NCAA Basketball Picks: Back The Massive Home Chalk In Air Force vs. UNLV

Jason Lake

Saturday, January 16, 2016 2:04 AM GMT

Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 2:04 AM GMT

They're both near the bottom of the Mountain West standings, but at least the UNLV Runnin' Rebels have been a stronger NCAA Basketball pick than the Air Force Falcons.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: UNLV -16
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

Now that college football is over and done with, a nation turns its lonely eyes to the hardwood, where 351 Division I teams are clamoring for your attention. This is a very special year for college basketball, and for making your NCAA Basketball picks; the shot clock has been lowered from 35 seconds to 30, and go figure, the OVER has taken the advantage at 901-864 (51.1 percent) as we go to press. This could be a viable “default” pick going forward – except when it's not, of course.

Then again, the mid-majors and the low majors are typically where it's at when you're betting on college sports. Today, we look at the Mountain West Conference, where the UNLV Runnin' Rebels (10-7 SU, 9-7 ATS) will host the Air Force Falcons (10-7 SU, 5-6 ATS) this Saturday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Each of these teams is 1-3 in conference play. Seems like a competitive matchup.

 

Ocean's Fifteen
Or not. While the Rebels and the Falcons are tied in the standings, there's a big difference in quality between these two teams. Ken Pomeroy has UNLV ranked No. 87 overall (No. 230 offense, No. 10 defense) in efficiency, with Air Force eating their propwash at No. 262 overall (No. 322 offense, No. 150 defense). Fittingly enough, the Rebs are 15-point home faves on our NCAA Basketball odds board at press time.

Alas, no totals yet, but it should be pretty obvious by now that these two teams – especially UNLV – are not designed to go OVER. The Rebels have the UNDER at 11-5 thus far; Air Force has a 6-5 OVER record, but that's after starting the season 4-0. Neither team runs a Top-50 offense in terms of tempo, so if the totals don't come out too funny, the UNDER should be a tasty enough play.

 

Simonized 
There's a complicating factor to this matchup, though. UNLV head coach Dave Rice resigned/was fired on January 10 after four-plus years in charge; Todd Simon has taken over on an interim basis, and in his first game this past Tuesday, the Rebs dropped the New Mexico Lobos (–5.5 away) 86-74, blowing out the 146-point total in the process.

No worries. Simon's arrival gives us the courage we need to load up on all that chalk and take UNLV against the spread. Sports-Reference already has the Rebs (+8.9 SRS) rated more than 15 points better than the Falcons (–6.4 SRS) on a neutral court, based on their performances thus far. And Pomeroy has Air Force ranked seventh overall in Luck rating, with UNLV very close to the bottom of the list at No. 343 overall. We'll take our chances with the Rebs, and may the sphere be with you all the way to March Madness and beyond.

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