Boise State Broncos vs. San Diego State
Line: San Diego State -5.5
Where: Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl, San Diego, California
When: Friday, 2/3 at 9:00 p.m. ET
The top two teams in the Mountain West will square off in primetime on Friday night when No. 22 San Diego State hosts Boise State.
San Diego State had its four-game winning streak snapped in a 75-66 loss at Nevada on Tuesday, losing sole possession of first place in the conference standings in the process. The Aztecs are still priced as -130 favorites to win the conference at DraftKings, while the Broncos are +215 and Utah State is +600.
Boise State enters this matchup on a three-game winning streak following a 59-52 win at Air Force on Tuesday, although it narrowly failed to cover the 8-point spread. This is the first of two meetings between these teams in the regular season, as they will play again on Feb. 28 in Boise.
Offshore sportsbook BetOnline opened San Diego State as a 6.5-point home favorite on Thursday afternoon, but the spread quickly moved to -7. The total opened at 133.5 before getting bumped up to 134. By Friday morning, most books had the Broncos as 5.5-point road underdogs — although Circa had them at +6 — with the total back down to 133.5. BSU was +195 on the money line.
KenPom has Boise State rated higher than San Diego State, projecting a two-point win for the Aztecs at home. However, the spread is drastically different due to a pair of injuries that could leave the Broncos without two starters. Senior guard Marcus Shaver Jr. and senior forward Naje Smith both exited Tuesday’s win at Air Force due to injuries, and they’re both listed as ‘questionable’ tonight.
“If they can (play), they will. If they can’t, they won’t,” Boise State head coach Leon Rice said. “It’s gonna have to be ‘next man up.’ It’s going to have to be ‘find a way.’ We’ll solve that problem going forward.”
Shaver is the team’s third-leading scorer (13.2 points per game), leading rebounder (6.3 RPG) and tops the team in assists (4.2 APG), while Smith is the fifth-leading scorer (9.7 PPG) and second-leading rebounder (5.3 RPG). Boise State ranks sixth nationally in defensive rebounding rate, but it has struggled on the offensive glass.
The Broncos defeated San Diego State twice during conference play last season before escaping with a 53-52 win in the MWC title game, becoming the fifth team in league history to win the regular season and the conference tournament. Sophomore forward Tyson Degenhart has taken a big step forward, upping his average from 9.9 PPG to a team-leading 14.4 PPG.
Senior guard Max Rice, who averaged just four points per game last season, is averaging 13.7 points after scoring 22 at Air Force. He has reached double figures in the first half seven times in his last nine games.
San Diego State can take a large step towards a regular-season conference title tonight. The Aztecs, who are likely going to drop out of the top 25 next week, have gone 18-1 in their last 19 home games. They had won nine straight games against the Wolf Pack before getting outscored 12-4 in the final three minutes of Tuesday’s game.
“We played well enough in stretches to stay in the game, but we didn’t play well enough to win the game,” San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher said.
The Aztecs have four of their five leading scorers back from last year’s team, although senior guard Matt Bradley has seen his average dip from 16.9 PPG to 13.2 this season. He has shot just 34.8% from the floor over his last seven games, a far cry from his 43.8% clip last year.
Senior guard Darrion Trammell is the only other player scoring in double figures, averaging 11.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. The Aztecs are No. 31 in offensive efficiency and No. 37 defensively in KenPom’s metrics, while Boise State is No. 90 offensively and No. 9 defensively.
The Broncos have covered the spread at a 6-2 clip in their last eight games, going ‘over’ the total in eight of their last 10 games. They’re 7-0-1 ATS with six outright wins in their eight games as underdogs. Both outright defeats came by two points apiece.
San Diego State is 4-1 ATS in its last five games and has gone ‘over’ in six of its last nine contests. These teams have gone ‘under’ in four of their last five head-to-head meetings, though.
The pick: Boise State +6 (Circa)
It’s tough to gauge where this line is going to close, as a lot of it will be due to the availability of Shaver Jr. and Smith for Boise State. The early line movement is pointing towards a high probability that they both miss this game. However, Boise State is built to overcome this type of situation, as it relies on its defense and balanced scoring to win games. The Broncos would certainly miss having Shaver’s versatility and leadership on the court, but they would still be confident facing a team that they beat three times last season. San Diego State is coming off a rough showing against Nevada and has mediocre offensive numbers, so the Aztecs are not necessarily built to cover a large spread against a strong defense. I expect Boise State to use its slow tempo and top-10 defense to keep this game close throughout the evening.