BYU and New Mexico Face Off for Third Time in MWC Semifinals

Mountain West Conference Semifinals
New Mexico Lobos vs BYU Cougars
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV
Friday, March 11, 2011, 9:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS College Sports
Opening Line: BYU -5
Current Line: BYU -4
Opening Total: 147
Current Total: 146 1/2
Money Line: BYU -185 / New Mexico +165

Jimmer Fredette and BYU try to beat New Mexico for the first time in 3 years in the MWC semifinals in Vegas. BYU is a 4 point favorite.

BYU has three losses on the season and two of them are to New Mexico, whom they play tonight. Those two losses have probably cost BYU a 1 or a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. BYU is having one of the best if not the best season in school history with 29 wins, led by national player of the year candidate Jimmer Fredette. However some of the luster was taken off the season when third leading scorer and leading rebounder sophomore forward Brandon Davies was suspended for the rest of the season for violating BYU’s strict honor code for having premarital sex with his girlfriend. In the three games since then BYU has struggled to score at beginning of games. One of those games was at home against New Mexico and the Lobos destroyed them in Provo 82-64. BYU has played two games against Wyoming and TCU since that game, the two worst teams in the conference. BYU was only up 3 at halftime against Wyoming before pulling away in the second half for a 102-78 win. In the quarterfinals of the MWC tourney BYU struggled to score and only won 64-58 against a TCU team they beat by 16 and 23 points during the regular season. BYU finished the regular season 14-2 in the Mountain West to tie for the regular season title with San Diego St. BYU got the number #1 seed in the conference tournament because they swept the season series against the Aztecs. New Mexico is 21-11 on the season and finished 8-8 in the conference. The Lobos have won 4 straight games including a 67-61 win over Colorado St in the quarterfinals. An earlier 4 game losing streak will most likely relegate the Lobos to the NIT unless they win the MWC tournament.

New Mexico didn’t just sweep BYU in the season series, they completely dominated the Cougars. New Mexico won 86-77 in Albuquerque January 29, and last week in Provo. BYU leads the overall series 74-55 against New Mexico. The teams are 4-4 versus each other in conference tournament games. New Mexico has won 4 straight games in the series. They have won and covered 5 of the last 6 games against BYU.

New Mexico forward Emmanuel Negedu is out for the season with an illness. He hasn’t played since December 19, but was averaging 4.7 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. New Mexico has four players averaging in double figure scoring. They are led by guard Dairese Gary who is averaging 14.3 points to lead the team, 3.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists to lead the team, and 1.3 steals a game. Forward Drew Gordon averages 12.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks a game. He leads the team in rebounds and blocks. Guard Kendall Williams averages 11 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.5 steals a game to lead the team. Guard Phillip McDonald averages 10.9 points and 4.6 rebounds a game. New Mexico is outscoring opponents 73-65 on the season. The Lobos are shooting 46.1% from the field, and 34.7% from 3-point range. New Mexico opponents are shooting 41.7% from the field. The Lobos make 70.9% of their free throws. They average 37.2 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +6.1. The Lobos average 15.4 assists and 13.4 turnovers a game. They force 13.4 turnovers a game on defense. The Lobos average 6.3 steals and 3.4 blocks a game.

Besides the Davies situation, BYU is pretty healthy right now. BYU has been playing with out reserve forward Chris Collinsworth since conference play began. He is out for the season with a knee injury. Collinsworth averaged only 16 minutes a game and scored 5.9 points a game, but he was one of the Cougar’s top rebounders with 5.6 a game. His little brother Kyle also plays for the Cougars. BYU guard Jimmer Fredette is the team leader. Fredette is averaging 27.8 points a game to lead the nation in scoring, 3.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists to lead the team, and 1.4 steals a game. He is shooting 40.2% from 3 point range and 89.8% from the free throw line. Guard Jackson Emery¬† averages 12.6 points a game, 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and leads the team in steals with 2.8 a game.¬† Davies was averaging 11.1 points, 6.2 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.4 assists a game. Noah Hartsock averages 8.7 points, 6 rebounds and leads the team in blocks with 1.6 a game. BYU is outscoring opponents 82-67 on the season. The Cougars shoot 45.5% from the field and 36.8% from 3-point range. Cougar opponents are shooting 41% from the field. BYU shoots 76.1% from the free throw line. BYU averages 39 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +3.8. The Cougars average 14.9 assists and 11.2 turnovers a game. They force 14.7 turnovers a game on defense. BYU averages 8 steals and 4.2 blocks a game.

The last time these teams played was the first game after Davies was suspended. BYU was almost in shock and played their worst game of the year. BYU also had nagging injuries in that game to both Fredette and Emory that didn’t keep them out of the game but did limit their effectiveness. BYU also played New Mexico each time after emotional wins over San Diego St. BYU can’t afford to get into a hole early and needs this game to prove they deserve a one or a two seed and to get some swagger back before the tournament.

Our college basketball handicappers are red hot this season. Don’t miss out on any more winners in 2011.

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