For Openers, Mountain West Matchups Can Pay Off

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, December 27, 2017 2:06 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2017 2:06 PM UTC

A pair of Mountain West Conference openers are featured in our top college basketball picks Wednesday. Check out our best bets as Air Force plays at New Mexico, and Colorado State visits Boise State.

College Basketball Wednesday: Air Force vs. New Mexico

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Free NCAAB Pick: New Mexico -10Best Line Offered: Bookmaker

Air Force (6-6 SU, 3-3 ATS) heads to The Pit to begin conference play with a .500 record or better for the sixth year in a row under Head Coach Dave Pilipovich. Don't let the numbers fool you. This team will struggle in the Mountain West, particularly on the road. The Falcons have played one of the easiest schedules in the nation, ranking 316 out of 351 teams per KenPom. They are 3-42 SU and 3-25-1 ATS in the conference as road underdogs under Pilpovich, last winning while catching points at Wyoming (55-53) in February 2014. Offense is typically the sore spot, averaging just 60.6 points per game under these conditions. KenPom ranks the unit 297th in adjusted efficiency currently.

New Mexico (5-8 SU, 3-7 ATS), meanwhile, is not nearly as strong as the program that won five regular-season titles and/or Mountain West championships from 2008-2013. It is 53-53 SU and 40-55-1 ATS since, picked by the media to finish third from the bottom in conference standings in 2017.

New Lobos Head Coach Paul Weir has the team playing up-tempo, intense defense, and gunning from deep. They rank 11th in 3-pointers made per game (11.0) and 12th in turnovers forced (18.6) nationally.

Air Force is surrendering 71.4 points per game on 47.0 percent shooting in the seven games played listed on the college basketball oddsboard. No opponent averages as many points (78.5) or plays as quick (43rd in tempo) as the Lobos. Colorado is the closest matching New Mexico in this regard, and it put up 81 points versus the Falcons. Look for a similar total here, if not more. Offensively, Air Force has yet to hit 70 points as an underdog, averaging 64.7 points. Lobos win 81-63.

College Basketball Wednesday: Colorado State vs. Boise State

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Free NCAAB Pick: Colorado State +12Best Line Offered: Heritage

Colorado State (7-6 SU, 2-7 ATS) is really missing reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Gian Clavell and first-team All-MW forward Emmanuel Omogbo in this year's offense. In nine contests against Division I opponents without the graduates, the Rams average 66.9 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting. Their overall 40.6 field-goal percentage ranks last in the conference. Juniors J.D. Paige (10.2 ppg) and Prentiss Nixon (17.8 ppg) and redshirt sophomore Nico Carvacho (6.5 ppg) are the only players with significant starting experience for long-time Head Coach Larry Eustachy. The trio will face one of their toughest defensive tests of the season at Boise State (10-2 SU, 6-5 ATS).

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he Broncos rank 35th in KenPom's defensive adjusted efficiency, yielding 95.2 points per 100 possessions. They are led by Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year and NBA prospect Chandler Hutchison. The senior guard tops the team with 15.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. Boise State is 21-5 SU and 14-12 ATS at Taco Bell Arena against conference foes with Hutchsion putting in playing time, the team averaging 76.5 points per game.

Boise State has dropped its last seven straight ATS hosting Mountain West competition. The team is not explosive enough on offense to regularly cover a -7.2 average line behind Head Coach Leon Rice in this scenario. They are particularly vulnerable lying double digits by a small margin, going 7-3 SU and 2-8 ATS as 10- to 12-point favorites. The Rams have played a much tougher schedule and will put in a strong defensive effort of their own. Look for Colorado State to threaten throughout, but come up a little short in the end. Rams lose 76-68, but cover.

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