Yesterday was easily the most action-packed and upset filled single day of the college hoops season so far! Several of the nation’s top teams tasted defeat with lots of the top-25 going down. The biggest shocker of the day came to us from Knoxville as the Missouri Tigers avenged their earlier season loss to the Vols, by beating the 6th ranked team in the country on their home floor as significant underdogs. The win was a huge one for the Tigers, as they are quickly emerging as one of the top teams in the SEC.
Another top-10 team that lost yesterday was the Kansas Jayhawks. KU lost their 3rd straight game, this one coming on the road at Oklahoma, and after looking like a Final Four caliber team just a couple of weeks ago, the Jayhawks find themselves in the bottom half of the Big 12 standings at 4-4 in conference play. The 3rd top-10 team that lost yesterday was the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers lost at home to Ohio State, just their 2nd home loss of the season.
— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) January 23, 2021
Other ranked teams that lost yesterday included Virginia Tech getting blown out at Syracuse, Minnesota getting blown out at home by Maryland, Clemson getting destroyed on the road at Florida State, UCLA picking up their 1st conference loss of the season at Stanford, and Oregon State shocking their in-state rivals, the Oregon Ducks on the road. All told, 9 of the top-25 lost this week in what was an absolutely bonkers day of basketball action. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will head to Wyoming, where the Cowboys host the Nevada Wolfpack.
- Nevada Wolfpack (10-6) at Wyoming Cowboys (9-5)
- Auditorium, Laramie
- 1:00 PM PST
- TV: CBSS
Two middle of the pack teams in the Mountain West Conference square off today in Laramie as the Wyoming Cowboys host the Nevada Wolfpack. These teams played Friday night, with Wyoming scoring the home underdog outright victory, and run it back tonight to wrap up their season series. The Cowboys are hoping to get back to .500 in conference play with back-to-back victories over Nevada.
Let’s bring home a W!
— Nevada Basketball (@NevadaHoops) January 24, 2021
For Nevada, the Wolfpack are seeking their first conference road victory of the year, as they are 0-3 with two losses to San Diego State and Friday night’s loss to Wyoming. While a trip to the NCAA tournament likely isn’t in the cards for Nevada this year, after a slow start, a win over Wyoming tonight would move them up the standings in the MWC, a league that could get multiple bids this season, with as many as four teams currently on the bubble.
Wyoming Cowboys (9-5)
The Wyoming Cowboys aren’t a very good team this year, but they impressed on Friday when they managed to protect their home floor and beat Nevada. The Cowboys have an underrated backcourt that features two of the better guards in the MWC. Freshman Marcus Williams averages 16 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal a game and has been a difference maker for Wyoming. His fellow backcourt mate, Hunter Maldonado, is a redshirt junior that was the Cowboy’s best player last season and has been even better this year for Wyoming.
Maldonado fills up the stat sheet with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists a game. He rarely turns the ball over and does everything you would want out of an upperclassmen leader on the floor. While the Cowboys aren’t going to finish near the top of the Mountain West Conference standings this season, with both of these guys coming back next year, Wyoming could be a sneaky dark horse candidate for a run to the NCAA tournament. We are seeing this team get better as the season wears on, and there is more talent on the floor for Wyoming that most people are giving them credit for right now.
Nevada Wolfpack (10-6)
Eric Musselman built the Nevada Wolfpack into one of the top programs on the west coast in his time leading Nevada. Musselman took Nevada to the NCAA tournament in his final 3 seasons at the helm in Reno, averaging 28.5 wins per season during that run. But Musselman has since moved on to Arkansas, and his replacement, former UCLA head coach Steve Alford, just hasn’t been able to replicate that same level of success. Alford led the Wolfpack to a 19-12 record last year and a first-round exit in the MWC tournament. Ironically enough that season ending loss came to this very same Wyoming team that beat them again two days ago.
This year, many people expected Nevada to bottom out, as they have lost substantial talent from the program in the last couple of seasons. And for the most part, that is what has happened. While Nevada’s record of 10-6 doesn’t look awful on the surface, when you look at who they have played, it’s not all that impressive.
Nevada doesn’t have a single win over the top-100, and they have bad losses to 304th ranked Air Force, as well as Grand Canyon and Wyoming. I think Alford is going to get things turned around at some point, as he has taken four different schools to the NCAA tournament, going all of the way back to his time at Southwest Missouri State, but don’t expect that turn around this year.
Who Do I Like?
These teams just played two nights ago. In that game, Wyoming jumped out to an early lead and coasted to a 71-64 win. The Wolfpack were -3.5-point favorites in that game. Now just a handful of hours later, with the game being held on the same court, with the same players expected to play, Nevada is even bigger favorites? I’m not sure that one adds up if you ask me.
Yes, the win for Wyoming was an upset, and it did feel kind of fluky. And it is really hard to beat a team twice in a row in conference play. But I don’t see any compelling reason that Nevada is going to be 12-points better than they were on Friday night. While the Cowboys got to rest up in their own beds to prepare for this rematch, Nevada is probably staying at some cut-rate motel in freezing cold Wyoming, wondering what has gone wrong with their disappointing season.
Looking a little closer at that first game, you can see that Wyoming’s best players, Marcus Williams and Hunter Maldonado, both struggled, yet Wyoming was still able to win. Both guys scored below their season averages, and they were a combined 1-9 from beyond the arc. For two guys that are as talented as these guys are, it’s hard to expect them not to be better, and that is a bad sign for Nevada.
I do think that Nevada probably wins this game outright. But a bad number is a bad number, and with +4.5-points, we have plenty of room for Nevada to win and for Wyoming to still cover and cash our ticket. It wouldn’t remotely shock me if Wyoming won this game outright, as they showed us on Friday night that they are capable of beating the Wolfpack, but at the end of the day, I do expect Alford and his Wolfpack to exact their revenge and win this one.
I expect a higher scoring game that we saw in the last one as both teams struggled to score the basketball in that first meeting. It will be a tightly contested game that will likely come down to the final few possessions. I’ll call this one a final score of 77-75 Nevada, with Wyoming sneaking in a cover and getting us paid. Give me the Wyoming Cowboys +4.5-points tonight at home as they look for back-to-back upsets over UNR!