An exciting Mountain West matchup will go down tonight in San Jose as the San Jose State Spartans will host the UNLV Rebels. We’ll break down the mid-major matchup before going over who I’ll be backing in this one.
San Jose State has opened the season with a 9-4 record and will begin conference play against the team with the second-best record in the conference. The Spartans have only beaten one team ranked higher than them on KenPom this season and have played a non-conference schedule ranked 258th in the country.
The Spartans have been much more of a defensive-minded team this season and are one of the best defensive-rebounding teams in the country. Behind Sage Tolbert III and his 8.2 rebounds per game, the Spartans rank seventh in the country in defensive rebounding percentage at 80.7%. As a whole, SJSU is holding opponents to an average of just 28.3 rebounds per game.
Offensively the Spartans have shot the ball fairly well, putting up an effective shooting percentage of 53.7%; however, the Spartans' overall offensive efficiency rating is 104, which ranks 136th in the country according to KenPom. San Jose State’s opponent tonight, the UNLV Rebels, actually has the same offensive efficiency rating, but they have managed to be even better on the defensive end.
The Rebels are 43rd in the country in defensive efficiency rating on KenPom, and they are led on that end by Luis Rodriguez, who is averaging 2.6 steals per game to go along with his 13.5 points per game. Behind Rodriguez, the Rebels are forcing an average of 21 turnovers per game which is tied for best in the country.
Despite only having an effective field goal percentage of 49.2%, the Rebels have still managed to go 11-1 heading to conference play. In their last game, the Rebels came out with an 11-point victory over the now 11-2 Southern Miss. Eagles.
UNLV is currently listed as -4.5 point road favorites in this one, and I’ll be backing them for my best play. The Rebels have the defensive ability to limit this average-scoring Spartans team, and if they can force the SJSU to play at their faster pace of play, they can force them to commit a lot of turnovers, which is something they have struggled with at times.
UNLV possesses big offensive ability, which their poor shooting percentages have masked; however, tonight, they’ll play this SJSU that is 259th in the country in opponent three-point percentage. A player like EJ Harkless, averaging 16.7 points per game but only shooting 27% from three, could benefit from that and give the Rebels another element of offense they are due for.
This number is too good not to lay the points with the Rebels, as they possess a lot of weapons that will be too much for the Spartans to handle.
UNLV Rebels (-4.5)