BYU Cougars vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels Preview and Pick

BYU Cougars (12-4) +2, 138 at UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (12-4), 11 pm Eastern Tuesday
by Zman of

The two teams that played in the Mountain West Conference championship game last March meet for the first time this season, albeit minus many of their key players from last season, when the BYU Cougars take on the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

College Basketball Bookies currently list UNLV as a two-point home favorite for Tuesday night’s game, with a total of 138. Also, the Rebs are listed at around -125 on various Vegas moneylines, with BYU getting around +110 as road underdogs.

The Cougars returned just two starters from last season’s MWC regular-season champ and NCAA qualifier, but because of the nature of the school, have one of the oldest teams age-wise in college basketball. BYU started 10-2 this season, but after beating Colorado State Saturday 92-73, are just 2-2 over their last four games.

UNLV lost four starters from its conference tournament title and Sweet 16 team of a season ago. The Rebels started this season 7-3, and had a five-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 65-53 loss at Air Force. That was the third time in UNLV’s last four games that the Rebs had failed to shoot even 40% from the field.

Heading into Tuesday’s action, the Cougs were tied for second place in the MWC at 1-0, while UNLV was tied for 4th at 1-1.

So far this season, BYU is 6-6 against the spread, and 2-2 both straight up and ATS in true road games. Meanwhile, the Rebels are 8-4 vs. the numbers this season, 9-2 SU and 5-2-1 against the spread in true home games.

UNLV took two of three games from the Cougars last season, including that MWC tournament championship game, in which the Rebs rallied from 14 points down to win 78-70. And the o/u went 3-0 in those three meetings last season, which averaged 153 total points.

Statistically speaking; BYU is outscoring opponents by an average of 14.5 points per game this season, shooting 47% from the floor, 37% from 3-point range but just 67% from the free-throw line. Also, the Cougars are outrebounding foes by an average of 7.4 boards per game and are holding opponents to 39% FG shooting, which ranks as best in the MWC.

On the other side of this match-up, UNLV is outscoring opponents by 9.6 points per game this season, but is shooting just 40% from the field, which ranks last in the conference, 32% from long range and 75% from the line. Also, the Rebels are getting outrebounded by 1.3 boards per game but are limiting foes to just 40% FG shooting.

And while UNLV leads the MWC in turnovers per game at just 11.6, BYU is turning the ball over 16.2 times per game.

These two teams have played two common opponents so far this season. The Cougars beat Louisville on a neutral court (in Las Vegas) in November 78-76 and, as mentioned above, beat Colorado State 92-73 last Saturday. Meanwhile, the Rebs won at Colorado State 65-62 ten days ago, but lost at home to Louisville in November 68-48.

BYU is ranked 40th in the Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at at 83.8, while UNLV is ranked 54th at 81.7. Sagarin’s current college basketball home-court advantage figure is listed at 4.4.

The o/u is 5-7 in Cougars games so far this season, which are averaging 145 total points, while the totals are 7-6 in Rebels games, which are averaging 134 points.

Zman’s Pick: BYU +1.5.