As we head into the latter stages of February in college basketball, that means the cream rises to the top and in the Mountain West this usually means New Mexico and UVLV are near the top of the standings in the conference. Tonight they collide in an important MWC matchup fighting for position in the standings with those making college basketball picks trying to isolate the correct side to play against the betting odds.
Boom or Bust for New Mexico
The Lobos trail leader San Diego State in the MWC standings and face the No. 3 and pole-sitter in the league this week, which could enable them to be no worse than tied for the league lead with two weeks remaining in the regular season after Sunday.
First up is a trip to Vegas to face the Runnin’ Rebels, who have handed them their lone conference home loss, 76-73 back on Jan. 15. New Mexico rebounded from that defeat with six straight wins (5-1 ATS) before falling by one point at Boise State 71-70 and came back impressively last Saturday in hammering Nevada 90-72 as 11-point favorites.
New Mexico prefers to keep the pressure on with its offense, which is why they are second the MWC in scoring at 76.5 points a contest. Their leader is forward Cameron Bairstow at 20.3 PPG, which is second in the league. Bairstow’s co-star is fellow senior Kendall Williams who averages 17.3.
College basketball handicappers and sportsbooks have witnessed the Lobos lack exceptional quickness and speed and rely on offensive execution. New Mexico is a very unselfish team and enjoys making the extra pass to find the open shooter, which is why they are second in the conference in assists at 15 per game.
The visiting Lobos are 6-1 and 4-2 ATS in true away games this season and 11-3 (4-7 ATS) when playing with three or more days rest.
Read our NCAA Basketball Picks of the Day for more free plays.
UNLV Has Failed to Meet Own Expectations
Head coach Dave Rice started the season with eight Top 100 recruits on the roster in various classes and it was expected UNLV would just retool this season.
While the Rebels have been a money-maker for those making college basketball picks at 16-9 ATS, they have just a 17-8 record, well below expectations for this season.
While Khem Birch and Jelan Kendrick were on the high school McDonald’s All-America team and Roscoe Smith started on Connecticut’s 2011 national championship team, all season UNLV has lacked chemistry.
The negative point of view is Rice’s Rebels turn into virtuoso performers and do not mesh well as a team, especially when the going is tough. The other viewpoint is these same players want so badly to win, they take it upon themselves to try and lead their team to victory by themselves instead of with the group concept.
Whatever is the correct reason, which is likely both scenarios, this has been particularly true at home where UNLV is only 10-5 and 8-7 against the spread.
With the Mountain West down some this season compared to the past couple of years, UNLV with either have to finish strong and be in second place in the conference or have to win the conference tournament which will again be played on their home floor.
What to Look for Tonight
Out of necessity, ULNV has morphed into a defensive squad, ranked second in the league in field goal defense at 39.6 percent, allowing 63.8 points a game. They will need to play with the same type of aggressiveness on this end of the floor to beat the college basketball odds. On offense, guard Bryce Dejean-Jones has to play with the same aptitude as last time, running the offense and getting to the free throw line, instead of taking poor shots and making worse decisions with the orange.
New Mexico coach Craig Neal was disappointed in his team’s mindset in the last meeting, falling behind by 15 points before rallying to make it close. The Lobos will need their typical games from Barstow and Williams, but more assertive efforts from center Alex Kirk and the other starting guards Hugh Greenwood and Deshawn Delaney could turn the situation in the Lobos favor.
Betting Odds and Head to Head Meetings
Sportsbooks opened this contest with UNLV at -1 and it almost immediately fell to a Pick. New Mexico is 4-3 SU and ATS the past three years and the SU winner is 7-0 ATS and 9-1 ATS since 2010.
The Winner Is……
With this sports pick, I am just not convinced the Rebels can be trusted here and will take New Mexico to secure their revenge.Free Pick – New Mexico covers