Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016 | 11:50 a.m.
UNLV played great in interim coach Todd Simon's first two games, and if that continues on the road this week the Rebels (11-7, 2-3) could really be in business. Las Vegas Sun sports editor Ray Brewer and reporters Case Keefer and Taylor Bern discuss what this UNLV team could do now that the pressure is off.
The question right now, one that could look silly in two weeks but is reasonable to ask, is not who will win the Mountain West, but will San Diego State even give anyone else a chance?
For this to be a race, the Aztecs (13-6, 6-0) must first lose, something they avoided at home in overtime Tuesday night after Fresno State’s Cezar Guerrero hit an incredible 3-pointer at the end of regulation. SDSU cruised in the extra session and now sits at the top 1.5 games ahead of Boise State, which should cut that deficit back to one tonight against San Jose State.
What’s most impressive about this start is that coach Steve Fisher’s team has won three of its conference games on the road. The Broncos are the only other team with even two road victories at this point, but SDSU was able to go to Utah State, Colorado State and Boise State and walk out victorious.
San Diego State’s offense gives other teams reason to hope, as its effective field-goal percentage in league games (46.6 percent) is the third worst in the Mountain West. Of course, the Aztecs counteract that with the league’s top defense by most metrics, though UNLV isn’t far behind.
The assumption is that San Diego State will shoot itself into some losses, and I think that’s still true, but it might not be enough. The Aztecs have already played three of the tougher road games (with the Thomas & Mack Center and the Pit still upcoming), so realistically for a team like the Rebels to have a shot, they need San Diego State to drop some games at Viejas Arena, where it is 33-3 in league games the last four-plus seasons.
Here are tonight’s picks:
Lines are the best available at the time of publication on the chosen side in Las Vegas.
Colorado State (minus-4) at Air Force
6 p.m., Root Sports
• Air Force (10-8, 1-4) is really bad, but Colorado State (10-8, 2-3) is 1-7 ATS as a favorite this season, and three of those were straight-up losses. The Rams should travel two hours south and smoke the Falcons, but I’ll side with the home team to continue the trend.
Pick: Air Force
UNR (plus-2.5) at Wyoming
6 p.m., Mountain West Network
• I’m already looking at Saturday’s trip to Reno as a trap spot for UNLV, and I think that will be especially true when UNR (10-7, 2-3) goes to Wyoming (10-9, 3-3) tonight and gets blown out.
San Jose State (plus-19.5) at Boise State
6 p.m., Mountain West Network
• There are a lot of lines in this league that just look way off, and I have yet to get a good read on which ones fall into that category and which ones appear off for a reason. A good example was New Mexico minus-10 vs. Wyoming, and I backed the Lobos because the line stank and I figured someone knew something I didn’t. The Pokes won outright.
With San Jose State (6-12, 1-5) I’m hoping that books just haven’t adjusted to the Spartans not being as bad as recent years, but since I’m on their side, this probably means that a Boise State (13-5, 4-1) team that just dropped a big home game to SDSU will hammer the Spartans by 30.
Pick: San Jose State
Last week: 5-5