Favored To Win Mountain West, Undefeated Rams Better Than Buffs

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One of the unfortunate things about Colorado’s collegiate sporting scene is that the state’s best-known programs don’t make much of a point of scheduling games against each other.

This stings a little more than usual right now for fans of Colorado State’s undefeated, 20th-ranked men’s basketball team, which, according to SuperBook exec Jay Kornegay, would be “about a 7-point favorite” if it were to square off against the youthful Colorado Buffaloes right now.

“Here’s our chance to beat our in-state rivals, and now we won’t have the opportunity this year,” said Kornegay, a CSU alum.

Like many programs, the 10-0 Rams have had to endure a long layoff due to COVID’s Omicron strain, which forced the cancellation of a big non-conference matchup with SEC power Alabama. CSU, which is scheduled to host Mountain West rival Air Force on Tuesday, is potentially strong enough to finish conference play with a perfect record.

Just don’t expect to find any odds on that prop, at least at the SuperBook.

“When you put up a proposition like that, it’s all one-way action. It really isn’t a favorable proposition for the bookmaker,” explained Kornegay. “Although it’s highly unlikely they’d do such a thing, we’d have some liability on it. You’d probably get something like 30-1 to do something like that, and you’d accumulate such liability on them doing so, I’d have to go upstairs to my execs and say, ‘We’re either going to lose six figures or win $2,000.’

“I think the Mountain West is very competitive this year and anything can happen in the [conference]  tournament.”

The Rams are favored to win the Mountain West at odds of +150 at PointsBet and +160 at DraftKings, with both books seeing San Diego State (+225 and +250) as the only other conference contender with a shot at the crown. The Rams are paced by a pair of juniors in David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens, the first of whom is a 6-5, 255-pound positional tweener who, as Kornegay puts it, “lets the game come to him.”

“I’ve seen him go many minutes without really partaking in scoring because of the defensive scheme the opponent is presenting the Rams,” observed Kornegay, who said this is the best CSU team he’s seen in recent memory. “But the next thing you know, he’s got 22 points and 6 rebounds even though he didn’t have any points in the first eight minutes.

“There’s plenty of talent on the Rams’ side. Stevens is an incredible talent and a great shooter and an underrated player. But it all starts with the coach. [Niko] Medved has just been terrific in making the players believe that they’re all part of the system.”

Young Buffs ‘exceeding expectations’

The same could be said for Colorado coach Tad Boyle, who’s coaxed a roster featuring 13 freshmen and sophomores to a 9-3 record out of the gate. Led by sophomore forward Jabari Walker, the Buffs are scheduled to visit Oregon on Monday. 

Despite the fact that the 7-6 Ducks have suffered blowout losses to BYU and Houston, DraftKings gives them a better chance than Colorado to win the Pac-12 (18/1, as opposed to 70/1 for the Buffs), as does FanDuel, albeit by a far narrower margin (30/1 to 50/1).

“Boyle has all our respect,” said Kornegay, showering the boys from Boulder with a rare bit of praise. “He’s a terrific coach and proves it each and every year. I don’t think CU’s gonna make the tournament. They’ve got a very tough schedule. But that’s not cutting them short, because right now they’re certainly exceeding expectations.”

Mike Seely has written about horse racing for The Daily Racing Form and America’s Best Racing, and has contributed pieces on a multitude of topics to The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, among other publications. He can be reached on Twitter (@mdseely) or via email at mseely@bettercollective.com.

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