Nevada vs. New Mexico: Series Preview, How To Watch, Odds, More
Lobos will “host” the Wolf Pack.
League play is now in full swing.
Who: Nevada Wolf Pack (6-3) vs. New Mexico Lobos (3-2)
When: Thursday, December 31 – 6:00 PM PST/8:00 PM CST/9:00 PM EST
Saturday, January 2 – 7:00 PM PST/9:00 PM CST/10:00 PM EST
Where: Lubbock, TX.
TV: Thursday – FS1 & Saturday – CBS Sports Network
Odds via BetMGM: Nevada -4.5
Nevada coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal go back to where it all started for them in the Mountain West. Well, sorta. While Nevada will technically be traveling to face New Mexico and the Lobos will technically be the “home” team, the series will be played in Lubbock Texas due to Covid-19 restrictions in New Mexico.
Nevada is coming off a series split with a lower-tier Mountain West team in Air Force. The Wolf Pack took care of business in the first game beating the Falcons by 17 points but fell in the second game 66-68. In the loss, Nevada played mediocre defense allowing the Falcons to score at will. AJ Walker scored 27 points and Air Force as a whole shot a blistering 48% from the field.
The Wolf Pack also struggled to score the ball as the one-two punch in Desmond Cambridge Jr and Grant Sherfield failed to leave a mark on Air Force’s defense. The backcourt duo shot a combined 8-24 from the field and only had 19 points between them. It was more of the same as Nevada struggled on defense and the young team turned the ball over at a high rate with 16 TOs. However, it was the lack of scoring that jumped off the page. This game highlighted just how much Nevada leans on their backcourt to score the ball. It will be interesting to see if they can turn things around during their road trip to Lubbock.
New Mexico had a rough 2019. Discipline problems for players, transfers and a less than .500 record in conference after an offseason filled with hype. However, the Lobos started off the 2020 season hot winning all three of their non-conference games. They got a jolt of reality as they took on one of the best teams in the Mountain West when they lost both of their games to Boise State. Not only did they just lose, but New Mexico also lost by a combined 61 points in their two games.
In the two games series, Makuach Maluach was the only Lobo to score in double digits and that happened only in the first game. New Mexico shot 33% in both games and shot a combined 6-24 from beyond the arch. The Lobos rank in the bottom third in the NCAA in three-point percentage but make up for it by ranking first in offensive rebounds and fourth in total rebounds. This is a team that doesn’t make a lot of shots but will keep most games close due to their effort on the boards.
Keys to victory:
For Nevada, the Wolf Pack needs to tighten up on defense. While Nevada defends the paint at a high rate, they have struggled to stop opponents from draining shots from beyond the arch. Nevada has also turned the ball over at an incredibly high rate. The Wolf Pack ranks 49th in the NCAA in total turnovers and is averaging 14 TOs per game. Nevada also needs to find an answer to their scoring woes if their back-court duo fails to perform once again. If Nevada can take care of the ball and force New Mexico to shoot threes, then the Wolf Pack should have no problem taking care of business.
For New Mexico, they need to find a way to score the ball. While three-point shooting is obviously a weak point in the Lobos game, they can’t shoot 33% from the field and expect to outscore a team like Nevada. If New Mexico wants to squeak away with a win the Lobos will have to shut down Nevada’s backcourt scorers. If New Mexico limits the three-point shooting and scoring of Desmond Cambridge Jr and Grant Sherfield, they will be in a good position to at least win one game.
This will be a great test to see exactly where these two teams rank among other teams in the Mountain West. If Nevada and New Mexico split the series it will most likely cement both teams in the lower tiers of the Mountain West. Nevada will come away from their trip to Lubbock with a sweep over the Lobos. First game: 72-63. Second game: 69-64.