College Basketball: 2012 Mountain West Tournament Predictions and Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/5/2012
The Mountain West Conference Tournament begins Wednesday, March 7, and is being held in Las Vegas. This tournament is always one of the fiercest in the nation and generally features the best crop of mid-major teams in the country. This year is no exception.
This league already has three teams – San Diego State, New Mexico and host UNLV - headed to the NCAA Tournament and a fourth, Colorado State, still vying for at-large consideration. But the conference big dogs stand to gain both bragging rights and critical seeding with a strong showing in Sin City.
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Here is Doc’s Sports 2012 Mountain West Conference Tournament predictions:
The Favorite: San Diego State (+175)
The Aztecs are one of the biggest surprises in the country. After losing as much talent as any team west of the Mississippi from last year’s squad expectations were low for SDSU heading into this year. But Steve Fisher has been masterful while positioning this group for its third straight Mountain West Conference Championship. This group is relatively young. But they are one of the best defensive teams in the nation and they are relentless. Chase Tapley is one of the best closers in the league and the go-to guard for this club. They have the confidence that success in this league breeds and they won’t beat themselves.
The Contender: UNLV (+125)
The Rebels are on their home turf and that gives them a unique advantage in the conference tournament. Not like they need it. UNLV was a mid-season staple of the Top 25 and has wins over North Carolina and Illinois on their resume. But the Rebels stumbled down the stretch, going just 4-4 straight up in their last eight games and just 3-8 against the spread in their last 11. However, UNLV has not lost on its own court yet this year and they have the most explosive offense in the field. Mike Moser can dominate the post and seniors Chace Stanback and Oscar Bellfield give them two very experienced, talented veterans to lean on when things get dicey (which they always do).
The Sleeper: New Mexico (+200)
It’s pretty much impossible for the team that finished tied for the regular season title to be a sleeper to win the league tournament. But the Lobos have been on a rampage since dropping back-to-back games to San Diego State and UNLV in January. They are 9-2 SU and ATS in their last 11 games and all of their wins have come by double digits. Forward Drew Gordon and guard Kendall Williams are one of the top one-two punches out west and this experienced, deep team should be poised for a serious postseason run – be it in this tournament or the Big Dance.
The Spoiler: Colorado State (+1000)
The Rams are the only team in the league to beat San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico this year. Granted, all three of those wins came at high altitude. But Colorado State has what you absolutely need to succeed this time of the year: guard play. Colorado State is one of the best shooting and ball handling teams in the country. That will keep them in every game and gives them a shot at making a serious move this week. They probably have to win two games (and get some help) this week to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament field. But they’ve proven they can shoot down the big boys and may have a couple bullets left in the gun.
The Matchups (with projected college basketball odds):
No. 1 San Diego State (-8) vs. No. 8 Boise State (3 p.m., Thursday, March 8)
The Aztecs won both meetings with conference newcomer Boise State this year, but the Broncos had them on the ropes in the first meeting at SDSU. Boise has failed to make a splash in their first trip up The Mountain. They have been blown out by an average of nearly 14 points per game over their last four games. Also, their last two wins were on buzzer beaters, so this club is just a couple plays away from being 1-14 so far in 2012. I’d be stunned if they were able to throw a scare into the Aztecs in this one.
No. 4 Colorado State (-4) vs. No. 5 TCU (5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 8)
The Rams are one of a handful of teams on the NCAA Tournament bubble. If they stand a chance of making the tournament field this is a must-win game. TCU is led by stud guard Hank Thorns and was good enough to upset both UNLV and New Mexico. This team has a lot of upperclassmen and they would love to play the roll of spoiler here. The teams split the regular season series in two tight games, with CSU winning in double overtime and TCU winning by just four. This could be the best game of the day and will likely come down to a duel between Thorns and Rams guard Wes Eikmeier.
No. 2 New Mexico (-16.5) vs. No. 7 Air Force (9 p.m., Thursday, March 8)
I don’t know what it is, but something about the Mountain West Tournament brings out the best in Air Force. Granted, that’s still not very good. But they are 5-1 ATS in their last six conference tourney games and have won their first game in two of the last three years. That all sounds great, until you realize that New Mexico beat them by 30 on Feb. 29 and by 41 back on Jan. 31. The Lobos have been wrecking people for months and I don’t expect them to hold back. And if the chalk holds that would lead to an outstanding New Mexico-UNLV semifinal rubber match.
No. 3 UNLV (-4) vs. No. 6 Wyoming (11:30 p.m., Thursday, March 8)
This game is actually a rematch of Saturday’s regular season finale for both teams. UNLV took that one down, 74-63, but the Cowboys actually won the first matchup in Laramie. Wyoming is a tough, grind-it-out, defense-first team under first-year coach Larry Shyatt. They also boast one of the best players in the conference, forward Leonard Washington, and will lean on him against Moser and the rough Rebels frontcourt. If this line is this low it will be the biggest square play of the day. But I would be wary if the spread does come in this low.
Mountain West Conference Tournament Predictions:
There are the top three teams and then everyone else. But I have a feeling that things will get a little screwy in this tournament this week. SDSU may be the No. 1 seed, but I definitely don’t think that they will win this weekend. I also think that there will be at least one upset in the first round here. If I had to pick on team to ride this week – and I’m just talking straight up, not anything having to do with the spread – I would say I like the Lobos to win here.
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