The Nevada basketball team plays Boise State on Thursday in a Mountain West Tournament quarterfinal in Las Vegas. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with three keys to victory and his prediction.
When: Thursday, noon
Where: Thomas & Mack Center (19,522 capacity)
TV/Radio: CBS Sports Network/94.5 FM
Betting line: No line released yet
1. Get some second-chance opportunities: Boise State’s greatest strength is its ability to defensive rebound. The Broncos grab 78.5 percent of its opponents misses, the 10th-best mark in the NCAA. Nevada isn’t a good offensive rebounding team in general (it ranks 224th in the nation) and has been woeful in that area against Boise State. The Wolf Pack grabbed just six offensive rebounds in its two games against the Broncos. That’s on 52 missed shots. That’s an offensive rebound rate of 11.5 percent. The worst offensive rebound rate of 353 Division I teams this season was Wyoming, which grabbed 12.7 percent of its misses. So, second-chance opportunities will likely be at a minimum for Nevada, which needs to take good shots as a result and do everything it can to at least get some offensive rebounds so it’s not one-and-done every time down the court. On the plus side, Nevada hasn't had much of an issue scoring against the Broncos, which has made the offensive rebound problem less of an issue.
2. Big game from Cody Martin: The Wolf Pack point guard should have a little extra fuel in his tank after the MW coaches voted him to the all-conference third team as opposed to the first or second team (where the media put him). Martin owned Boise State this season, scoring 37 points with 11 assists and five steals during Nevada’s two wins, the first of which came when Martin hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 5.5 seconds remaining to give the Wolf Pack a one-point win. Martin made 15-of-22 shots against Boise State, including 3-of-5 3-pointers, and has been the Wolf Pack’s best 3-point shooter (by a wide margin) since conference play began. That 3-point make against Boise State seemed to give Martin the confidence to take and make more shots from beyond the arc as he was shooting 19 percent from three prior to that game and has hit at a 56.8 percent rate since then. Boise State has some big guards, but it hasn’t had any success keeping Martin (who is 6-foot-7) out of the lane. He’s a big key in this one.
3. Push the pace: Boise State plays slow. In fact, it played at the slowest tempo of the 11 MW schools this season. And that was one of the keys in beating Colorado State in a first-round MW Tournament matchup Wednesday, a game that ended with a final score of 66-57. Nevada, which ranked second in tempo among MW schools, would prefer to get this game into the upper 70s or lower 80s. That’s something it was able to do in the second game between these teams when Nevada routed the Broncos, 93-73. It didn’t do so in the first game and nearly lost as a result (a 72-71 win). The Wolf Pack isn’t a team that creates a lot of turnovers (118th in the nation in turnovers forced percentage; 170th in steal percentage), but it has been better in that area this season than last year. Forcing a few turnovers (Boise State turned it over 15 times in the win over Colorado State) and getting the tempo up would be big for the Wolf Pack.
Nevada 79, Boise State 67: The Wolf Pack had minimal trouble scoring against Boise State in their two games this season. In those wins, Nevada made 61-of-114 shots (53.5 percent), including 22-of-50 from three (44 percent). Outside of some foul trouble and turnover issues in the first game between these teams, Nevada has played pretty well against Boise State. This is a good matchup for the Wolf Pack, which will be the more rested of the two teams with the Broncos playing on back-to-back days. One area the Wolf Pack hasn’t been great against Boise State is getting to the foul line. In the two games, the Broncos have made 30-of-42 free throws to Nevada’s 21-of-30 free throws. The Wolf Pack made more free throws than its opponent attempted this season, so this is an abnormality over the course of the year. If Nevada comes out aggressive and attacking, it should win this one by double-digits. Season record: 28-3