NCAA Basketball Odds & Preview – Utah State in Payback Mode Against UNLV


NCAA Basketball Odds: Utah State -7, Total 136.5

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Not long ago, the Utah State Aggies were looking very much like the best team in the Mountain West Conference, especially after a sweep of San Diego State, which took place within an eleven-game winning streak.

It’s not so much that they won eleven in a row; it’s HOW they won those games. While the wins over the Aztecs we’re not something we would classify as “romps,” the overall average margin of victory was 25 points.

So they know how to beat up on the lesser lights.

But now Utah State has lost two games in a row, and this last defeat, on Monday night, carried a particular sting to it, because it was clear that this club was asleep until engineering a late run.

The Rebels are not an outstanding team, but they held a nine-point lead with just 68 seconds to go before Utah State mounted a furious and desperate charge. They could have tied the game, but a three-point attempt by Steven Ashworth missed the mark. So perhaps they’ll learn some lessons from that 59 – 56 loss, which represents not only their lowest season total for one game, but also the highest number of triples UNLV has made in a contest thus far (13).

Neither of those things are acceptable.

Perhaps the Aggies can take some solace in the fact that they were able to hold UNLV to just 22.6% shooting from two-point range, which is almost impossible to fathom, even for a team like them – sixth in the nation against shots inside the arc.

So will they try to run the Rebels off the three-point line? Well, it might be hard to do that, considering that UNLV has launched 47% of its shots from downtown. The question is whether UNLV can get relatively hot again from out there. They’re not even 35% on the season, so it’s kind of a challenge. As is often the case, the triples are a double-edged sword.

There is no question that Utah State has a decided rebounding advantage. They are, in fact, fifth best in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, and they also pull down 35% of the available offensive boards.

Maybe Utah State center Neemias Queta is going to take this one personally. Queta, a 7-footer who is originally from Portugal, is one of the top shot blockers in the nation, in fact leading the conference in block percentage this season and the previous two. He is also a 60% shooter, operating on the inside, and he was held to single-digits in Monday’s game. There will be almost NO business being done by the home team in the paint.

The story with the coaches is also pretty interesting. Craig Smith came to Utah State from his previous station at South Dakota, while UNLV’s TJ Otzelberger patrolled the sidelines at South Dakota State, where he had a lot of pretty good shooting teams. So they’re weill-acquainted from the MWC, but from a territorial battle in the Summit League as well.

Well, Otzelberger better have a very good shooting team on Wednesday night, because avenues other than long-range bombing are going to probably be closed to his squad. Now that the situation has their full attention, we do expect the Aggies to come out with a lot of intensity, and as one can see from some of their previous results in this conference, they have the ability to create quite a margin between themselves and an undermanned opponent. We will lay the points.

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