A big Wednesday college hoops card is upon us and we’ll be taking a look at several games throughout the morning, with a spotlight game from me and a few previews from the venerable Charles Jay, as he focuses on Utah State vs. UNLV, St. John’s vs. DePaul, Wisconsin vs. Maryland, and Stephen F. Austin vs. Abilene Christian.
Fresh off of back-to-back easy dubs to start the week, I’ve got my sights set on the 9 p.m. ET tip-off in Fort Collins between Boise State and Colorado State. The Broncos are taking the bets this morning with a move up from -1 to -3 and a total on the game sitting at a robust 147.5 at Bovada Sportsbook.
This should be a good one in the Mountain West, which is again a quality conference capable of a getting a few bids into the Big Dance that is now seven weeks away.
Boise State Broncos
The Broncos have been on my radar for a long time. Leon Rice’s team is off to a 12-1 start and a 9-3 record against the spread. Boise State lost the opener to Houston by 10 and has not lost a game since. Frankly, they’ve only played two close games in that span, a one-point win against San Jose State when the Spartans went 14-of-27 from three and a four-point win over a quality BYU bunch.
Boise State has moved up the board at a lot of rankings sites, but one thing has stuck out to me about the Bronco burst. The schedule. Boise State has played the 249th strength of schedule per Bart Torvik, the 285th per Ken Pomeroy, and the 308th per Haslametrics. Make no mistake, this is a good team that has played up to or exceeded expectations against a really bad schedule of opponents. All you can do is play the teams in front of you.
Wyoming is the only team Boise State has played inside of Bart Torvik’s top 180 since that BYU game on December 9. The first top-100 team since that matchup comes tonight in the form of Colorado State. We’ll find out a lot about what the Broncos truly are in this matchup.
The only hole that we can really poke in the body of work for the Broncos is the schedule factor. They’ve been a dominant team otherwise, ranking 61st in adjusted offensive efficiency per Torvik, 49th per KP, and 62nd per Haslametrics. They are 53rd in adjusted defensive efficiency per Haslam, 64th per KP, and 54th per BT. Opponents have only shot 28.9% from deep against Boise State and only 45.7% on two-point attempts.
Offensively, Boise is solid across the board with a low TO%, a high success rate on twos and at the free throw line, and a respectable percentage from beyond the arc. It’s a good team, but a team running into a very good opponent for the first time in a long time.
Colorado State Rams
Niko Medved has a very good team in Fort Collins. The Rams have played the 126th-ranked schedule per Torvik, 154th per Haslam, and 119th per KP. They are 11-3 against that schedule and a couple games over .500 ATS on the season. Colorado State’s numbers are skewed a little bit from a 33-point performance against Saint Mary’s earlier in the season. They’ve also had blowout losses to San Diego State and Utah State, two teams Boise State has not yet faced in conference action.
The Rams did avenge the Utah State loss with an 84-76 victory the next night. That was six days ago and a big win for Colorado State. The glaring weakness for the Rams comes on the offensive glass, where they are 336th in the nation in ORB%. Given that they are better than average on the defensive glass, it is hard to fathom why they’ve been so bad, but too many one-and-dones haven’t been that big of an issue overall.
Colorado State is 21st in eFG% per Torvik and 21st in 3P% at 39.1%. They’ve been an efficient offense both inside and outside the arc, which has been a staple of Medved’s time in Fort Collins. For whatever reason, opponents are only shooting 62% at the charity stripe against the Rams, a number that is sure to regress as we move forward. Opponents are also only shooting 29.7% from three, though Mountain West opponents have been much more respectable at 32.7%.
Colorado State’s had the best offense in the MWC by eFG% and the second-best from three. They’ve even increased their ORB% slightly, though it is still 10th in the conference. The Rams have also taken a higher rate of threes in conference play at 49.7% compared to 47.5% overall. They can be a high-variance team as a result, but are shooting it at a 45.8% clip at home.
Boise State is second in eFG% in MWC play, but as discussed, they haven’t faced the big boys yet. Four of Colorado State’s 10 games have been Utah State and San Diego State, not to mention a solid UNLV team that Boise State hasn’t seen yet.
Pick & Analysis
I think you know where I’m going with this. Colorado State has put up some good numbers in conference play. So has Boise State, but the Broncos have faced the 11th-ranked schedule out of 11 teams in the conference. They have far and away the hardest SOS left in conference play.
Colorado State is the pick for me tonight. While Boise State’s body of work is strong, the Broncos are stepping up in class and playing in elevation against a team that will run a bit. Give me the Rams in this MWC main event.