New Mexico Lobos vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Pick

New Mexico Lobos +7, 145 O/U (16-9) 12-10 ATS, 11-11 O/U at BYU Cougars -7, 145 O/U (19-5) 13-10 ATS, 13-8 O/U Tuesday, February 17, 2009 Marriot Center, Provo, Utah 10:00 p.m. EST
By Wilson of

The Mountain West Conference gets under way early this week as the New Mexico Lobos travel to Provo for a late season battle for third place. Both teams are currently tied for third in the MWC. The dream for all involved in tonights game is simple, run the table all the way into the NCAAs. Well that might seem easy enough unless youre the Lobos in Provo as they have lost eight straight games to BYU in Provo. Will they snap the streak tonight? They just might steal one on the road!

New Mexico has won three in a row and four of their last five games. The Lobos defeated Air Force, UNLV, and Wyoming, and now they look forward to upsetting the Cougars at home. With a 16-9 record the Lobos cant afford to lose more games as now is the time to build a case for the big dance although they will surely need to win the season ending tourney to get in.

The Lobos are averaging 73.9 points per contest, and giving up 64.9 which is a testament to their defense as they have stepped up lately by holding teams under 40 percent from the field. New Mexico has been questioned because of their youth but the way they have picked it up on defense shows how they have matured as a group. You cant play solid defense unless you work as a unit and the Lobos have proved that they can play D. But will it be enough to stop the Cougars? If the young guys can handle the pressure of a big-time game on the road they may just sneak back on the plane with a huge W!

BYU has won 19 games for a reason- theyre real good! The Cougars have rallied off their own four game winning streak heading into tonights home game which most sportsbooks have them favored by 7 points. Its tough to win in Provo especially late in the season as most teams are fine tuning for the post season. BYU is averaging 80.2 points a game and allowing 65 to their opponents. Both teams have been getting it done defensively, so it likely will come down to who executes best in the half court, and as always, turnovers will be key.

The Cougars are paced by Lee Cummard (17.2 ppg) and Jonathan Taverari (16.9 ppg). BYU has been lights-out by shooting 56 percent from the field and an outstanding 58 percent from 3-point land. The Lobos will definitely have their work ahead of them and it will start with putting a hand in a shooters face and praying that the shot doesnt fall!

The Lobos got the best of BYU earlier this season as they beat them on January 17, 81-62. If they can maintain their composure and play fundamental basketball it should be a great game to watch. BYU will certainly be looking for paybacks on their home court. The difference tonight might be how well New Mexico can play transition defense as BYU can get it up and down the floor in a hurry. Also, rebounding will be crucial for the Lobos and it will be a key factor as to which team bangs it better on the boards.

College hoops can be unpredictable, but I predict a solid game on both ends and if all goes well for the Lobos they will be in this game from the tip. The total is sitting at 145 with most sportsbooks, and the same goes for the big houses in Vegas. The way these teams have played defense lately you could make an argument for the under.

Wilsons Pick: Ill take the under 145 points. Luck to ya.