Nevada vs. Boise State Series Preview
Can the Wolf Pack get an upset?
A road test for Boise State
Game: Nevada 12-7 (7-5) vs Boise 14-2 (10-1)
Location: Reno, Nevada
TV: Game 1: FS1, 6:00 PST, Game 2: FS1, 1:00 PST
Odds via BetMGM: Broncos +4
The Boise State Broncos travel to Reno to face the Nevada Wolf Pack who are coming off a sweep of interstate rival UNLV. Boise State and Nevada are having quite different years as the Broncos have the best record in the Mountain West and Nevada is scraping to get a top-five seed in the tournament.
Big series gets underway tonight!
— Nevada Basketball (@NevadaHoops) February 5, 2021
The Boise State Broncos were perfect in the Mountain West and were on a 13 game win streak before falling to Colorado State in the first of their two game series. It wasn’t just a win by Colorado State, it was a 22 point slaughter in which Boise State scored their lowest point total of the year. The Broncos rank an impressive 20th in the NET rankings and are looking at an almost guaranteed NCAA tournament berth barring some major skid. The Broncos, led by experience, are on track to have one of its best years in recent history.
Boise State is incredibly proficient on the offensive end. The Broncos rank first in the Mountain West in scoring per game on an efficient 47.2% from the field. Only Colorado State has a better field goal percentage at 47.6%. Boise State is led by Derrick Alston Jr. who was the Mountain West preseason player of the year. Alston is averaging 16.5 points per game.
There are also four other players averaging double-digit scoring which makes it incredibly hard to key in on just one player. Boise State took a page out of the Musselman era playbook by building their roster with transfers. Second in scoring for the Broncos is 6’2 guard Marcus Shaver Jr., a transfer from Portland State who had to sit last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Abu Kigab, a transfer from Oregon, is excelling in his second year for the Broncos averaging 13 points and 6 rebounds per game.
The Broncos are only as good as their offense takes them. Their defense, while good, sometimes struggles and leads to games they are at risk of losing. Against Colorado State, in their lone Mountain West loss, Boise State let the Rams shoot 55% from the field and allowed eight threes. The Broncos were also outrebounded by 16 and only had eight points coming off the bench. In their lone non-conference loss to Houston, they allowed the Cougars to shoot 40% from the field and only had five points outside of their starting five.
Nevada is coming off what is undoubtedly their biggest series of the year as the Wolf Pack swept UNLV. This series win solidifies Nevada in the top five in the Mountain West but faces the best competition in the conference when Boise State comes to Lawlor Events Center. Nevada shot 56% from the field and an unreal 58% from beyond the arch in route to the Wolf pack’s highest-scoring total this season. Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cmabridge Jr. are Nevada’s one-two punch and are averaging 18 and 15 points respectively.
The Wolf Pack have been in need of scoring outside of their two outstanding guards. Players such as Warren Washington (9.6 PPG) and Zane Meeks (9.9 PPG) have both emerged as players the Wolf Pack could go to when in need of a score. Meeks showed fans that ability in Nevada’s last game when the 6’9 forward scored a team-high 19 points and was a huge part of the Wolf Pack’s 19-4 run to close the game.
Getting familiar with our surroundings. pic.twitter.com/XLfgG6wV3M
— Boise State MBB (@BroncoSportsMBB) February 5, 2021
Nevada can be a dangerous team if players such as Meeks, Washington, K.J. Hymes and even Tre Coleman increase their offensive productivity. Nevada ranks second in the Mountain West in defensive field goal percentage and fourth in three point defense. Pair good defense with a top five rebounding team and the only thing to follow is having a third and fourth option that could help Nevada stay in the top five in the Mountain West.
Keys to the Game:
For Boise State, it will be to limit Nevada’s shooting abilities and use the Bronco’s experience to their advantage. Nevada can shoot. While shooting may be streaky at times, the Wolf Pack has shown in many games they can shoot the ball very effectively.
If Boise can force the Wolf Pack to struggle to score the ball then the Broncos should have no problem sweeping the series. The most effective way to limit Nevada’s scoring would be to limit one of the best backcourts in the Mountain West. Boise State has to force a third and fourth option to step up and score. If Nevada doesn’t play good defense and even better offense, then Boise State should add two more Ws to their already 14 wins.
Nevada is facing their two hardest games of the season. This Boise team, while beatable, is the best team and the Mountain West and will test Nevada’s much-improved defense. If Nevada wants an outside shot of beating the Broncos, they need to take a page out of Houston’s and Colorado State’s playbook. Boise State’s starting five is incredibly talented, but when forced to score with their bench, they struggle. The defense is truly key against the Broncos who are very good at putting the ball through the hoop, but struggle on the defensive end and will undoubtedly let up points.
While Nevada’s shooting was amazing during the series against UNLV, it is unlikely that this level of scoring will continue. The Wolf Pack will have to play close to perfect, as they did against UNLV, to try to take at least one game against the Broncos. The Broncos, at least on paper, should sweep Nevada.
Game 1: Boise State 73 – Nevada 61 Game 2: Boise State 71 – Nevada 69