College Basketball Betting: Mountain West Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/10/2009
It was so much fun the first time, let's do it again.
If you wanted a preview of the Mountain West Tournament you wouldn't have to go back very far. In an incredible scheduling coincidence, last Saturday three of the four quarterfinal matchups actually played themselves out. San Diego State beat UNLV, Utah topped TCU and New Mexico hung on to beat Wyoming. Now all three favorites have to repeat the feat and hold off several revenge-minded underdogs.
This tournament tips off with a play-in game on Wednesday between Air Force and Colorado State, with the quarterfinals starting Thursday afternoon at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. I feel like this will be one of the most competitive and most entertaining tournaments across the country this week. And with two bids apparently locked up (Utah, BYU) I wouldn't be surprised to see a third team win this tourney and steal a spot in The Big Dance from the BCS conferences.
Here is Doc's Sports 2009 Mountain West Conference Tournament preview:
BYU - The Cougars had a leg up in the tiebreakers and thus earned the No. 1 overall seed in this tournament. That's a significant advantage because they get to play the play-in game winner in the quarterfinals. Over the last four year the top seed has won that game by scores of 27, 13, 12, and 13. BYU would get the San Diego State/UNLV winner after that and they swept SDSU this season already. However, I don't see them beating SDSU three times in one year and UNLV has the home court edge.
Utah - The Utes are, in my mind, clearly the best team in this conference and are likely the only team that is securely in the NCAA Tournament field. Luke Nevill is nearly unstoppable and Utah surrounds him with a talented veteran cast. One thing I will keep an eye on is chemistry, though. Even though this group of Utes has been together for several years there was some bickering in their two recent losses to New Mexico and BYU. Watch their body language in their first round game against TCU.
New Mexico - The Lobos have been the dark horse team in this conference all season and they earned a share of the league title. They are on a five-game winning streak on their way to Vegas and they have won eight of nine overall. However, they are just 2-6 against the spread in their last eight and that might be a red flag. This team has a load of shooters and a strong frontcourt, and the Lobos are one of the few teams that can matchup with the inside power of Utah and the perimeter skill of BYU. If they can beat Wyoming again they would be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives against the Utes.
San Diego State - The Aztecs boast more experience than any team in the league. And for all-conference seniors Lorrenzo Wade, Kyle Spain, Richie Williams, and Ryan Amoroso this is their last shot at a trip to the Big Dance. The Aztecs really did not play well down the stretch, going just 4-3 SU and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games. Granted, they were without key big man Billy White for most of those games. But the bottom line is that they turn the ball over too much and they don't close games out very well, consistently leaving the back door wide open. Their perimeter defense is next to none, though, and they have the deepest roster in the league.
UNLV - The Rebels are the two-time defending MWC Tournament Champions and have made the finals of this tourney an incredible five of the last seven years. This UNLV team is significantly weaker than the past two versions but they still have some savvy and coach Lon Kruger just gets the job done. This team is very reliant on the three-pointer, which is great - when they're going in. They have the talent (they own wins over Arizona and Louisville this year) but they have been woefully inconsistent. And no one embodies that more than senior Wink Adams. He's one of the conference's all-time great players but has really had a down season. He will need to finish with a flourish to keep his career going.
Wyoming - Wyoming has one of the best backcourts in the entire league and they really have been hitting their stride. The Cowboys have covered six of their last seven, and nine of 13. Brandon Ewing is one of the league's all-time scorers, junior Sean Ogirri is one of the nation's best shooters, and freshmen Afam Muojeke is one of the rising stars in this league. They have some athletes down low and if they are on they could beat anyone in this field. The problem is that they don't play well outside of Laramie.
Colorado State vs. Air Force
Beware the Falcons. Air Force was a pathetic 0-16 in league play this year. But they have been knocking on the door. They lost by just five to Colorado State, three to Wyoming, three at UNLV and by five in BYU to close the year. They are knocking on the door and you know they really want that first MWC win. Colorado State has been all over the map this year and is just 2-9 in its last 11 games overall. They have some pieces, but I don't know about the motivation.
San Diego State vs. UNLV
San Diego won and covered in both of their matchups with the Rebels this year, including a 10-point win at home last Saturday on Senior Night. This is a bad matchup for UNLV because SDSU's strengths (perimeter defense and interior offense) really have trumped the Rebels' strengths. However, it is tough to beat (and cover against) the same team three times in one season.
Utah vs. TCU
The Horned Frogs really got off to a tremendous start in conference play. But then reality set in. They have lost 10 of their last 11 games and only four of those losses have been by less than double-digits. Kevin Langford is a great player, but TCU simply doesn't have the backcourt or the depth to get this done.
New Mexico vs. Wyoming
Wyoming nearly avoided this matchup by beating the Lobos in Laramie on Saturday. The teams were tied at half time and Ewing missed a runner at the buzzer that would have given the Cowboys the upset. New Mexico won the first matchup by 29 and is clearly the more talented team. But if they are looking ahead to a matchup with Utah they could be in trouble.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
This is one of the deepest, most competitive, most experienced conferences in the country and I would say to look for several upsets and a ton of close games. Also, road wins were nearly impossible to come by in conference play so a key will be who plays well on this neutral court. That also gives even more of an advantage to the host Rebels. Three of the last our years the No. 2 seed has won it, which bodes well for Utah. But with an NCAA Tournament berth already in the bag you do have to wonder a bit about Utah's motivation. Also, be ready to bank the team whose star player looks the sharpest in their first game. BYU's Lee Cummard, UNLV's Adams, Wyoming's Ewing and San Diego State's duo of Spain and Wade are each some of the best players to come out of this conference. One of them will leave a champion.