Colorado State vs. UNLV: Game Preview
UNLV looks to shake off rust in “hopeful” match up on Thursday.
UNLV heads to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State after nearly a month away from the court.
WHO: Colorado State Rams (6-2, 3-1) vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (1-4, 0-0 in the MW)
WHEN: Game 1: Thursday, January 7th, 6:00 PM MT
Game 2: Saturday, January 9th 2:00 PM MT
WHERE: Moby Arena-Fort Collins, CO
TV: CBS Sports for Game 1/FS1 for Game 2
Stream: Both games can be seen for free on FuboTV with a seven-day trial
Line: KenPom, Rams favored by seven in both games
SERIES RECORD: UNLV leads all-time series 41-17
Okay folks, take two.
Back on the court on Thursday and Saturday for a key home #MWMBB series with UNLV!
— Colorado State Men’s Basketball (@CSUMBasketball) January 6, 2021
Welcome back Mountain West basketball fans to the wonderful world of UNLV previews. For anyone keeping track, the Runnin’ Rebel basketball program has been on pause since early December, with their last game against Kansas State being back on the 5th.
That is a grand total of 33 days between competition and Monday’s practice, but coach Otzelberger is aware of what type of season they are dealing with, “There was a lot of excitement to get back on the practice court and have the possibility of a game later this week,”. Yes, the key word there is “possibility” as coach Otzelberger is more keen than most this season on postponements and cancellations.
This is the world we live in right now, and as weird as things like this tweet below from Jeff Goodman regarding the Boston Univ. Terriers squad wearing masks on the court against Patriot League foes Holy Cross are, we watch possibly retweet and move on.
Boston University wearing masks during its season-opener today at Holy Cross.
As I reported, both teams will have to wear masks tomorrow when the two teams play at BU. pic.twitter.com/TIVoIIto9r
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) January 4, 2021
In our own patch of the college basketball landscape though, teams have seen their fair share of Covid-19 related setbacks. Just to rattle off a few there is, New Mexico and San Jose State’s relocations, late starts and pauses at Fresno State and UNLV.
We are left with uneven schedules, non-division I opponent blowouts a plenty and a weird taste in our mouth about the possibility of an NCAA tournament branded, “masked madness“.
The Rams who had their own postponements early on are currently 6-2 (3-1), sitting in a tie for second place with Nevada and behind another two-way tie for first, behind Boise State and Utah State. Their resume rittled with large margin wins over Fresno State, Northern Arizona and their recent nationally recognized 3-point win over the Aztecs, in which they overcame a 26-point deficit to do so makes them a tough opponent to restart against for UNLV.
The Runnin’ Rebels last game way back on December 5th, was their first win of the season against Big 12 foe Kansas State, 68-58. Before that, they logged a four game losing streak with one of the toughest non-conference slates in the Mountain West. Which included three top-70 opponents, a dangerous Montana State Bobcats squad and three games away from the Thomas and Mack Center.
While Colorado State currently has the biggest comeback/upset of the Mountain West conference season thus far, UNLV is hoping to find some sort of basketball rhythm tonight after a long pause.
Coach Otzelberger and his staff understand the patience and change of strategy it will take to come back and try and play a competitive conference game after that time off. Telling the Las Vegas Sun “Not every player has cleared protocols to get back on the court, but Otzelberger said most of the roster is available for the first time in a long time. Now the focus is on getting them back into game condition, as they’ll only have time for a couple of practice sessions before tip-off at Colorado State.”
Expect a larger use of the entire roster and small stints on the court to allow players to get their legs back after over a month away from serious competition, per the second-year head coach. Still, you can expect a couple some player battles to highlight the series.
The four “guard” lineup is a feature of both of these programs, and well the term guard can be used loosely for the 6-5, 250 pound sophomore David Roddy, the reigning Mountain West Player of the Week will have a key role in the outcome of this series.
Roddy is coming off of a big week, as his double-double performance against the Aztecs in game one of their back-to-back series was key to the Ram’s victory. The big “guard” has been playing big, averaging 15.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.4 APG with four recorded double-doubles so far.
Although, Bryce Hamilton plays well above his own stature at 6-4 205, Roddy provides a big defensive challenge given his size, athleticism and versatility. Hamilton himself is a scoring machine at 20.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG & 4.0 APG, but the overreliance on UNLV’s three scoring leaders (Caleb Grill & David Jenkins Jr. included) has hurt the Runnin’ Rebels this season. As the trio accounts for more than 69% of the total UNLV scoring average (68.8 PPG, 251st in the country), any stop to Hamilton’s offensive output this week will surely hurt his squad.
Prediction: Colorado State 75, UNLV, 65
The line in this one is 7-points in favor of the Rams, which especially given the time away from basketball for the Runnin’ Rebels I think they cover that and then some. So my prediction is a 10-point win for Colorado State, and with that they get their conference momentum going again after a revenge loss of 13-points suffered at the hands of the Aztecs to close out the series.
UNLV like other programs around the country is struggling yet adapting to playing sports in a pandemic, while Colorado State is challenging for a spot atop the conference. Thursday will be exciting for both fan bases to see their teams take the floor, but remember as coach Otzelberger put it “We need to worry about being in shape and being together..” when asked about Monday’s practice.
So, in the event, things go ahead as planned keep things in perspective UNLV fans and Happy New Year.