No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Akron Zips Game Preview

No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Akron Zips Game Preview

Mountain West Basketball

No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack vs. Akron Zips Game Preview

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Nevada home again after tight contest with South Dakota State

Nevada, one of the elite teams in the nation, will look to continue their historical program start to a season when Akron comes to town on Saturday. 11 games, 11 wins. As of tonight, they’re one of the seven remaining undefeated in D-1 college basketball.

The Akron Zips (7-4) played Marshall last Saturday and took a tough 1-point loss at home in front of the biggest crowd they’ve seen all season- 2,748. Nevada on the other hand, has played five games at Lawlor Events Center and has only seen an attendance of less than 10,000 once. By 4:00pm on Saturday, Akron is expected to be surrounded by 11,000+ die-hard Wolf Pack fans. All single-game tickets for the contest are sold out.

Though Nevada has had some large and rowdy crowds at home, they still continue to get off to slow starts against much lesser competition. You would expect these smaller schools to come into Lawlor and be terrified- hasn’t been the case, as the visitors have usually gotten off to the quicker start. The Wolf Pack have definitely fed off of the fans late in games, but they need to start feeding earlier.

Akron doesn’t have anything close to the size that Nevada does and that should give the Wolf Pack a significant advantage, other than just clearly being the better team here. Nevada’s Jazz Johnson was out when they played South Dakota State due to concussion protocol after taking a hard screen against GCU. Jazz is expected to play on Saturday, and for the first time this season, 5’10 Johnson will look across at a smaller player.

Akron’s starting point guard and second leading scorer at 14.9ppg, Loren Jackson, is listed at just 5’8 and weighs “160lbs,” apparently after going swimming in a full fur bodysuit. Size aside, Jackson is extremely quick off the dribble and does a great job penetrating, getting into the lane, and finding open teammates while also shooting 36% from deep himself. He’s the motor to the Zips offense. Expect Nevada to see a zone defense a majority of the game for the 12th time this season. Trying to play man with Nevada would be a matchup nightmare and just a flat out bad idea.

Nevada’s defense has been nothing short of spectacular and continues to get better and better. It’s something Nevada hasn’t been able to rely on for the past few years and it’s definitely been a luxury while they’ve had some off nights shooting the ball. These are games Nevada may have lost last year, but this season’s defense stands tall, especially in big moments.

Nevada’s Pre-season All-American, Caleb Martin, had a scary incident in their game against South Dakota State last weekend. Caleb went up for what could have been a Sportscenter top-10 dunk but instead didn’t quite get enough lift and tried to break the rim with the basketball. The play resulted in Caleb hyperextending his elbow and was clearly in pain while holding it for most of the remainder of the game. Caleb is expected to play, though if he is going to sit out a game for the rest of the season, this one might be the safest bet. I wouldn’t count on it though.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline has continued to be one of the most consistent players in the country. He’s only had two games with less than eight rebounds and has been Nevada’s high scorer in six games while adding seven double-doubles to his career total. Caroline should once again be the toughest and grittiest player on the court Saturday night. I see his eighth double-double coming in the very near future- approximately 22 hours from now. You can’t mention Jordan Caroline without mentioning double-double at least once- they just go hand-in-hand. Caroline is averaging 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds through 11 games.

After three straight games of Nevada struggling from three, I expect them to drive and work the ball inside a lot, as they have more in 2nd halves than 1st halves. I do believe Nevada will get hot from deep vs. Akron, partly due to the return of their sharpshooter, Jazz Johnson.

Nevada is a 16 point favorite for the second game in a row when they host Akron. They obviously didn’t cover last weekend after a 4-point win over South Dakota State, but this one should be much easier to achieve. Five bullets to cover-

  • Caleb. Don’t settle for 25 foot contested shots. Blow by the Zips and make them pay at the rim, either by yourself, or find a dump off/lob/kick out.
  • Continue to get to the free throw line as Nevada has all year. #4 in the nation in free throws made per game. An obvious, but important bullet.
  • Lock up the Akron stars (Loren Jackson, Daniel Utomi, and Jimond Ivey). Nevada did an incredible job of this last Sunday and I expect they’ll continue that success this weekend. The Zips don’t have a Mike Daum, though they do have three guys that are each capable of putting up 20+. If Nevada limits the production of those three guys, this should be an easy cover.
  • Control the pace of the game. Akron is going to try to slow the game down and they do a good job of it. The Zips are a great defensive team at #21 in the nation in points allowed at just 62.5 per game. Run them. Don’t let them get comfortable.
  • Rebound. Akron isn’t a good rebounding team and it isn’t an advantage Nevada should allow. Like South Dakota State, they don’t crash the offensive glass. #286 in offensive rebounds per game and #158 in defensive rebounds per game.

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