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Nevada vs. Colorado State: Three keys and a prediction

Caleb Martin
Caleb Martin and the Wolf Pack host Colorado State on Wednesday. (Nevada athletics)

The Nevada basketball team hosts Colorado State on Wednesday night in Reno. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with three keys to victory and his prediction.

Colorado State (7-11, 2-3 MW) at Nevada (18-1, 5-1)

When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

Where: Lawlor Events Center (11,536 capacity)

TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/94.5 FM

Online: None

Betting line: Nevada by 19.5 points; total of 149.5

Three keys for Nevada to win

1. Take advantage of CSU’s D: Under former coach Larry Eustachy, Colorado State was a tough and physical defensive/rebounding team. This iteration of the Rams is not a tough and physical defensive/rebounding team. It’s the complete opposite. Colorado State has the Mountain West’s worst defense. The Rams rank 320th out of 353 Division I teams in defensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy’s metrics. They allow opponents to shoot 45.2 percent from the field, including 37.2 percent from three (313th in the nation). Colorado State doesn’t create turnovers (10.9 per game, worst in the MW), doesn’t block shots (1.9 per game, second worst in the MW) and doesn’t defensive rebound (grabs only 71.6 percent of its opponents' misses, worst in the MW). Nevada’s offense has been in a slump, so this is the perfect matchup for the Wolf Pack to get back on track offensively.

2. Body up Nico Carvacho: When Colorado State made the coaching change from Eustachy to Niko Medved last offseason, Carvacho explored transferring before Medved talked him into returning for his junior season. While Colorado State has struggled, Carvacho has not. He’s one of the few guys in the nation who can match up with Jordan Caroline in the double-double category. Carvacho has 11 double-doubles this season, matching Caroline’s 11 (they're tied for seventh in the nation). Carvacho leads the country in rebounding (12.2 per game) and adds 15.9 points per game. Over the last nine games, Carvacho is averaging 19.9 points and 14.4 rebounds a night. He’s also shooting 66.4 percent from the field during that stretch and has done a better job of getting to the foul line. Unlike last season, Caroline will not be matched up with the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Carvacho. That job goes to Trey Porter, who has his hands full with Carvacho.

3. Defensive intensity from the tip: As noted, Colorado State is poor defensively but the Rams can be potent on offense. In fact, Colorado State is in the top 100 in the nation in offensive efficiency, per Ken Pom. The Rams have more games this season with an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 110-plus than Nevada (eight to seven). Colorado State is a little hit or miss offensively, but it is dangerous when it gets hot. The Wolf Pack has to come out defensively sharp and energetic from the tip to make sure the Rams don’t get early momentum it can carry into the later stages of a game. Colorado State has six games in which it has made 10 3-pointers, although only one of those – its last game – has come in the last nine contests. Anthony Masinton-Bonner has missed the last two games with an Achilles strain and could be out versus Nevada, which puts additional pressure on guards J.D. Paige and Adam Thistlewood from three. Those are the guys to keep from going off from beyond the arc.

Prediction

Nevada 82, Colorado State 64: Colorado State is 3-10 over its last 13 games, with each of those wins coming at home. The Rams are 1-7 away from Moby Arena, including a 0-5 mark in true road games. Nevada should win this one and win it comfortably. But Colorado State has enough offensive firepower it can make this a dangerous game if Nevada comes out slowly like we’ve seen a handful of times this season. Only one of the Rams’ seven wins have come against a team above .500, that win being a 71-65 decision over Sam Houston State (a team that was 3-8 against D-I opponents in non-conference). Nevada’s offense should get well against Colorado State, which has routinely been shredded by opposing offenses. The Rams allowed Utah State to make 32-of-59 shots last time out (that’s a 54.2 shooting percentage). Nevada has hit the 80-point mark only twice in its last 13 games – it hit that mark in each of its first six games – but I’ll take the Wolf Pack to surpass 80 again in a relative rout. Season record: 18-1

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