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College Basketball Picks — Mountain West Mayhem: Will the “Force” Be With Us?

Sometimes it comes off kind of depressing when you’re looking at a matchup between teams that appear to be in quicksand. And maybe that’s the case in the Mountain West on Wednesday night, as the Air Force Falcons play host to the New Mexico Lobos.

The difference in this game is the New Mexico still has a chance to get an invite to one of the post-season tournaments, most likely the CBI, while Air Force is playing out the string. Of course, another consideration is that this is the last home game for a proud service academy, so no one should expect them to lay down.

This one takes place at the Clune Arena in Colorado Springs at 9 PM ET, and BetAnySports customers will have an opportunity to place wagers while the game is in progress as they access what is available through Sports Betting Ultra.

Here is the situation with both teams:

New Mexico has lost nine of its last eleven games (seven of them by double digits), but still has a winning record (17-12), although they are 12-17 against the number and 3-9 ATS as an underdog. They showed some promise in the early going, with wins over Green Bay (last year’s CIT runner-up) and Big Ten entry Wisconsin. But they have faded, to the point where their only ticket to the Big Dance would be to win the Mountain West tournament.

Obviously Air Force could get there that way as well, but it seems less likely. The Falcons are losers of nine of their last ten, and bring a record of 10-18 straight-up (10-17 ATS) into the contest.

In the college basketball betting odds posted on this Mountain West matchup at BetAnySports, the Falcons are slight home favorites:

Air Force Falcons -2.5
New Mexico Lobos +2.5

Over 160 points -110
Under 160 points -110

These teams met before, with New Mexico winning an 84-78 decision at the “Pit” in Albuquerque. In that game, Carlton Bragg, the 6-10 forward, had 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. He had averaged a dozen rebounds a game over his last seven contests. But hours after the final buzzer, he was picked up by local police on suspicion of DUI and possession of marijuana. On the basis of this, he was dismissed from the team. This was not the first trouble Bragg had found himself in; he had just recently been facing sexual misconduct allegations (though not charged) and in his previous stops, Kansas (suspended after a battery charge) and Arizona State (dismissed after violation of team rules), he had washed out.

The Lobos’ 2-9 slide directly coincides with the 6-10 Bragg’s absence. They rely more on people like 6-9 Vance Jackson, who had 19 points and seven rebounds in New Mexico’s last outing, a 74-61 loss to Boise State. But there is less in the way of firepower and in the ability to get second shots.

Can New Mexico exploit Air Force’s inability to defend? The Falcons have allowed an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 56%, which is 347th among 353 Division I teams. They are equally inept at stopping three-point shots (333rd) and two-pointers (344th). The Lobos don’t shoot all that well from the arc (32.7%), and though they can probably still work inside with a size advantage, they won’t be as imposing without Bragg.

They did have 26 fast break points in the first meeting, and we are certain Air Force is going to try and get that tempo slowed down in the rematch. At the same time, we don’t think they can manage thirteen offensive boards like they did the first time around, considering they are just 326th in O-rebounding percentage.

Believe it or not, New Mexico has beaten this level of opposition in conference play. And keep in mind that aside from Bragg, they did have four other double-digit scorers when these teams played in Albuquerque. We can’t have a strong recommendation on New Mexico, but we really don’t want to lay points with an Air Force squadron that is just 4-8 ATS as a favorite and has dropped TEN in a row against the number. So while it’s just a small play with the Lobos, our better move is the UNDER, since, while both teams are challenged on defense, they won’t be as efficient offensively, and the pace should be a little slower.

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