Nevada legitimate national title contender

Nevada legitimate national title contender

November 07, 2018 3:00 AM
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The Nevada Wolf Pack are going to attract a lot of attention once again during the 2018-19 college basketball season.

Already recognized as a true mid-major threat to the bluebloods this season, Nevada could slowly inch its way to the top of the national rankings before the postseason. Given the Wolf Pack’s schedule, the team could be favored in every regular-season contest. As it stands now, the consensus top-10 team likely would be season-long chalk.

If Nevada can get by a half-dozen teams in the top 75 on its non-conference schedule, including a trip to Chicago to play a Loyola team which knocked them from the NCAA tournament in a memorable one-point regional semifinal game, and another quirky stop in Phoenix to play Grand Canyon in early December, the Wolf Pack may slowly climb the charts as a late-season unbeaten. The Pack, under fourth-year head coach Eric Musselman, are no secret, obviously, but Nevada did finish 10-5 ATS in non-conference games last season. Still, every opponent will see them coming.

Currently, Nevada is offered as low as 12-to-1 to win the national championship, which is just sixth among all teams in the nation. It would take a few losses for the Wolf Pack’s odds to go any higher. The team has three serious NBA prospects – Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline – who decided to return to campus after a toe-dip into the NBA Draft waters. One of the biggest obstacles the Pack faces is its strength-of-schedule and conference rating. The Mountain West Conference has slipped noticeably the last couple of years and it almost doesn’t qualify for the vague mid-major status these days.

Here’s a look at some first-week matchups:

Wednesday

Ohio State at Cincinnati (132.5): Maybe too much respect out of the gate for the Big Ten club if the number comes lower than this, as Cincinnati may have been ignored by the preseason voters. Both teams consistently play to the under in non-conference games as the Buckeyes have gone under in 12 of their last 17 non-conference games, while the Bearcats have long shown the trend, going 53-22 to the low in non-conference tilts. And both of these squads were overwhelming under teams last year, with OSU going 11-21 and UC finishing 12-21, both to the low. UNDER

Friday

Providence (+1.5) vs. Wichita State (at Annapolis, MD): Wichita State was too popular with the public last season, as, despite a 25-8 straight-up mark, the Shockers went just 12-19 ATS. WSU will probably come the favorite here, but maybe it shouldn’t be, especially considering a 1-5 neutral-court ATS record last season. The Friars were awful against the number in non-conference games last season, but probably not getting the respect here off just a seven-loss season. PROVIDENCE

Arkansas (+3) vs. Texas: This game between two old Southwest Conference foes will be played at Ft. Bliss on national television (ESPN). The Razorbacks put up a 9-5 ATS mark last season in non-conference games, but it should be noted that the ‘Horns were 10-4 straight-up in non-conference affairs lasts season. Sophomore All-SEC center Daniel Gafford is a sure star for the Hogs after being named to the Naismith preseason watch list, but the Longhorns have their own big presence in Dylan Osetkowski. Arkansas doesn’t have as much surrounding its big star. TEXAS

Saturday

Loyola Marymount (+6) at UNLV (154.5): The Runnin’ Rebels were bad against the spread last season (13-19 ATS) but were a respectable 8-5 versus the number in non-conference games. UNLV was also 20-12 to the over last season, including 14-5 to the over at home and 12-2 to the high in non-conference tilts. The Rebs certainly would be worth a look laying less than this number at the Thomas & Mack Center, as the Lions were just 3-12 straight-up on the road last season. Still, the preference is on the total. OVER