
I only have 126.47 points projected for this game, so I think there’s value on under 131.5 points.
Pick: Under 131.5 (down to 130).