Matchup: UNLV (14-10, 6-5) vs. Boise State (18-5, 9-1)
When: Friday, Feb. 11 at 8:00 p.m. PT
Where: ExtraMile in Boise, ID.
TV/Online: Fox Sports 1 || foxsports.com
Spread: Boise State -8.5
Money line: UNLV +340, Boise State -480
Death, taxes and Mountain West basketball at 8 p.m. on a Friday night. The three guarantees in life and thankfully we have the last one to forget about the previous two.
Background to nosh on
With Valentine’s Day around the corner AKA National Envy and Self Loathing day, each game is going to come with big overarching narratives. For Boise State that narrative is the novel concept of “Are they the best in the conference?”
You can argue yes or no and fall on the right side of history. If you go by the Ric Flair philosophy of “You gotta beat the man to be the man!” Wyoming is the best team in the Mountain West as they snapped Boise’s school record 14-game winning streak and have the highest overall winning percentage.
After the loss, Boise has played one game, a 76-60 win over the San Jose State Spartans. Rest verse rust is a debate worth having as tonight’s matchup would be the first game in six days. If the Broncos pummel the Runnin’ Rebels then they should still be considered top dog.
UNLV’s narrative is based around them being good enough to be the dark horse come Mountain West tournament time. They aren’t close to being in the same conversation as Wyoming and Boise State, but nowhere near the likes of San Jose State and Air Force. Kind of like how Jack in the Box is right between Arby’s and Five Guys.
They are 3-1 in their last four games, one was a huge upset over Colorado State, and another was an embarrassing 90-75 loss at Utah State. They followed up the swirlie in Logan, Utah, by throttling Air Force 78-44.
The back and forth conversation in my head is “If I attempt to silently pass gas in this study lounge will I fail miserably and become a human trombone?” whoops wrong convo. What I meant to say was “Which UNLV will come to play Friday, the one that upset CSU and held Air Force to under 45 or the one that got knocked unconscious by Utah State?”
Pick to Feast on
Theoretically speaking, if Utah State made easy work with the Runnin’ Rebels then Boise State should easily cover the -8.5. I know Utah State is on a heater right now, but the more I dissect this game the more I find myself gravitating toward UNLV.
Bryce Hamilton’s 21.3 points per game is leading the Mountain West right now, and in his last four, he’s averaging 29.8 points and six 3-pointers on a 48.3% clip.
A garbage truck could’ve fit through that gap so not the best example, these next two clips illustrate his pedigree more accurately.
Throw a body on him and he’ll either stop on a dime or blow right by you like a bull when it sees a red flag.
Once you start to peel the onion you realize why UNLV can be a dark horse.
Royce Hamm Jr.’s 9.5 boards per game is second in the Mountain West, Jordan McCabe is averaging over six assists in his last five games and Donovan Williams has scored at least 15 points in six of his last seven conference games.
The question is whether or not it will be enough to zoom past the seventh best overall defense according to Kenpom.
I’ll kill the suspense. No.
Wyoming’s big man extraordinaire Graham Ike was able to pound the ball inside on the Broncos scoring 33 points, nine of which came via the charity stripe. Boise State got wildly outmatched and their center, Mladen Armus, wasn’t able to return the favor on the other side of the court.
This is a problem the Broncos won’t have to think about. Hamm Jr. can hold stand tough in the ring, but he’s not in the same scoring stratosphere as Graham Ike.
In this contest I expect the Broncos to bone up on Hamilton, and know how to supply defenders on each level of the court. When he drives down hill somebody will be there to make sure he isn’t able to spin his way into the rim or jump stomp into a post and hit a floater.
The Broncos have five players on offense averaging at least nine points, highlighted by Abu Kigab’s 14, and are a nice melting pot of points. Nothing too crazy, as their 68 PPG pins them at seventh in the Mountain West, but with their defense, 68 can have them sit comfortably in the lead with a Mai Tai in one hand and jumbo shrimp in the other.
With Hamm patrolling the paint and McCabe flying around the perimeter theirs no reason to expect Boise’s point total to shoot up to 70 or more.
After a full autopsy, give me the under 130.5. Low total, so I know it’s a little risky, but you got to roll with Boise’s strengths.
Before submitting your ticket make sure to pat yourself on the back because you made it to Friday.