If this year's Nevada-Wyoming games are anything like last year's Nevada-Wyoming games, the Wolf Pack will be in for some nail-biters this week.
Nevada (10-5, 5-3 MW) hits the road for two games at Laramie, Wyo. — contests on Friday and Sunday — and will look to avenge its conference tournament upset against the Cowboys, who shocked the Wolf Pack, 74-71, in the Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals last March. That followed two regular-season games that come down to the final seconds, with Nevada prevailing in both.
Wyoming (8-5, 2-4) is under the direction of a new coach, Jeff Linder, who has vastly improved the Cowboys' offense while seeing the team's defense bottom out. WyoSports.net beat writer Michael Katz joined NSN Daily on Thursday to discuss the Cowboys' up-and-down season.
"It's been a little bit of a roller-coaster with a new head coach in Jeff Linder, who just came in from the University of Northern Colorado, taking over for Allen Edwards," Katz said. "They won 18 games the last two years combined. They had to get some wholesale changes done and the team got off to a 7-1 start and people's expectations got set really, really high. Not to discount the quality of opponent they played — they did beat Oregon State on the road, a team that just knocked off USC — but Mountain West play started and they had a four-game losing streak and people were unsure. 'What is this team? Is is the team that started 7-1 or is it the team that just lost four in a row?' All things considered, they're 8-5 and won nine games all of last season, so there's progression to be sure, but people are starting to realize it's not all going to come together right away."
Katz said Wyoming's key to victory against Nevada will be hitting 3-pointers. The Cowboys average 10 3-pointers made per game, which ranks first in the MW.
"When Wyoming is going, they are deadly from three," Katz said. "And pretty much everybody who will see the floor can shoot. Hunter Thompson is their quote-unquote big man, he's 6-10 and he's really a stretch forward. You're not going to see him bang around down there. He's going to shoot. Marcus Williams is a freshman and has been one of the big surprises in the Mountain West. He doesn't shoot it great, but he's not afraid to pull up. Everybody can shoot it at a pretty high rate, and with that also comes the negative. They are a little weak inside. Teams will exploit them on the inside. That's what we've seen. When Wyoming losing, they're getting out-rebounded and they're getting destroyed in the paint. On the flipside, they are going to spread you out, and when things are going well they are going to hit a ton of threes. In their eight wins, they've been lights out from deep."