The Mountain West schedule makers hit the nail on the head with their opening week slate, scheduling games between the four teams expected to compete for the regular season title. On Tuesday San Diego State defended their home floor with a win over New Mexico but it remains to be seen how long Billy White (high ankle sprain) is out of the lineup. Wednesday's showdown will be in Provo, with UNLV visiting BYU in a game that should be an entertaining one. The Rebels have depth and will need to use their defense in order to beat one of the best scoring teams in the nation.
Jimmer Fredette has the ability to light teams up at any given time; but his ability as a distributor makes it near impossible to focus solely on shutting down his scoring. Tyler Haws and Jackson Emery have the ability to go off as well, and if they starters aren't getting the job done Dave Rose can simply look to the experienced Jonathan Tavernari off the bench. But Tavernari's scoring average is down some six points per game from last season, and while he hasn't shot as well from the field the emergence of Emery and Haws may also have something to do with that.
As for UNLV's offense, the Rebels aren't going to be the kind of team you see engaged in a track meet. Six players are averaging six points per game or more with guards Tre'Von Willis (14.5) and Oscar Bellfield (11.1) leading the way. The key on the road in conference play tends to be the "little things": 50/50 balls, rebounding margin and turnover margin carry the day on the average. UNLV is more than willing to defend and if they can keep this game in the high-60s to low-70s look for them to be in the game at the end.
The rest of the schedule has some intriguing matchups, with Duke taking on Iowa State in Chicago and Wisconsin visiting Michigan State. The Cyclones have one of the best frontcourt players in Craig Brackins, who is more than capable of testing out whether or not the Blue Devils' frontcourt play has improved since last season (thus far, it has). And if anyone were capable of beating the Spartans in East Lansing the Badgers would be a safe choice (as would Purdue) given their experience and Bo Ryan's system. Trevon Hughes vs. Kalin Lucas will likely determine the outcome; Lucas provided Tom Izzo with the change he wanted following a benching for a lack of leadership. Enjoy Wednesday's games.
6:30p BTN Wisconsin at Michigan St
7p ESPN2 Memphis at Syracuse
7p ESPNU Louisville at Providence
8p MTN Colorado St at Wyoming
8p BEN/MASN/TWC Georgetown at Marquette
8:30p BTN Indiana at Ohio St
9p ESPNU Northern Iowa at Southern Illinois
10p ESPN2 Duke vs. Iowa State
10p MTN UNLV at BYU
10:30p FSN UCLA at California
7p VCU at Drexel
7p Richmond at Duquesne
7p Saint Joseph's at Temple
8:05p Wichita St at Missouri St
10p USC at Stanford
BYU over UNLV: In conference openers it's usually good to go with the home team. But the edge that San Diego State enjoyed over New Mexico may not be as large in favor of BYU on Wednesday. UNLV's an experienced team filled with Division I transfers who have been through the rigors of league play before even if those games didn't come in the Mountain West. Look for the Rebels to be competitive throughout but at the end of the night it will be Jimmer Fredette and company who pick up the win.