A showdown between two mid-major monsters.
A lot of folks have had this game circled on their calendars since it was released. A big test for the Nevada Wolf Pack (10-0), and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-3) could quite possibly be the toughest opponent the Wolf Pack will see at home this season. A must see matchup between two reigning conference champions who are both expected to repeat.
Nevada is back home and has had some much needed time to catch their breath after bouncing all over the southwest for the past month. To finish things off at the backend of their six-game road stretch, the Wolf Pack played ASU, who will probably the only ranked opponent they’ll face this season, on a Friday at 9PM in Los Angeles, then traveled to Phoenix to play Grand Canyon University at 2:30PM on Sunday.
Their road trip started last month with two games in Las Vegas, immediately after two home games- four games in seven days. Travel, as mentioned above, can wear out even the best of teams, which Nevada is one of. Though it’s also great preparation for when it comes tournament time.
Nevada’s Caleb Martin and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum are both reigning conference players of the year as well as pre-season All-Americans. Both incredible college basketball players who are trending in different directions as of late. Though it has been against some of the Jackrabbits weaker opponents this season, Daum has been shooting the lights out over their last two games while averaging 39.5 points. Caleb on the other hand, is averaging 14 points over his last two games and shooting an atrocious 2-18 from three. Caleb said in a presser yesterday, “I’m shooting like garbage,” and that’s hard to disagree with. Look for Caleb to have a resurgent performance within the confines of Lawlor Events Center after being away from home for so long.
Like Nevada, South Dakota State is loaded with talent and experience. The Jackrabbits start three seniors who are all very capable of scoring the basketball. Alongside those seniors is the second leading scorer on the team, Sophomore guard, David Jenkins Jr. Jenkins is averaging 22.5 ppg and has made 54% from deep this season on 71 attempts. He’s an absolute sniper. Jenkins scored a season-high 35 points vs. Memphis and has drilled eight threes on two different occasions.
Nevada’s defense has improved leaps and bounds since last season and ranks #61 in defensive efficiency, which will be much needed against a squad with so many weapons. The Jackrabbits have topped 100 in their last two outings and could be the biggest offensive threat Nevada will see in non-conference play. Guarding one of the best stretch forwards in the nation with so many shooters around him will be a challenge.
Nevada comes in as a 16 point favorite against the Jackrabbits and the Wolf Pack are definitely capable of covering double-digit spreads. Five bullets to cover-
- Two good halves. Nevada has been mostly a second half team all season and they’ll need to come out of the gates better than they have as of late.
- A “Loyola” type performance from the Martin twins would make this easily attainable.
- Rebound. South Dakota State comes in at #23 in the nation in total rebounds per game. Though they don’t crash the offensive boards much, limit second chance opportunities.
- Penetrate, draw defenders, and find open looks. Nevada has relied heavily on contested shots late in the shot clock with open shooters available. Find them.
- Make Mike Daum uncomfortable. Daum hasn’t seen the length and athleticism that Nevada has on defense. Keep a hand in his face at all times. Nothing easy for Daum.
Both Teams know what’s on the line here. South Dakota State could go undefeated in Summit League conference play which would help Nevada’s tournament resume, if the Wolf Pack pull out this win. On the other hand, if the Jackrabbits win, they would more than likely get a solid amount of top 25 votes and Nevada may never crack the top 10 again.