2019 Mountain West Tournament Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
On Tuesday night Gonzaga proved on a truism of March Madness: no team is unbeatable.
No matter how big of a juggernaut a team is, no matter how much they dominate their league, no matter how big of a favorite they are in their league tournament, no one single team is unbeatable.
Nevada will do well to heed this message in the Mountain West Tournament this week. The Wolfpack were not unbeatable in the league this year. They lost three times, to be exact, and had to share the regular-season title with Utah State. However, no one denies that Nevada is the dominant force in this league and that they are the overwhelming favorite to win this week's postseason dance.
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The Mountain West Conference Tournament will take place form Wednesday to Saturday and is once again being held in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Here is Doc's Sports 2019 Mountain West preview and predictions, with odds courtesy of MyBookie:
The Favorite: Nevada (-145)
The Wolfpack lost three league games this year, all on the road and in the three toughest venues in the Mountain West. That includes two losses in their last six games. But beating Nevada didn't send a message to the Wolfpack; it just pissed them off. In the two return games against teams that beat them this year, Nevada hammered New Mexico by 29 points and San Diego State by 28 points. So what do you think they will do if they get another crack at No. 2 seed Utah State? Nevada is the most experienced team in the country. They have four senior starters and their top bench player is a senior. All five seniors transferred in and sat out a year, meaning that they are all at least 23-year-old super seniors. They are simply bigger, stronger and better than the teams that they are playing. Jordan Carolina, the Martin Twins and new additions Trey Porter and Tre Thurman won't be denied.
The Contender: Utah State (+180)
The Aggies are an excellent mid-major team playing its best basketball at the right time. Utah State has gone 14-1 in their last 15 games and they are trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament field. Super shooter Sam Merrill leads a Top 50 offense and is the linchpin for a diverse offense. Merrill is the go-to guy. The problem is that I don't trust anyone else to step up as a consistent second option. The Aggies have also found success because they have upgraded their defense. They are No. 12 in the nation in field goal defense and they are a Top 20 rebounding team. Utah State has been extremely vulnerable on the road and they have yet to make the finals since joining the Mountain West in 2014. I think the odds of them winning this championship are longer than what the books are offering.
The Dark Horse: Fresno State (+490)
Fresno State is another exceptionally experienced team, led by seniors Braxton Huggins and Deshon Taylor. They form one of the Mountain West's best backcourts and they combine for nearly 38 points per game. Both shoot over 40 percent from 3-point range, and the Bulldogs are No. 18 in the nation from deep. If the Bulldogs are going to make a serious run this week, it will be on the back of that 3-point shooting. Fresno State also has the benefit of a relatively easy path. They will take on either Air Force or San Jose State before a likely semifinal matchup with Utah State. If the Bulldogs win there, they will likely get another crack at Nevada, whom they almost beat twice this season (losing by 10 and by 6). Fresno State will definitely be in play this week.
The Spoiler: San Diego State (+2600)
Over the last 10 years, no team has had as much success at the Mountain West Tournament than the Aztecs. They were surprise winners of the tournament last year. Over the last five years they've made it to the finals four times, and SDSU has played for the conference championship eight times in the past 10 years. Do they have another run in them? Three of this year's starters also started on last year's team. And that doesn't include last year's sixth man (this year's starter) Jeremy Hemsley. The Aztecs have lost three of their last four games heading to Vegas, all against the top three seeds in this tournament. So it is a tall task. But Devin Watson is legit and this team can defend with the best of them. They are the defending league champs until proven otherwise.
Mountain West Conference Tournament Predictions: I don't think there is any doubt that Nevada is the best team in this field. And I think that they are going to cut down the nets. But it certainly won't be easy. Even their quarterfinal matchup against Colorado State or Boise State is tricky. In fact, they may end up facing the toughest quarterfinal opponent. After that they will likely take on the defending champs and then in the finals its either Utah State or Fresno State. If it is Utah State, I think Nevada is going to unleash hell and get the same measure of revenge they inflicted on SDSU and New Mexico. However, if the Wolfpack have to take on Fresno State a third time that should be a ball game. Fresno's strength (3-point shooting) is Nevada's weakness. And in a one-game playoff the Bulldogs won't have any of the pressure on them. That would likely make for the best final. Regardless, this tournament is Nevada's to lose.
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 10 of 12 winning seasons. He is looking for a monster March run and will have an 8-Unit Conference Tournament Game of the Year this week. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here .
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