Free NCAA Basketball Picks: Utah State Continues To Dominate As They Face Utah

LT Profits Sports Group

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 5:07 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016 5:07 PM UTC

The Nevada Wolf Pack are still in the running for a first round bye in the Mountain West Tournament, but the Utah State Aggies may have other ideas visiting Reno Wednesday.


We venture into the Mountain West Conference Wednesday night where the Utah State Aggies (13-12, 9-13 ATS) should prove to be very competitive despite their mediocre record as they pay a visit to the Nevada Wolf Pack (16-10, 12-12 ATS), who are still alive for a first round bye in the MWC Tournament, at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, NV at 10:00 ET in a game available on ROOT.

The point spread at Heritage has Utah State as a moderate road underdog for this contest with the current line at +4½ on the NCAA basketball odds boards at odds of -105.


One Game Separates Second Place from Fifth
The regular season title in the Mountain West has been all but decided with San Diego State leading the way at 13-1 in conference, but there is a bit of a logjam after that. Nevada enters this contest in fifth place at 8-6 in the conference as well as 16-10 overall, but the Wolf Pack are also just one game behind second place Fresno State at 9-5, with Boise State and New Mexico slitting those two teams both at 9-6.

Thus a Nevada win here combined with a Fresno State loss to Air Force tonight would create a four-way tie for second place in The Mountain at 9-6!

However, Utah State has other ideas, Yes, the Aggies are struggling as the losing NCAA basketball picks in six of their last eight games, but this is a team that is better than its record and is actually a much better shooting team than Nevada, and that could be enough to at the very least propel Utah State to an ATS underdog cover here with an outright upset not at all beyond the realm of possibility.


The “Real” Nevada Offense on Display in Conference
Nevada actually looked like a good offensive team during the non-conference portion of its schedule, but that was a mirage fueled by playing a bunch of soft opponents. Since the start of Mountain West play however, the Wolf Pack have now fallen all the way to 250th in the country in offensive efficiency and 335th in effective field goal percentage at 44.6 percent, keyed by ranking 348th nationally out of 351 Division I teams in three-point shooting at 27.8 percent.

As you might expect, Nevada has been awful offensively in conference ranking dead last in the 11-team league in both effective field goal percentage and three-point shooting. Sure, the Wolf Pack are still averaging 72.4 points inside The Mountain, but that is boosted by playing at the 44th fastest tempo in the country and the second fastest in the conference, and that average is still almost four full points less than the Pack’s overall average of 76.2 per game.

Thus, the shortcomings of the Nevada offense would be more magnified in a slower paced game, and we expect Utah State to be able to slow the tempo successfully here.


Utah State Can Play Its Game
The Aggies are averaging 72.1 points per game overall, but keep in mind that they play at a much slower pace ranking 267th in the country and ninth in the conference in tempo rating, and the fact of the matter is that Utah State is a better shooting team than its average may lead you to believe with an effective field goal percentage of 51.5 percent while ranking 71st in the country in three-point shooting at 36.9 percent and third in the conference beyond the arc.

Utah State also seems to be turning things around since getting buried in the conference standings by a five-game losing streak as the Aggies then won two straight games before a hard fought seven-point loss on the road at Fresno State 75-68 on Saturday, the same Fresno State team that recently handed Mountain West kingpin San Diego State its only conference loss.

And while Utah State in ninth in the conference at 7-11, it can still improve its seeding for the Mountain West Tournament as it is actually just one game from sixth place in a four-team scramble, with Colorado State and UNLV tied at 6-10 and Wyoming joining the Aggies at 7-11.


Aggies Have Dominated Series
Finally, Utah State has dominated this head-to-head series from a betting standpoint with the Aggies going 14-4 ATS in the last 18 meetings, and being in a revenge spot with the fourth ATS loss coming in an upset loss at home in Logan earlier this year is also a nice motivating factor. Also, Nevada is a poor 8-20 ATS in its last 28 games following an ATS loss, as well as 0-4 ATS its last four games after allowing more than 90 points its previous game.

We would not be at all surprised if Utah State gets it revenge with an outright upset of its own here while resuming its head-to-head control of this series, but we are recommending taking the points with the Aggies when they visit Nevada in Reno on Wednesday.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Utah State +4.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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