Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#619 Kansas State -4 vs.
#620 UNLV 136.5
Saturday, November 9, 2019 at 4:00pm EST
Written by Chris Altruda



#619 Kansas State University
#620 University of Nevada, Las Vegas


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Kansas State at UNLV

When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 10, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nev., 4 p.m. EST.

After a successful debut as UNLV coach, T.J. Otzelberger's team faces a substantial upgrade in competition Saturday when Big 12 reigning champion Kansas State comes to Sin City to face the Runnin' Rebels.

K-State looking to fill gaps offensively

Kansas State's bid for a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance began Tuesday with a 67-54 victory over North Dakota State on Tuesday night. While Bruce Weber is looking for sources of offense to replace the departed trio of Dean Wade, Barry Brown Jr., and Kamau Stokes, the defense remains a constant as the Wildcats limited the Bison to 28.8 percent shooting.

Carter Diarra appears to be the primary candidate to fill some of that scoring void, to totaling 15 of his career-best 23 points in the second half to help Kansas State pull away. He also had six rebounds and six assists to partially offset shooting 8 for 21.

“I do take responsibility for that,” Diarra told The Mercury about taking over offensively in the final 20 minutes. “We weren’t making the easy plays. We were taking a lot of 3s. At halftime, we were 1-for-12 (on 3-pointers). I would like to say if the six ain’t falling, we need to dig deep and get in the paint, which was working.”

Senior forward Makol Mawien also stepped up with 15 points and 10 rebounds for his third career double-double. The forward averaged 7.0 points and 4.9 rebounds while starting all 34 games last season in helping K-State claim a share of the Big 12 title.

This is one of four non-conference road games for Kansas State, which will also play at Pittsburgh and 2019 NCAA Tournament teams Mississippi State and Saint Louis.

Rebels show offensive balance and proficiency in season debut

After three seasons of .500 basketball under Marvin Menzies -- a late replacement after Chris Beard backed out to accept the Texas Tech job 11 days following his signing with UNLV -- the Rebels tabbed Otzelberger to help bring them back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.

Otzelberger had guided South Dakota State to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and 70 wins in three seasons before coming to Las Vegas, and his debut could not have gone any better as the Rebels thumped Purdue-Fort Wayne 86-70 on Tuesday night.

All five UNLV starters finished in double figures, paced by career highs of 17 points and 17 rebounds from Cheikh Mbacke Diong. Jonah Antonio also scored 17 points, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range, as the Rebels shot 51.9 percent and blasted the Mastodons off the glass by a 43-19 count.

“I was pleased with our guys in how they came out and prepared for this game,” Otzelberger told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Once it’s for real, it’s for real. I think our guys established in that first half who we can be defensively when we pressure the basketball, when we really guard and contest the 3-point line — they were 1-for-14 at half — and do a great job on the glass.”

Diong, a 6-foot-11 junior, had flashes last season averaging 6.9 points and 6.8 rebounds. He also blocked four shots while recording his second career double-double.

Otzelberger is stepping right into the fire in terms of the schedule. After this contest, the Rebels will embark on a two-game swing through California to face Pac-12 teams Cal and UCLA next week.

"We know we’ve got a stretch here of some really good teams. Kansas State is the only one that really matters right now because they’re the one coming up on Saturday," Otzelberger said.

“They’ve been at the top of the Big 12 Conference … which I think is one of the best, if not best, leagues in the country. … We’ve got to get back to the practice floor. We’ve got to be competitive and fight. It’s going to be a really tough game come Saturday.”

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This is the first meeting between the teams since then-UNLV coach Lon Kruger -- a former Wildcats coach -- and Kansas State counterpart Frank Martin set up a home-and-home series in 2009-10 and 2010-11 in which the road team won both games.

The feeling is this game is coming too soon for UNLV given K-State's culture of winning in recent seasons under Bruce Weber. The Wildcats still have enough pieces from last season's Big 12-winning team to not be fazed by an early higher-end road game, and their defense has always traveled.

The Rebels will be competitive, but look for the Wildcats to pull away over the final eight minutes like mature road teams do.

Prediction: Kansas State -5

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Per, the under is 11-5 in K-State's last 16 road games when favored between 0.5 to 6.5 points and 15-7 in the last 22 overall when the Wildcats are favored. This is another confidence pick in the defense traveling -- K-State was one of only four Division I teams to give up less than 60 points per game in 2018-19.

Prediction: UNDER 135.5 points

Written By Chris Altruda

A 1994 graduate of Marquette University when they were known as the Warriors and Brooklyn native, Chris Altruda is based in Chicago. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiner, he worked at three major U.S. wire services and also has prior experience in sports handicapping and daily fantasy roster building. Now that the Cubs have won a World Series, he holds out hope the Jets will win a Super Bowl before he dies. Follow Chris daily right here at W&W and on Twitter at @AlTruda73. You won’t be disappointed.