Wyoming made the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2002, and although Larry Nance, Jr. now plays for the Lakers, the Cowboys should cover vs. Indiana State.
An NCAA Tournament participant from last season should be a dangerous underdog Monday night vs. a team that already has a bad home loss when those Wyoming Cowboys (1-0, 0-0 ATS) of the Mountain West Conference pay a visit to the Indiana State Sycamores (0-1, 0-1 ATS) of the Missouri Valley Conference at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute, IN at 7:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Wyoming as a moderate road underdog for this contest with the current line at +5 with odds of -110.
Stunned in Mountain West Tournament
Wyoming earned its NCAA Tournament bid last season by being upset winners of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, beating Boise State in the semifinals and San Diego State in the Championship Game to gain a bid to the Big Dance for the first time since 2002. But while the Cowboys were not the favorites to win that MWC Tournament, they did finish with a 25-10 overall record so they were a legitimate team.
Indiana State was off to a 4-8 start out of conference last season but then the Sycamores surprised many by going 11-7 in the tough Missouri Valley, a conference that includes the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa. However, that conference record may have been fraudulent as evidenced by being the blowout losing NCAA Basketball pick to lowly Loyola-Chicago 81-53 in the first round of the Missouri Valley Tournament.
Pace Makes the Race
Wyoming has become notorious for its slow, methodical offense as the Cowboys were again one of the slowest paced teams in the country last season, in fact ranking 343rd out of 351 Division I teams in tempo rating. That style got Wyoming into the Big Dance though where it lost to Northern Iowa 71-54, which incidentally is a Northern Iowa team that hails from the same Missouri Valley Conference as tonight’s opponents from Indiana State.
Also, Wyoming Coach Larry Shyatt received overtures to jump to the NBA before signing a new contract to stay in Laramie, so do not expect the Cowboys to change there style anytime soon, especially with their leading scorer in recent seasons Larry Nance, Jr. now toiling in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers.
And the Cowboys had a promising start to this 2015-16 campaign, albeit in what amounted to just a scrimmage in a 101-62 win over a sub-division team in Bristol. The opponent wasn’t the main takeaway from that game though, but rather the fact that Wyoming had five players score in double-digits was a very good sign, especially considering that one of them was not the leading returning scorer from last year in Josh Adams, who tallied only nine points.
That could point to some nice depth for Wyoming this year to help make up for the loss of Nance, and for what it is worth, that opener was played at an abnormally faster pace than what the Cowboys are accustomed to, which may be a sign of some flexibility if the situation calls for it.
Overachieved in Missouri Valley
We already alluded to Indiana State probably not being as good as its Missouri Valley record last year with the blowout loss to a Loyola team that finished three games behind the Sycamores in the MVC during the regular season at just 8-10 in the post-season tournament when it mattered the most, and now this year did not get off to a good start with the Sycamores losing their opener here at home 72-20 to IUPUI as eight-point favorites.
Indiana State was not a great offensive team last year as it ranked just 215th in the country in offensive efficiency, relying on pace to generate points as the Sycamores were 57th in pace rating. And they were inefficient in their season opener this year too while shooting just 41.1 percent from the field in a 72-possession game, and despite the pace of Wyoming’s opener, the Cowboys figure to slow this game as is their wont, further emphasizing the Indiana State inefficiencies.
That in itself makes it tough to give this many points with the Sycamores, but to compound matters they were also not very good defensively in the opener either, allowing IUPUI to shoot 47.9 percent overall including 35.7 percent from three-point range, resulting in a generous effective field goal percentage allowed of 53.1 percent!
Feasting on Non-Conference Foes
Finally, Wyoming has made it a tradition to get off to fast starts since Shyatt took over as head coach in 2011, as they have feasted in these early non-conference games going 46-8 straight up out of conference during the regular season during his tenure! That includes the Cowboys going a nice 7-3-1 ATS as regular season non-conference underdogs like they are here.
Based on the opening night performance of Indiana State, we see no reason why that non-conference success for Wyoming as an underdog cannot continue here, so take the points when the Cowboys ride into Terre Haute on Monday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Wyoming +5 (-110)