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San Diego State vs UNLV Odds, Picks: Aztecs Hold Advantages

San Diego State vs UNLV Odds, Picks: Aztecs Hold Advantages article feature image

Pictured: Matt Bradley #3 of the San Diego State Aztecs. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

San Diego State vs UNLV Odds

Saturday, Dec. 31
4 p.m. ET
San Diego State Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Mountain West play began on Wednesday night and it didn't take long for one of the most competitive leagues in the nation to showcase its depth. UNLV went to San Jose State and lost to the Spartans in overtime. San Diego State rolled against Air Force, but most of the rest of the league produced late drama.

There won't be many free wins in the MWC this year and every road trip presents a challenge. UNLV will look to get right on Saturday when Brian Dutcher and the Aztecs visit Las Vegas.

San Diego State was the clear favorite to win the league and will need to keep pace with surprise challenger, New Mexico. UNLV had a solid non-conference, but there's some troubling signs in the underlying metrics that suggest it'll have a problem matching up with San Diego State.

San Diego State Aztecs

San Diego State already played a team that loves to pressure the ball and run in transition when it took on Arkansas in non-conference play. A late collapse cost the Aztecs that game, but SDSU largely did an excellent job forcing the Razorbacks to operate in the halfcourt.

The biggest question mark thus far for the Aztecs has been the usually elite interior defense. Nathan Mensah is the defending defensive player of the year in the MWC and usually, no one can score inside on SDSU. That hasn't been the case this season.

The defense was top 20 in the nation in two-point defense in each of the past two seasons with Mensah in the middle. This season, the Aztecs are outside the top 150. It doesn't make much sense when you consider the personnel, and I'd expect positive regression for the Aztecs interior defense as we get into conference play.

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UNLV Rebels

UNLV began the season 10-0 in non-conference play, but there are no real signs the Runnin' Rebels are much better than they were last season. Bryce Hamilton is gone and the defense is improved, but it's a high-risk, high-reward defense that likes to gamble for turnovers. UNLV is second in the nation in turnover rate defensively and its ball pressure can be suffocating at times.

But the Rebels two toughest non-conference games came against teams that match up really poorly against them. Washington State turns the ball over for fun, and Dayton was shorthanded.

UNLV's offense is in the 81st percentile nationally, per Synergy, in transition efficiency. The halfcourt offense ranks in the 39th percentile.

San Diego State's offense can be inconsistent scoring wise, but the Aztecs will absolutely get back on defense. SDSU is 331st in average defensive possession length and doesn't really chase after offensive rebounds to expose itself in transition.

San Diego State vs. UNLV Betting Pick

UNLV had a solid start to the season, but two losses in the past three games are starting to expose some flaws. Without Hamilton, the Rebels don't have enough reliable scoring in the halfcourt. They've been great when they face a team without ball handlers that they can turnover and score on in transition.

However, trying to speed up the Aztecs is a really difficult task as they're the masters of forcing teams to play at their pace. UNLV won't be able to get enough in the halfcourt to keep up with San Diego State.

The Rebels' defense forces teams to play isolation ball to generate offense, and the Aztecs should get enough scoring from Matt Bradley and their quietly improving ball-screen offense to win this game on the road.

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