The Mountain West Conference contains some of the best mid-major programs in the country, and with conference play starting to pick up, we’re going to see which teams are legitimate and which are products of weak non-conference schedules. One of the games tonight will feature a 13-3 Utah State team hosting the 5-10 Wyoming Cowboys. We’ll preview the game before going over which side we’ll back as well.
After getting off to a great start to the season and opening conference play 2-0, the Utah State Aggies lost their most recent conference game to Boise State by 23 points. That game was only the second time they failed to score 70 or more points all season.
Games like that will undoubtedly happen throughout a season, but it was surprising to see a team ranked 20th in offensive efficiency on KenPom struggle that mightily from the field. The Aggies have the second-best three-point percentage in the country at 41.4%, but they only managed to shoot 33% from the three against the Broncos.
The Aggies generally make a lot of threes each game, but they also allow their opponents to find success from behind the arc as well. Teams are shooting 35.5% from three this season against them, and despite some shooting struggles to begin the season, the Aggies' opponent tonight will be looking to get plenty of three’s up this game.
Wyoming is ranked 42nd in the country in three-point attempts per game, and 85% of their possessions have ended in either a three or a shot at the rim. The three-point shooting numbers are not quite where the Cowboys want them to be, but their overall effective field goal percentage of 53.5% is ranked 50th in the country.
With the number of injuries the Cowboys have dealt with, it's relatively unsurprising that consistency from behind the arc has been a problem for them. Where the injuries have hurt the Cowboys the most, though, is on the defensive end. Entering tonight, their defensive efficiency rating of 105.5 ranks 244th in the country, according to KenPom.
Wyoming can currently be found as +10.5 point underdogs, and I’ll be taking them as my best bet for this one. The Cowboys have covered their last two conference games, and despite losing by five to San Diego State in their previous game, they seemed to have taken a step forward and begun to play like last year’s team.
The Cowboys played arguably the top two teams in the conference in their last two games, and they played both incredibly tough while showing they are trending in the right direction shooting the ball. With the number of quality shots they take, it was only a matter of time before they started to fall consistently, and after shooting 58% from the field in the last game, I think they can certainly stick in this game with the Aggies.
Tempo-wise, the Cowboys rank 324th in tempo according to KenPom, so if they can slow the game down and force Utah State to play at their pace, then they should be able to limit the amount of three-point attempts the Aggies take. Boise State also plays at a slow tempo, and they found a lot of success with a similar game plan.
Wyoming Cowboys (+10.5)