Struggling MW Teams Meet as Wyoming Hosts Fresno State

Struggling MW Teams Meet as Wyoming Hosts Fresno State

Mountain West Basketball

Struggling MW Teams Meet as Wyoming Hosts Fresno State

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Fresno State at Wyoming: Game Preview, TV, Radio, Live Stream, Odds, More


Cowboys searching for first MW win after two close calls


Contact/Follow @andrewdieckhoff & @MWCwire

The two teams are a combined 1-12 on the early Mountain West season

GAME DETAILS

WHO: Fresno State (5-12, 1-5 MWC) at Wyoming (5-14, 0-7 MWC)

WHEN: Saturday, January 18 — 4:00 P.M. MT / 3:00 P.M. PT

WHERE: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie, Wyo.

WATCH: Mountain West Network

LISTEN: TuneIn Wyoming; TuneIn Fresno State

ALL-TIME: Fresno State leads the series, 8-4

ODDS: Fresno State -4, per KenPom

GAME PREVIEW

If you’ve seen Fight Club, then you already understand just how ugly a basement fistfight can get. David Fincher’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s modern classic serves as a rough approximation for Saturday’s matchup between Wyoming and Fresno State.

Physicality. Grit. Desperation.

This clash of the Mountain West’s last- and second-to-last-place teams may not be a blockbuster, but it could act as a springboard for one of these squads to reverse their fortunes.

Fresno State does have the slight advantage over the Cowboys in the standings, though they won’t be quick to brag about their 1-5 start. That sole victory came against San Jose State, and while the Spartans’ program is starting to show signs of life, Jean Prioleau’s club is still ranked #283 in the KenPom ratings.

It’s been a tremendously tough season for Justin Hutson and the Bulldogs, especially coming off of last year’s relatively surprising success. But the departure of two bona fide studs will do that to a team.

And if anyone can relate to Hutson’s frustrations, it’s Allen Edwards.

Remember: just two years ago, Edwards was putting the finishing touches on his second 20-win season in as many tries as head coach of the Cowboys. Like Fresno State, Wyoming suffered a devastating loss when it bid farewell to talented seniors like Hayden Dalton, Alan Herndon, and Louis Adams.

They still haven’t recovered.

Justin James put the team on his back, but could only drag them as far as an 8-24 record after Hunter Maldonado went down with an injury. Now, that mantle has been passed to Maldonado, who is doing an admirable impression. The sophomore is averaging nearly 18 points, six rebounds, four assists, and a steal every night.

But similar to last year, the individual performances aren’t adding up to wins.

Wyoming remains winless at 0-7, but they have come tantalizingly close to getting that first victory in their past two outings. First, they fell in overtime at home against UNLV. Next, it was Jalen Harris putting the dagger in the Cowboys’ heart as he lifted Nevada to a 68-67 win in Reno.

A return to Arena-Auditorium could help push them over that threshold and finally into the winner’s circle.

But even if Fresno State won’t have home court advantage, the Bulldogs do have the edge when it comes to the numbers.

GAME PLAN

On Wyoming’s possessions…

When the home team has the ball, feel free to get up and get another drink. The Cowboys’ average offensive possession lasts over 19 seconds, one of the slowest times in the country. A large portion of those possessions end with three-point attempts, which comprise nearly half of Wyoming’s entire shot selection. Unfortunately, they only connect on roughly 31% of them.

As alluded to in the previous section, the offense runs through Hunter Maldonado. There are other player capable of scoring—namely Jake Hendricks and Hunter Thompson—but Maldonado’s running a usage rate well north of 30%.

This team doesn’t get offensive rebounds. Well, it does, but at a lower rate than any other team in Division I men’s basketball. The Cowboys crash the glass successfully at a 13.6% clip, which is less than half of the national average of 28.2%, per KenPom. It’s especially strange when you consider that Wyoming is one of the taller teams in the country, on average.

Turnovers are not a huge issue for Wyoming, but ball security isn’t exactly a strong suit, either. This offense is one of the least effective in the country overall, but their shooting and rebounding woes are much more to blame than their ballhandling abilities.

On Fresno State’s possessions…

Orlando Robinson and Jarred Hyder have both emerged as offensive weapons alongside Nate Grimes and New Williams, giving Justin Hutson a wealth of options. Still, Fresno State has had issues shrugging off their early issues shooting the ball. They are shooting just 38.4% from the floor in conference play, suggesting that the problem is actually getting worse.

And though the Cowboys shoot a lot of three pointers, the Bulldogs make their numbers look paltry. Fresno State’s more long balls per possession than most of the country, with 48.9% of all shots coming from beyond the arc. But again like Wyoming, those shots aren’t falling often enough.

But while Wyoming can’t grab an offensive rebound to save their collective life, Fresno State has done remarkably well for themselves, rating well above average in this department thanks to Grimes and Robinson. The battle of the boards will be where Fresno State has the biggest advantage against the Cowboys.

GAME PREDICTION

Fresno State 68, Wyoming 63

The Bulldogs will likely shoot right around 40% for the game, but their ability to create second chances will help mitigate their inaccuracy. And as Fresno State’s defense is scant more than mediocre, a slowly improving Wyoming offense will keep it close. But Fresno State should be able to escape from The Equality State with its second MW win.

Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.

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