UNLV vs. Wyoming NCAA Basketball Picks: Motivation is Key

Joe Gavazzi

Wednesday, December 31, 2014 6:08 PM GMT

When the UNLV Running Rebels battle the Cowboys of Wyoming, this College Basketball handicapper knows where the edge is. Find out how he is placing his pick tonight. 

UNLV vs. Wyoming (-6) 9:00 ET
A group of young Running Rebels travels to Laramie tonight for a 9:00 pm ET tip against the NCAA basketball odds favorite Cowboys of Wyoming.  Arena Auditorium will be rocking with a New Year’s Eve crowd cheering on the home team.  The motivation for the Cowboys will be clear.  Last season, Wyoming lost twice at UNLV.  In the regular season, the score was 48-46.  Then, the Cowboys were knocked out of the conference tournament, relegating them to the CBI when they lost (71-67) at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.  Tonight, the Cowboys will comfortably gain their double revenge.

Wyoming is the hidden gem of the Mountain West Conference.  Very quietly, the Cowboys are off to an 11-2 SU start.  The only losses are at quality foes, SMU and California.  On their home court, Wyoming is 10-0 SU, pushing their record to 50-13 SU in the previous 3+years.  All but one of those 10 victories have come by 8 or more points.  The wins include strong opposition such as Colorado and New Mexico St.  Last season, the Cowboys were rolling to a 17-9 SU start, before their best player, Larry Nance, Jr., was lost for the season with injury.  This year, Nance has returned playing better than ever.  He is joined by the strong guard play of Grabau and Adams.  As a team, the Cowboys are shooting 50% for the season.  Most impressive, however, has been the defense of Wyoming.  Fifth year HC Shyatt has made stop-end performance a priority during his tenure.  This year, the Cowboys have allowed opponents just 50 PPG.

Tonight’s opponent is a talented but very young UNLV team.  In fact 4th year HC Rice has no returning starters from his 20 win season of last year.  Following a very shaky start, UNLV pulled a shocking upset on their strong home floor, December 23rd.  It was on that date that No. 3 ranked Arizona visited the Thomas and Mack Center.  Arizona bolted to a comfortable 8-point lead in the first half as 12 point road chalk.  But, UNLV played their best basketball of the year in a 2nd half that saw them win the contest (71-67) when the final buzzer sounded.  Now, Rice must take this group of Rebels on the road for just the 2nd time.  Playing away from home against quality teams has been a problem all year long. In their only true road game, they lost by 22 at Arizona St.  There have also been losses of 29 to Stanford and 13 to Utah on neutral courts.  In those 3 games, UNLV averaged just 54 PPG. 

In determining the best NCAA Basketball pick for this matchup, I just can’t see them doing much better than that against a highly motivated, double avenging Wyoming team, whose calling card is defense.  In the 3+year tenure of HC Rice, UNLV is just 13-22 ATS away

Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Take Wyoming at BookMaker -7 (-105)