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Nevada at Colorado State: Three keys to victory and a prediction

Cody Martin
Cody Martin and the Nevada Wolf Pack take on Colorado State on Wednesday night. (Julian Del Gaudio/Nevada Sports Net)

The Nevada basketball team plays at Colorado State on Wednesday in Fort Collins, Colo. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with three keys to victory and his prediction.

No. 6 Nevada (21-1, 8-1 MW) at Colorado State (9-13, 4-5)

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Moby Arena (8,083 capacity)

TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/94.5 FM

Online: None

Betting line: Nevada by 13.5; total of 152

Three keys for Nevada to win

1. Attack the interior: Colorado State has a quality big man in 6-foot-11, 240-pound Nico Carvacho (15.4 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 58.1 FG%), but the Rams’ interior defense is really poor and was a major liability when these teams played last month. Nevada scored 40 points in the paint in its 100-60 win over Colorado State on Jan. 23 and should be just as aggressive attacking the interior of the Rams' defense. Nevada did an excellent job of not settling for threes in the first matchup with Colorado State, attempting 39 two-point attempts to 27 3-pointers. The Wolf Pack has made it more of a point of working inside out with its offense in recent games, so expect Nevada to pound away inside, at least to start the game, and it should have good success getting into the paint and finishing against a team that is woeful at defending the interior. Colorado State allows opponents to make 52.9 percent of their two-point attempts, which ranks 275th in the nation. The Rams have a weakness; Nevada can take advantage of it.

2. Turnovers and transition: The biggest difference in the first game between these teams was the turnovers. Colorado State had 21 of them to Nevada’s seven. The Wolf Pack had a 35-5 edge in points off turnovers, its most lopsided advantage of the season. Nevada should not have issues turning the ball over in this game. It averages the fewest among MW teams (9.8 per game), while Colorado State creates the fewest turnovers among MW teams (10.9 per game). And while Colorado State doesn’t usually turn the ball over a lot (just 11.6 times per game), the Rams really struggled with Nevada’s second-half pressure last game. “We were running our sets and they were jumping up, jumping the passing lanes and getting easy dunks,” CSU guard Hyron Edwards told the Loveland Reporter-Herald this week. “We've gotta run our sets with good pace. Just the turnovers in our last game against Nevada was key because they were getting out in transition.” That’s the goal for Nevada again in this game. Get live-ball turnovers and get in transition.

3. Limit the runs: Colorado State is a streaky 3-point shooting team, but it’s dangerous when it’s hitting. The Rams are shooting 41 percent from three in its MW wins and 31.7 percent from three in its MW losses. Overall, Colorado State is pretty good 3-point shooting team, hitting 35.6 percent, tied for the MW's third-best mark, on more than 22 attempts per game. Anytime you play on the road, you want to contain the other team from going on quick runs and getting the crowd into the game. That will be one of Nevada’s goal against Colorado State, which is much better at home (7-5) than it is on the road (1-6). In recent games, the Wolf Pack has shown the “spurtability” we saw from the team last season, so it has typically been the squad delivering 10-0 or 14-2 runs of late. But Colorado State is more than capable of putting together effective offensive stretches. The key for the Rams is getting stops to go on those runs.

Prediction

Nevada 83, Colorado State 67: Nevada's first game against Colorado State really sparked the Wolf Pack's offense and Nevada hasn't cooled down since then, finding the right formula – getting into the lane before shooting threes – to get the most out of its personnel. The Rams’ defense has been bad over the course of the season, but it has mustered good efforts in two of the last three games (wins over Fresno State and Air Force). I don’t see Colorado State standing much of a chance of slowing down Nevada’s offense, and if it can’t do that, it can’t win this game without a ridiculous offensive effort. The Rams are 1-11 in Quadrant 1, 2 and 3 games (the Fresno State victory being the lone win), so Colorado State has beaten a good team only once this season. And Nevada isn’t good, it’s great. The Wolf Pack won’t win by 40 points like it did in the first matchup, but it should be relatively untested in this one. Season record: 21-1

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