2021 Mountain West Tournament Predictions and Betting Odds
On the one hand, it has been a down year for the Mountain West. Just one team, San Diego State, is currently in the Top 25 and no one has cracked the Top 15. The league is ranked a pathetic 11th this season – behind the Atlantic 10, WCC and Missouri Valley – and they may end up as a one-bid league in the NCAA Tournament.
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On the other hand, this week’s conference tournament promises to be an absolute battle. Three teams, Boise State, Colorado State and Utah State, are currently on the NCAA Tournament bubble and desperate to play their way into the field of 68. And while the Aztecs may be the regular season champions and top seed, they are far from unbeatable, setting up a potential barnburner of a final.
The Mountain West Conference Tournament will take place from Wednesday to Saturday and is once again being held in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Here is Doc’s Sports 2021 Mountain West preview and predictions:
The Favorite: San Diego State (+120)
It’s all about defense for the Aztecs. Always defense. San Diego State is No. 4 in the country in points allowed and No. 6 nationally in field goal defense, holding opponents to just 38.7 percent shooting. SDSU is efficient offensively, running things through versatile wings Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel. The Aztecs use their bench a lot, which should help them win three games in three days. They also have a walk through to the semifinals so they should be fresh for either Boise State or Nevada. SDSU has won 11 straight heading to Vegas. Although two home wins over Boise State in late February are the only victories to come against any of the top four other seeds in two months.
The Contender: Boise State (+350)
The Broncos are arguably the most talented team in the Mountain West. Senior Derrick Alston is a potential pro and transfers Abu Kigab, Emmanuel Akot and Marcus Shaver bring plenty of skill and experience into the fold. Boise just has not been able to put things together, though, and they have lost three straight heading into this tournament. Their quarterfinal opponent, Nevada, swept the Broncos and Boise may struggle against a team that plays a more disciplined, defensive style. The Broncos have a Top 65 offense and a Top 60 defense. They have run out of chances to make it work and now they have to win at least two games to have a prayer at cracking the NCAA field.
The Dark Horse: Colorado State (+350)
The metrics that media bobbleheads love to quote all love the Rams. I do not. Yes, they have wins over SDSU, Utah State and Boise State. But that’s it. That’s all they have done. They split games with the other three top seeds and haven’t beaten another team in the country ranked inside the Top 150. These guys aren’t an NCAA-caliber team. But they will have every chance to prove me wrong. Colorado State is inside the Top 65 in scoring, shooting, and 3-pointers on both offense and defense. On the surface it looks like they don’t have a true weakness. Their inexperience is one. And if teams can stay in front of David Roddy then the offense can get bogged down. I think that these guys are a year away from being really good.
The Spoiler: Utah State (+240)
When you have the best big man in the conference you have a chance in the conference tournament. Neemias Queta is a force on both ends of the court. If he goes into beast mode I think he is good enough to carry this group to three wins in three days. Queta isn’t alone. Justin Bean and Brock Miller are glue guys that will do anything to win games. And Craig Smith’s squad has a few young players that have shown flashes of being able to step up. Utah State actually swept SDSU during the regular season and also hammered (83-64) likely semifinal opponent Colorado State. This is yet another Top 25 defensive team from the MWC and they are capable of digging in on both ends of the court. The key to their weekend will be the play of Queta, though, and if he is ever going to be a star this is the time to do it.
Early Round Matchup To Watch:
No. 4 Boise State (-4) vs. No. 5 Nevada (5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 11)
The bottom of this league is so bad that there is really only one game worth watching on Thursday. Unlike the other top teams on The Mountain, Boise State doesn’t win by grinding teams down with defense. They want to score. Nevada can get roped into trying to play an up and down game, though I don’t know that they have enough weapons to win a shootout. Steve Alford has done a fantastic job with one of the youngest teams in the country. And, much like Colorado State, the Wolfpack is one year away from being really, really good. Will their inexperience cost them? Or can they snuff out Boise State’s dreams – beating the Broncos for a third straight time in the process – in this Thursday matinee?
Mountain West Conference Tournament Predictions: Friday’s semifinals are going to be must-watch television for any hardcore college basketball fan or bettor. I would be stunned if any of the top four seeds lost in the quarters, which will set up a pair of high-stakes games between teams that don’t just want to win the conference crown but are also trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament.
I have to go with San Diego State and Utah State, though. I know that seems chalk since they are the top two seeds. I just can’t pick Boise State – although I do think they have the highest upside of anyone in the field and will be a group I’m rooting for – because they have the most challenging path to a title. Let’s put it this way, though: if Boise State does knock off Nevada and SDSU I don’t see them losing in the title game.
If it is the Aztecs and Aggies, I will call for an upset and go with Utah State. San Diego State really has played one of the easiest schedules in the country over the last two months. And, like Colorado State, I simply don’t think that they are nearly as good as their numbers suggest.
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer's Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc's Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has posted 12 of 14 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and you can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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