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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, January 20, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Those of you from various parts of the country may not pay attention to UNLV, but I can assure you that the basketball program is followed very closely here in town by bettors and oddsmakers. Sure, the football team is consistently horrible. But, the basketball program has a storied history, and a knack in recent years for at least scoring upsets in the Big Dance even if they can’t match Jerry Tarkanian’s ability to get to the Final Four.

Huge headlines were made a couple of weeks ago when UNLV fired head coach Dave Rice midseason. Even though the team was 9-7, that just wasn’t good enough for a team that really should be dominating a fairly weak conference. Some TV pundits were asking “how can you fire a winning coach?” Well, let me tell you…IT HAD TO BE DONE!

Look at UNLV’s three results just before the firing.

*UNLV (-8) lost to Fresno State 69-66

*UNLV (-4.5) lost at Colorado State 66-65

*UNLV (-5) lost at Wyoming 59-57

Bad luck to lose close games? Definitely. But, those are lousy teams! If you’re playing nailbiters with the likes of Fresno State, Colorado State, and Wyoming, something’s definitely wrong. It was already an insult to UNLV that the lines were that small to begin with. Then, the team couldn’t match lowered expectations while LOSING OUTRIGHT to poor opposition.

*Fresno State is currently down around #120 in the computers

*Colorado State is currently down around #170 in the computers

*Wyoming is currently down around #170 in the computers

By, “the computers,” I mean the publicly available rankings posted daily by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and Ken Pomeroy of UNLV is supposed to be a top 40 team…not somewhere around #150!

The players definitely responded to the firing. They had seemingly thrown in the towel on Rice given their prior efforts. Then…this happened…

*UNLV (-5.5) beat New Mexico 86-74

*UNLV (-16) beat Air Force 100-64

*UNLV (-3.5) won at Utah State 80-68

I’m always alerting you to THE MOTIVATION FACTOR for sports betting and handicapping. UNLV’s players simply weren’t motivated to play for Rice any more. They had tuned him out. Getting him out of Dodge immediately led to pointspread covers by 6.5, 20 and 8.5 points. Hopefully it also ends the year-by-year decline the program had suffered during his tenure.

I’m not ready to believe just yet that the Rebels are suddenly a top 40 team. Though, they certainly have made a demonstrative statement since Rice was fired! I’ll be very interested to see what happens in their next three games…

Saturday: at arch-rival Nevada

January 27: vs. Boise State

January 30: vs. San Diego State

Right now the computers basically have it as a dead heat atop the Mountain West, with UNLV, San Diego State, and Boise State all as very serious contenders to win the conference. Firing Rice just might have pushed UNLV to the top in terms of championship potential. What happens at home against the other contenders will tell us a lot about how the league race is going to play out.

Unfortunately for locals, the league as a whole may have taken a step (or two) backward this season. Instead of having teams safely in the Dance or on the bubble, we may be looking at a one-bid league if the computers are to be believed. Time for somebody to step up. Maybe UNLV will be that team based on their new level of enthusiasm.

I know many of you couldn’t care less about UNLV or the Mountain West. But, WHEREVER you live across this great nation…there are teams in similar situations. Maybe they didn’t fire their head coach. But, students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping need to be aware that…


*Some teams have tuned out their head coach and are basically in the tank

*Some teams have found the right formula, and are catching fire


*Some teams are having chemistry issues because of player selfishness

*Some teams are coming together as a team and believing in themselves


Those computers may be great at telling you what happened. They’re notoriously slow about recognizing when reality has changed. Frankly, it’s a godsend that oddsmakers and quants place so much weight on computers. That opens doors for REAL HANDICAPPING to uncover advantages that will offer huge payoffs. YOU need to focus on what’s going to happen!

Your homework this week is to study your local conference, or your favorite TV conference, to see if you can find these kinds of storylines developing. I understand that it’s virtually impossible to do this across the national card. Time just doesn’t permit it for most of you. But…finding just one slumper, and one super-surger in your field of study will provide multiple winners over the next few weeks. It’s no secret now that shorthanded Duke has become a slumper, while Syracuse is super-surging. You watched that in the ACC Monday night on ESPN. See if you can stay a few steps ahead of ESPN!

As always, if you’d like some help finding moneymakers, KELSO STURGEON’S best bets can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters’ office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

Thanks for your continuing attendance and hard work. The Dean of Sports Handicapping will be back this weekend to discuss handicapping the NFL Conference Championship games matching the New England Patriots vs. the Denver Broncos, and the Arizona Cardinals vs. the Carolina Panthers.


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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