UT Rio Grande Valley @ Kansas St.
UT Rio Grande Valley +18½ -110 over Kansas St.

Posted at 3:30 PM EST odds are subject to change.

Pinnacle +18½ -117 BET365 +18½ -110 SportsInteraction +18½ -110  888Sport +18½ -110

UT Rio Grande Valley +18½ over Kansas St.

Bramlage Coliseum - Manhattan, KS

Streaming: ESPN+

9:00 PM EST. More than 1,450 scholarship players entered the college basketball transfer portal this offseason. Many are looking to take advantage of the combination of NIL opportunities and the NCAA’s new one-time transfer rule. Still, a good number are transferring for their second time (or more) in hopes of receiving a waiver to be immediately eligible — which the NCAA has been more lenient in handing out than in past years. The popularity of the transfer portal has completely changed how rosters are assembled. Some coaching staffs are almost bypassing the traditional high school recruiting process altogether, choosing to instead focus all their attention on players entering CBB’s version of free agency. “It changes all the time,” one low-major coach said. “There’s still a learning curve for everyone on it, players and coaches alike. Everybody’s business model changes, and you have to adapt and figure out what fits your program.” A number of programs found a way to significantly better themselves through the portal this offseason while others lost significant contributors they weren’t able to replace. K-State fits the latter.

Anytime you finish last in your conference and lose your best player — around whom you were building your roster — that’s a bad thing. That was the case with Kansas State and Nijel Pack, who jumped to Miami for that sweet LifeWallet NIL money, not purely for basketball reasons. It wasn’t just Pack who left the Little Apple. Eleven players entered the portal following Bruce Weber’s departure. New head man Jerome Tang has done well to put together a competitive roster (we’ll see how much Keyontae Johnson contributes), but K-State is essentially starting from scratch and today they’re priced like they’re not.

The name to know is Justin Johnson, UTRGV’s lone returning scholarship player and one of the conference’s premier talents. The 6-6 Johnson is the WAC’s leading returning scorer, a relentless attacking wing who scored 72 percent of his points either at the free-throw line or at the rim, according to Hoop-Math. Johnson has his hands in everything UTRGV does on both ends. Beyond just scoring, he led the team in rebounding as a 2-guard and can defend 1 through 4. The former Southern Miss transfer had his fair share of giveaways (4.0 per game), but much of it can be attributed to his high-usage role in Matt Figger’s rapid attack.

Look, we’re not going to sugarcoat this and say Rio Grande is some up ‘n coming mid-major because they’re not. Matt Figger knew what he was up against when he took the UT Rio Grande Valley job last year. After serving as head coach at Austin Peay following a trip to the Final Four under Frank Martin as a South Carolina assistant, Figger went west to UT Rio Grande Valley to succeed the late Lew Hill, who tragically passed during the 2020-21 season. The program underwent significant changes following Hill’s death. None of the ‘20-21 players are still with UTRGV, and Figger brought an entirely new coaching staff to Edinburg.

Few coaching staffs across America dove headfirst into a glaring weakness quite like Figger did this past offseason. Last year’s UTRGV roster featured zero players taller than 6-9 or heavier than 215 pounds. The 2022-23 newcomer class features three contributors who exceed both of those measurables while also adding height to the backcourt and wings. Only two scholarship players are shorter than 6-5 this season; last year, there were four. Defense and physicality wins games in the WAC, and UTRGV had neither box sufficiently checked in Figger’s first year. This season’s squad, as Figger notes, will “look the part” following his staff’s efforts to bulk up at every position. “This team can grow and get better and better as the season progresses,” Figger said. “We’re looking to make a jump here in Year 2.” Realistically, it may be another season or two before UTRGV is knocking on the door of the WAC’s upper tier but Figger made a concerted effort to do just that as he enters the season with a squad that won’t be pushed around anymore.

We’ll see whether or not K-State covers this price but if they do, they’ll continue to be a great fade because they’ll be even more overpriced next game. This wager is more about fading K-State than it is about getting behind the underdog. 



Our Pick

UT Rio Grande Valley +18½ -110 (Risking 2.20 units - To Win: 2.00)

 

 

Sam Houston State +4½ -108 over Nevada