Mountain West Basketball: Nevada vs. Boise State--Preview, Odds, Prediction

Mountain West Basketball: Nevada vs. Boise State--Preview, Odds, Prediction

Boise State

Mountain West Basketball: Nevada vs. Boise State--Preview, Odds, Prediction


Mountain West Basketball: Nevada vs. Boise State–Preview, Odds, Prediction

Wolf Pack travel to Boise to take on Broncos & @MWCwire

What: Nevada Wolf Pack (15-4, 5-1) @ Boise State Broncos (14-4, 4-1)
When: Tuesday, January 17th – 7:00 MT, 6:00 PT
Where: ExtraMile Arena; Boise, ID
How To Watch: Livestream on Mountain West Network
Odds: Boise State -5 Over/Under 134.5

A return trip already? If it seems like conference play has just started, it’s because it has. So it is surprising to see teams meeting for a 2nd time so soon. Not that anyone is complaining; if Tuesday night’s clash at ExtraMile Arena is anything like the first matchup between Nevada and Boise State, we’re in for a treat.

These teams met in Reno all the way back (sarcasm) on December 28th, the opening night of conference play. In what was an omen of things to come in this year’s Mountain West Conference, it was a Kenan Blackshear drive and finish in the paint with 3 seconds left that gave the Wolf Pack the win. There were four lead changes in the last minute alone, and just a great duel between two outstanding basketball teams. The Broncos have not lost since, with the Wolf Pack’s lone setback coming in San Diego against the Aztecs a week ago.

We’ll see what the respective coaching staffs learned from the first meeting, and what type of adjustments are made. Obviously, the main difference this time is the venue. 8,000 were at the Lawlor Events Center in between Christmas and New Year’s Day for the first meeting, and made for a raucous crowd. Expect more inside ExtraMile Arena, as over 12,000 packed the place when Utah State came to town 10 days ago. While there have been a couple of upsets, (UNLV over New Mexico and then New Mexico over San Diego State) home court has held in many of the marquee matchups, and that’s no coincidence. The margins between many of the teams at the top of the conference are very small, with the home teams leaning on the rabid fans to get them across the finish line in these donnybrooks.

On Friday night, Nevada did what Nevada does, put a huge spurt together to grab control of a game. This time it was a 19-0 run against Utah State to turn a two point deficit with 9 minutes left, into an insurmountable 81-64 lead with 2 to go. A week prior, the Wolf Pack went on a 25-0 run over the last 10 minutes of the first half at San Jose State to all but end that game at halftime. It’s hard to stress just how difficult it is to put a run like that together against a good opponent, which both USU and SJSU qualify as. Many coaches have a ‘3-stop’ chart, where they challenge their team to get three stops in a row on defense (a stop being a trip down the floor when the other team does not score). Imagine how many stops in a row you need for one of those runs. Any way you slice it, the Wolf Pack are playing D at an incredibly high level.

Offensively they are difficult to stop too, although they’ll find the sledding a bit tougher Tuesday night against one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. What makes them so dangerous is that any of their three main scorers can go off out of nowhere. Blackshear struggled early against the Aggies, but was unstoppable penetrating, drawing fouls, and hitting from the mid-range in the second half. Will Baker also has bursts where he will get multiple buckets in a short amount of time. They are also getting consistent play off the bench from Nick Davidson.

Shifting to the home team, when looking at the three weeks of conference play, no one has been playing as well as Boise State. Since dropping the game in Reno, they have won a nip-and-tuck affair with San Jose State, and then blasted Utah State, UNLV, and Wyoming in succession, the last 2 on the road. They have won defensive battles (SJSU), and then surpassed the 80 point mark in the last three wins. Head man Leon Rice had to replace three key departures, and didn’t replenish the roster the way many do today. He does it the old-fashioned way, by player development and coaching guys up. There are standouts to be sure, Marcus Shaver and Tyson Degenhart to name a pair, but it’s guys like Naje Smith and Max Rice that are vital to the Boise State program regularly being near the top of the Mountain West Conference.

Smith and Rice both were rotation guys a year ago, but combined to average 8 points a game. Fast forward a year, and they are starters, each averaging double figures, they each pull down 5 boards per night, and they are crucial to the team’s defensive success. Smith is coming off a team high 18 in the win over Wyoming Saturday night, and went for 20 in the first meeting between these two teams. Wolf Pack boss Steve Alford will need to give a little more attention to the senior forward this time. That’s easier said than done, because the Broncos have been scorching hot offensively in their last few games as mentioned above, especially coming out of halftime breaks. In Vegas, they hit 12 of their first 14 second half shots, including 6 three-pointers to create some separation against UNLV. The numbers weren’t quite as insane versus the Cowboys, but they broke open a tight game with several made threes there as well. Ironically Shaver is one Bronco who has not been lighting it up, though he’s probably just waiting for crunch time to knock down a big shot. And to be fair, he was all over the place on Saturday, racking up a near triple-double with 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists.

As good as they have been offensively, the defense has probably been even better. The metrics are super impressive in virtually every category – perimeter defense, paint defense, 2-pt fg defense, 3-pt fg defense, and they are elite at rebounding the basketball. It’s hard to find a weak spot. Blackshear led the way with 20 in the first meeting, including the game winner, but BSU hounded Jarod Lucas into a 3-13 shooting night, and did a great job in the paint on Baker, as he only attempted 7 shots.

One possible slight edge for the Wolf Pack is the extra day of rest. The win over Utah State came on Friday, while the Broncos were in the altitude of Laramie late on Saturday night. The players are used to it, but it’s still a short turnaround with some travel involved. Not sure it will have a major impact on the game, but it could lead to some sluggishness early. It is doubtful that Nevada will be able to count on a 16-0 run Tuesday night, as Boise State is far too composed, veteran, and playing on their home floor. There’s not much to suggest this one will be a whole lot different than the first time they met, when neither team led by more than 7 all night. It would also surprise no one if these teams met deep into the Mountain West Conference tournament in less than two months. The hunch here is that one will be a rubber match, as the Broncos get revenge on their home floor in yet another great MWC basketball game.

Prediction: Boise State 68 Nevada 62



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