Mountain West Championship Picks: #3 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels vs #1 New Mexico Lobos

2013 Mountain West Championship Game
#3 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels vs #1 New Mexico Lobos
Saturday, March 16, 2013, 6:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Thomas & Mack Center – Las Vegas, Nevada 

Opening Line: UNLV -3
Current Line: UNLV -2 1/2
Opening Total: 126
Current Total: 128
Opening Money Line: UNLV -155 / New Mexico +135
Current Money Line: UNLV -150 / New Mexico +130

UNLV is a slight favorite against New Mexico in the MWC championship in Las Vegas.
UNLV is a slight favorite against New Mexico in the MWC championship in Las Vegas.

The 28-5 New Mexico Lobos won the Mountain West regular season title with a 13-3 record. If they win the Mountain West tournament Championship as well, then the Lobos have a good shot at a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Lobos will have to beat the #3 seeded UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in Las Vegas in order to do that. UNLV is 25-8 on the season and finished 10-6 in the Mountain West. UNLV is also safely in the NCAA field The MWC is projected to get at least 4 teams into the tournament, and maybe even five, but Boise St is a question mark. San Diego St and Colorado St will also make the tournament.

New Mexico beat Wyoming 59-46 in the quarterfinals of the MWC tournament, and San Diego St 60-50 in the semifinals. UNLV beat Air Force 72-56 in the quarters, and Colorado St 75-65 in the semifinals. Both teams are hot coming into this game. The Lobos have won 8 of their last 9 games, and the Rebels  have won 7 of the last 8. Both teams did lose their regular season finales though last Saturday. UNLV lost at home to Fresno St 61-52. It was only the second home loss of the season for the Rebels. This game is also at the Rebels’ home arena, but it is considered a “neutral site” game. New Mexico lost at Air Force 89-88.

UNLV leads the series 29-18 against New Mexico, including 3-1 in the Mountain west tournament. The two teams split the season series with each winning on their own court. New Mexico won in Albuquerque 65-60 January 9 in the conference opener for both schools. UNLV returned the favor in Vegas February 9 64-55. Both games were close, and the winning team pulled away at the end.

UNLV is coached by Dave Rice. The Rebels have losses at home to Oregon and Fresno St and at North Carolina, New Mexico, Colorado St, Boise St, Fresno St, and Air Force.  UNLV has key wins against Iowa St, UC-Irvine, Hawaii, at Portland, at Cal, at UTEP, Northern Iowa, Air Force, New Mexico, Boise St, Colorado St, San Diego St twice, Wyoming twice, and Nevada twice. UNLV is 13-19 ATS and the total is 9-16 this season.

UNLV is outscoring opponents 72-63 this season. UNLV is shooting 44.2% from the field and 33.2% from 3 point range. The Rebels make 70.6% of their free throws. UNLV averages 40.1 rebounds a game and gives up 29.6 per game. The Rebels are #6 in rebounding nationally. UNLV opponents are shooting 38.6% from the field and 30.5% from 3 point range. The Rebels are #16 in opponents’ field goal percentage and #37 in 3 point defense. The Rebels average 16 assists, 7 steals, 6 blocks, and 14 turnovers a game. UNLV is #8 in the country in assists.

Forward Anthony Bennett averages 16.2 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1.2 blocks per game. Guard Anthony Marshall averages 10.6 points, 4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.3 steals a game. Guard Katin Reinhardt averages 10.1 points, 2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.1 steals a game. Guard Bryce Dejean-Jones averages 9.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game. Khem Birch averages 7.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1 assist and 2.6 blocks a game.  Forward Mike Moser averages 7.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game.  Justin Hawkins, Savon Goodman, Quintrell Thomas, Daquan Cook, and Carlos Lopez-Sosa make up the rest of the rotation.

New Mexico is coached by Steve Alford. The Lobos won their first 12 games, but then lost 2 of their next 3 games. New Mexico lost at home to South Dakota St and at St. Louis and San Diego St, UNLV, and Air Force. New Mexico has key wins over Davidson, George Mason & UConn in a tournament in the Virgin Islands, Portland, Indiana St, USC, Valparaiso, New Mexico St twice, and at Cincinnati. New Mexico won every other conference game besides the three already mentioned.  The Lobos are 18-12-2 ATS and the total is 10-16 this season.

New Mexico is outscoring teams 68-61 this season. The Lobos are #40 in points allowed.  The Lobos are shooting 42.4% from the field and 35.1% from 3 point range. New Mexico makes 72.3% from the free throw line. New Mexico averages 35.4 rebounds per game, and gives up 30 to opponents. Lobo opponents are shooting 39% from the field and 34.6% from 3 point range. The Lobos are #26 in opponents’ field goal percentage. New Mexico averages 15 assists, 6 steals, 4 blocks, and 12 turnovers.

Guard Kendall Williams averages 13.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Guard Tony Snell averages 12.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. Center Alex Kirk averages 12.1 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. Forward Cameron Bairstow averages 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Guard Hugh Greenwood averages 7.1 points, 5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Chad Adams, Demetrius Walker and Jamal Fenton make up the rest of the rotation.

New Mexico is 24-7-1 ATS against Mountain West teams, 15-6-1 against teams with winning records, 41-18-2 overall, 34-15-2 after a straight up win, 9-4 against teams with winning records, 19-9 in road games, and 33-16-4 after a cover. The under is 5-1 in the last 6 in Vegas in this series, and 4-1 overall.

UNLV is 9-19 ATS in Mountain West games, 6-14 in Saturday games, 8-21 after a win, 4-11 after a cover, and 1-4 at home. The home team and favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 in this series.

Although, the Mountain West went to a lot of trouble putting a nice new floor down at the T&M and taking down all the banners for UNLV, this is still a home game for the Rebels. It was a sell-out last night against Colorado St, and should be again today. New Mexico will not be intimidated though, as they have some tough road wins this season at Cincinnati, Boise St, and Colorado St. This will be a very physical contest as the two teams don’t like each other at all. UNLV sometimes struggles in the half court offense when they settle for bad 3’s. If UNLV can avoid those then I think they ride the emotion of a wild crowd to a hard fought win.

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