Nevada vs. Wyoming Series Preview
Wolf Pack looking for a sweep
Wyoming is sliding.
Game: Nevada 10-5 (5-3) at Wyoming 8-5 (2-4)
Location: Laramie, Wyoming
TV: Game 1: Stadium, 6:00 MT, Game 2: CBS Sports, 2:00 MT
Odds via BetMGM: Nevada -3.5
In the first time seeing each other since Wyoming upset Nevada in last year’s Mountain West conference tournament, these two conference foes meet in Laramie Wyoming in what should be a duel of equally matched squads. Both teams are sitting in the middle of the Mountain West, both have young studs leading the way for their respective teams and both teams are young, failing to carry a scholarship senior on their squads.
For Wyoming, the Cowboys are coming off a series split against the Air Force Falcons. When the Cowboys played in Colorado Springs, it was almost identical to what happened when Nevada took on the Falcons. Wyoming lost by on possession but won in blow out fashion.
Wyoming is a strong squad that looked promising early in the year going 6-1 in non-conference play. However, got a reality check when conference play hit losing four out of their six conference games. The Cowboys are led by true freshman and 6’2 guard Marcus Williams. Williams ranks sixth in the Mountain West in scoring averaging 16.3 points per game. Paired with Williams is Wyoming’s leading scorer from last year,
Hunter Maldonado. Maldonado’s scoring output is down from last season but can still score at will which is what he did against Utah Valley and Boise State dropping 30 and 17 points respectively. Wyoming is a run and gun team that ranks second in the Mountain West scoring an average of 78 points per game. The Cowboys do have a defensive problem because they let up the second most points in the Mountain West and let teams shoot an average of 47% from the field. If Wyoming wants to compete with the upper tier of the league and wants to avoid slipping down the rankings, they need to shut teams down at a more efficient rate.
Nevada comes into this game hot. The Wolf Pack are arguable on their best stretch of the season sweeping Fresno State. Nevada also held close and was a buzzer beater away from splitting a series with San Diego State who is one of the elite teams of the conference. Nevada is consistently led by Wichita State transfer Grant Sherfield who is averaging a blistering 18 points per game and is coming off a series where he averaged 25 points per game against Fresno State.
Nevada is still on the search to find a consistent scoring to complete the trio with Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge.
The Wolf Pack has seen spurts of offensive productivity from Zane Meeks, Tre Coleman and even Warren Washington as of late. Washington scored 13 and nine points in the Wolf Pack’s most recent two games and looks to keep that going against the Cowboys. Nevada ranks middle of the Mountain West in field goal and three-point percentage but makes up for that with an impressive defense, ranking third and fourth in those respective categories. This young team rebounds the ball at an impressive clip as well ranking fifth in rebounding margins while Wyoming ranks ninth in the same category.
Keys for the Game:
For Wyoming, the Cowboys need to tighten up on defense. Wyoming has struggled on the defensive side of the ball and can’t afford to let Nevada score at will. The Cowboys also need to force Nevada to turn the ball over and turn those turnovers into points. Nevada ranks seventh in the Mountain West in turnover margins.
While a -0.73 turnover margin is certainly not the worst, the Wolf Pack has certainly had games where they have turned the ball over at a high rate. Lastly, the Cowboys need to force someone other than Sherfield to score the ball. While I have said this in almost every preview and is easier said than done, Wyoming truly doesn’t stand a chance if Sherfield continues to drop twenty plus points a game.
Nevada needs to cover the three point line with a vengeance. Wyoming has five guys in their starting lineup that can score from beyond the arch. If Nevada continues to play defense the way they have been since starting conference play, then they should be able to take this series no problem.
The Wolf Pack also needs to start finding a consistent third scoring option. While Sherfield and Cambridge Jr have been able to carry this Wolf Pack team, to compete with the best in the conference and truly blow out the bottom teams, Nevada needs to find a third option that can consistently average 10 to 12 points a game.
This two-game series in Laramie will basically come down to the three-point game. Wyoming is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference shooting 37% from beyond the arch and ranking first in the conference in three-pointers made. However, if Nevada can keep up their tight defense at the perimeter and the Wolf Pack’s guards continue to stay hot, then the boys in Silver and Blue will take this series no problem. Nevada on paper should sweep this series, but it’s becoming hard to predict this young team. I say Nevada takes the first game and loses the second game.
First game: Nevada wins 74-67.
Second game: Wyoming wins 70-66