Last Updated: 2017-03-07
Some things you just need to see to believe. The Nevada Wolf Pack being a 13-point favorite over the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in college basketball would qualify as one of those things. It’s incredible to see how far UNLV has fallen, though maybe we need to look at it from the other side and appreciate what Nevada is doing this season. We may get that chance as this Mountain West clash in Reno takes place in front of a national TV audience on CBS Sports Network with an 11 p.m. ET tip-off. Interested bettors can use the promo code ‘BTBRADIO’ at DSI Sportsbook to grab a $10 free bet just for signing up and an additional 50 to 100 percent deposit bonus based on the amount of their initial deposit.
Nevada has covered six of the last 10 times against UNLV, but this is only the second time in the last 11 meetings that Nevada has been a favorite. The only other time was March 8, 2014, when Nevada was laying three at home and won by four. The Wolfpack have actually been a pretty live dog recently with four wins in the last eight meetings, three of them as a dog. This is a rivalry in the Silver State and it means a lot to both sides. UNLV enters play with a 10-14 record and an 11-12 ATS mark. Nevada is 18-5 straight up and 13-8 against the spread. The Wolf Pack is 7-3 (6-4) in conference play, while UNLV is 3-8 both straight up and against the number.
The Runnin’ Rebels are runnin’ on empty this season. They are going to miss the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight time and haven’t won a game in March Madness since 2008. First-year head coach Marvin Menzies inherited a bare cupboard and did so late in the game. Chris Beard had agreed to be the UNLV head coach and spent 19 days on the job before the head gig opened up at Texas Tech and off he went. Menzies had been the coach of the New Mexico State Aggies in the WAC. Years of Dave Rice screwing the program into the ground left Menzies with a stable that was missing horses and things have played out in that fashion this season. UNLV has faced three ranked teams this season and has lost by 49, 20, and 18 points.
Close losses have turned an agonizing season into one that is downright painful. After beating New Mexico in The Pit back on January 10, UNLV lost to the Lobos 80-77 at home last Wednesday. That was after a four-point loss at San Jose State and a one-point loss at Wyoming. The bubble completely burst last time out with a 20-point loss to Colorado State at home on Saturday. We look for buy points on teams, but UNLV’s wins are over UC-Riverside, Cal State Fullerton, Northern Arizona, Western Kentucky, Southern Utah, Incarnate Word, Southern Illinois, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Air Force. It’s hard to find buy points with a resume like that. Jalen Poyser leads four players in double figures for UNLV. Menzies is trying to figure out what he has, so playing time is really spread out. No single player plays over 30 minutes per game. UNLV is among the country’s worst teams offensively. The Rebels are shooting 39.5 percent as a team, 32.5 percent from deep, and below 70 percent from the free throw line. They are 160th in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency metrics.
Eric Musselman is doing work in Reno. The Wolf Pack have not participated in the NCAA Tournament since 2007, but a Mountain West Conference title seems like it could happen this season. Nevada trails Boise State by a half-game in the conference standings with a game in hand. Nevada’s 18 wins are the most in the conference and the Wolf Pack are the highest-rated Mountain West Conference team in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. Nevada ranks 54th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 126th in defensive efficiency. Musselman led one of the country’s most dramatic turnarounds last year by taking a 9-22 team to a 24-14 record and a 10-8 mark in conference. The Wolf Pack went to the CBI and won the championship. It may not seem like much, but that was a huge step for a program that needed the extra practice time and the extra games. Interestingly, one of Musselman’s assistant coaches is Dave Rice, who is a big part of the reason why UNLV basketball has fallen off as far as it has.
Nevada is led by one of the best players in the Mountain West Conference in Marcus Marshall. Marshall has scored 20.3 points per game on 43 percent shooting, including 39 percent from deep. The senior transfer from Missouri State had to sit out last season, but he’s been well worth the wait for Nevada. Cameron Oliver and Jordan Caroline have both scored over 14 points per game for the Wolf Pack this season. DJ Fenner is close to making it four with 13.8 points per game. Nevada shoots almost 45 percent from the field overall and has mostly matched that mark in conference play. The Rebels, however, are shooting 35.9 percent in conference play, so Nevada would seem to have a huge advantage on that side of the floor, hence the big line.
College Basketball Free Pick: Nevada Wolf Pack -13
This line is as high as it is for a reason and that reason is that Nevada is pretty good and UNLV is not good at all. Perhaps the presence of Dave Rice helps Nevada game plan, since he knows the strengths and weaknesses of the kids that he recruited to Las Vegas, but that’s probably a minor thing in this game. Nevada is much more efficient on offense and UNLV can’t score, so Nevada’s average defense should play up. This is a chance for Nevada to kick a rival when it’s down and I think they take it.