NCAA Basketball Pick: Denver Pioneers -3½ over Wyoming Cowboys

LT Profits Sports Group

Sunday, December 15, 2013 5:00 AM UTC

Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013 5:00 AM UTC

Wyoming may have the better record at 7-2, but the Cowboys have yet to win a true road game and Denver is always tough at home so take the Pioneers on Sunday.

The records of the two teams are very deceiving on Sunday when the Wyoming Cowboys (7-2, 0-2 away) pay a visit to the Denver Pioneers (3-5, 1-1 home) at Magness Arena in Denver, CO at 4:00 ET in a game available on ROOT Sports.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Denver as a home favorite for this contest with the current line at -3½ with odds of -102.

The Pioneers may be just 3-5, but keep in mind that they have played only two games at home so far with one of them being an acceptable loss to Stanford out of the Pac-12. That is significant because Denver has always been a very good home team in the altitude, such as when it went 14-2 at Magness last season!

Conversely, Wyoming also has a deceptive record at 7-2 for the opposite reason, as the Cowboys are 6-0 at home vs. weak competition but 0-2 in true road games. The seventh win came on a neutral court last game 67-66 in overtime vs. South Dakota, which like Denver plays in the Summit League but is not nearly as talented as the Pioneers, ranking 237th overall on the Pomeroy Ratings, so the struggles of Wyoming that game should be a concern.

Denver is playing in its third conference in three years, as it was a member of the Sun Belt Conference before spending one year in the WAC last season, and it is now one of the preseason favorites to win the Summit along with North Dakota State. This is also Denver’s second straight game vs. a Mountain West Conference opponent as it comes off of an impressive road win 80-70 at Colorado State.

Despite the 3-5 mark, the Pioneers rank above average in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency and, and a key reason why is a nice turnover differential. That is because the Denver defense ranks a respectable 76th in the country in turnover percentage at 20.2 percent compared to a national average of 18.5 percent, and just as importantly the offense does not turn the ball over much at 17.5 percent.

The Pioneers should be able to do basically whatever they want offensively because Wyoming applies virtually no pressure, ranking a dismal 322nd nationally in defensive turnover percentage. And that is while not beating a single team currently ranked higher than 183rd on Pomeroy.

If this all sounds very familiar for Wyoming, just think back to the last two years as the Cowboys were 14-2 in early non-conference play in 2011-2012 and then 13-0 last season, and in both cases, those records were mainly due to soft scheduling and they came back to earth once Mountain West play rolled around.

Granted this is not a Mountain West game but Denver playing at Magness Arena represents a step up from what the Cowboys have been winning against so far, and they may enter this contest a tad overconfident given their non-conference success of now the last three seasons counting this one.

They could be walking into an ambush here though and there is a reason that Denver is favored, so give the moderate spot with the Pioneers on Sunday.


NCAA Basketball Pick: Denver -3½ (-102)

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