College Basketball Betting: UCSB Gauchos at UNLV Runnin’ Rebels Picks & Predictions

UCSB Gauchos at UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Wednesday, 12/15/10, 10:00 PM EDT
Opening Point Spread:  UNLV -16.5
Current Betting Line:  UNLV -17

The UNLV Runnin' Rebels return home and are 17-point home favorites in hosting the UCSB Gauchos on Wednesday night

UCSB is embarking on the most difficult non-conference road trip in memory in taking on the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels and San Diego State Aztecs in consecutive games.  The Gauchos have been idle since beating Santa Clara 80-69 on December 4 for their second straight win.  The team enters tonight with a 4-3 overall record and is being led by leading scorer James Nunnally, who is averaging 21.9 points per game.  He’s actually been better than that of late, scoring 28.3 per contest over the past three contests.  UCSB has opened the season with a 2-3 record in games away from home, which is on par to the 6-7 mark it recorded during the 2009-10 campaign.  The team is 5-2 ATS on the year and currently a double-digit underdog on the college basketball lines page.

The Gauchos have played the Rebels 35 time sin a series that began in 1969.  UCSB has lost 28 of the 35 games between the programs, but has posted a 7-12 record in the last 19 meetings.  The last time the teams played was on November 27, 2007 and the Gauchos pulled off a 63-60 win at the Thunderdome.  One key statistic that may prove vital tonight is the team’s performance on the free throw line, as its been hitting 79.4 percent of its shots from the charity strip.  That is a dramatic improvement from the 68.1 percent mark it shot last season.  Nunnally is also a vital part of the offense in leading the Big West in scoring, while Orlando Johnson currently checks in just behind him at 21.4 points per game.

UNLV returns to the Thomas and Mack Center for the first time in nearly a month and will be looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season.  The Rebels haven’t been on their home court since a 68-65 win over Wisconsin on November 20 and fatigue may have played a big part in their 77-69 loss to Louisville.  “The schedule has been a challenge for our guys,” said coach Lon Kruger.  “They’ve handled it well.”  The team is still one of the best in the nation and is using a nine-man rotation early in the season, but will need to come together and attack the boards.  Derrick Jasper is the only player on the roster averaging more than five rebounds a game through 10 contests.  UNLV is 4-4 ATS as a favorite this season.

The Runnin’ Rebels have traveled 8,620 miles on the road already this season and are currently ranked No. 8 in the RPI.  UNLV will be extremely happy to get back on its home floor tonight, recording a 378-75 all-time mark at the venue since the arena opened in 1983.  The team is 3-0 at home this season and were 15-3 in 2009-10 in the building.  Even with the big advantage of playing in Las Vegas, UNLV must do a better job in securing leads in the second half.  The Rebels were outscored 44-31 in the final 20 minutes on Saturday and also allowed 11 more points than they scored after the break against Boise State.

Bettors will be interested in the Gauchos 8-2 ATS mark overall, while the Runnin’ Rebels are 9-3 ATS on Wednesdays.

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