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San Diego State vs Wyoming Odds & Prediction: Buy Low on Pokes

San Diego State vs Wyoming Odds & Prediction: Buy Low on Pokes article feature image
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder.

San Diego State vs Wyoming Odds

Saturday, Jan. 7
4 p.m. ET
CBS
San Diego State Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-8
-110
134
-110o / -110u
-400
Wyoming Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+8
-110
134
-110o / -110u
+310
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

One year after San Diego State and Wyoming battled in early March with the top spot in the conference on the line, the Cowboys are winless in Mountain West play.

Jeff Linder’s squad lost back-to-back games to open league play against Fresno State and New Mexico, with both games decided in the final minute.

The Cowboys have struggled to replicate last season’s post-up success while Graham Ike is out injured, and now they’ll face the best defense in the conference on paper in San Diego State.

The Aztecs have taken care of a soft schedule to begin league play with wins over Air Force and UNLV. But Saturday will be a test on the road at elevation.

Wyoming’s defense isn’t nearly as efficient as it was last season either, but do the Aztecs have enough first-shot offense to separate from a Wyoming defense that won’t give up second-chance opportunities?


San Diego State Aztecs

The biggest weakness of the Wyoming defense has come on the interior, but the Aztecs don’t have a natural post-up offensive big. Nathan Mensah is the defending Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s not much of an offensive playmaker or scorer.

The Cowboys have two major holes: in transition and in guarding the post-up, where they are among the worst defenses in the country.

San Diego State doesn’t run out in transition all that much, ranking in the 17th percentile in transition frequency, per Synergy. They’re also below average in post-up usage. Most of the San Diego State offense is Matt Bradley creating for himself off the dribble and in isolation looks.

Otherwise, it runs a ball screen for Bradley and looks to generate drive-and-kick opportunities. The Aztecs aren’t all that efficient on the first shot but get to the line often. Wyoming doesn’t foul much at all, either.

The Aztecs run the pick-and-roll pretty well, but not having Ike on the floor has helped make the Cowboys defense more switchable and less exposed there.

While Ike is out and that hurts the Cowboys’ post-up defense, it actually might be better defensively in this matchup to keep the Aztecs from switching Ike into bad defensive matchups.

The Aztecs are also prone to long scoring droughts because of their offense’s lack of fluidity and ball movement. The ball can get stuck, and the offense can stall at times.

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Wyoming Cowboys

The loss of Ike means Wyoming is far less reliant on the post-up this season. Ike’s post-up ability and down-low game was most of the Cowboys’ offense last season.

The other big part of the Wyoming offense was Hunter Maldonado, who hasn’t been the same player this season that he was when he willed the Cowboys into the NCAA Tournament last March.

Wyoming ranks ninth in the country in percentage of shots from beyond the 3-point line. It went from the highest-usage post-up team in the country last year to a team that ranks in the 43rd percentile in post-up usage, per Synergy.

The Cowboys are instead using more pick-and-rolls this year, and the offense grades out really well there. Linder is still an excellent offensive play designer and schemer, and Wyoming has schemed open plenty of open 3s. It just hasn’t made many open jump shots.

The same was true for this team in the nonconference last year before Wyoming began league play red-hot from deep.

I believe positive regression is coming and the market is too low on the Cowboys right now. KenPom’s luck rating has the Pokes amongst the most unlucky teams in the conference and one of the most unlucky teams in the country. BartTorvik’s “Fortune Unexplained by Numbers” ranking says the same about Linder’s team.

They’re 0-5 in close games, including a heartbreaking loss to New Mexico after leading most of the way in their last game. Opponents are also shooting an unsustainable 77% against the Cowboys from the charity stripe.


San Diego State vs Wyoming Betting Pick

San Diego State beat Wyoming last season in part because of how good its post-up defense is. It’s nearly impossible to consistently post up Mensah, and the Cowboys will be using more ball screens and jump shots to attack the Aztecs on Saturday.

They’re much more likely to find success scoring that way than they were last season. This is a buy-low spot on the Cowboys, who were at the bottom of the market entering league play after a poor nonconference run. Now, they’re a team to buy as the open 3s from Linder’s offensive play designs start to fall.

San Diego State closed a 1-point favorite in Laramie last March. The line now sits at 8.5, and I’d bet the Cowboys at +7 or better.

Pick: Wyoming +8.5 (Play to +7)

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