The Nevada men’s basketball team plays at Washington on Sunday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with his three keys to victory and prediction. This feature is presented in partnership with.
Nevada (1-0) at Washington (2-0)
When: Sunday, 7 p.m.
Where: Hec Edmundson Pavilion (10,000 capacity)
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network/94.5 FM
Betting line: Washington by 4.5; total of 150.5
Three keys for Nevada to win
1. Hit some threes: Nevada’s formula for success this season is more free throw attempts than 3-pointer attempts, and it did that very well in its season opener with 27 free throws to 15 3-point tries. But Nevada must hit some threes this season as well. The Wolf Pack was 4-of-15 from beyond the arc in the season-opening win over Sacramento State and 6-of-16 from three in its exhibition against Stanislaus State. That’s a combined 10-of-31, or 32.3 percent. That’s unlikely to cut it against Washington. The Wolf Pack needs to hit seven or eight threes to loosen up the Huskies’ famed 2-3 zone defense, which coach Mike Hopkins took with him from his time at Syracuse. Avoiding turnovers against that scheme also will be key, but Nevada should get some open looks and needs to knock them down.
2. Lock down Keion Brooks Jr.: Washington’s top scorer, Brooks, is back after scoring 17.7 points per game last season. He’s tallying 27 ppg so far this season. The former Kentucky standout – he averaged double-figures for two seasons with the Wildcats – does an excellent job of putting pressure on the defense. His 160 free throw attempts last season were the second most in the Pac-12. Washington is not a good distance shooting team, so keeping Brooks out of the lane is job No. 1 for the Wolf Pack defense. Tré Coleman is Nevada’s lockdown defender and limited Sacramento State’s Brandon Betson to 1-of-10 shooting (1-of-9 from three) in the season opener. The Wolf Pack will surely give Brooks a variety of looks, but it’d be a surprise if Coleman doesn’t draw this assignment. He must make things tough on Brooks, who scored a career-high 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting in the Huskies’ last game.
3. Deal with the length: One of the biggest issues mid-major teams battle when playing power-conference opponents is dealing with the length those roster present. Washington is loaded with long wings and has good shot-blocking in the post, too, namely 6-foot-11 center Franck Kepnang, an Oregon transfer with 77 blocks in 62 games. Washington has 13 blocks through two games, including eight in Friday’s win over Northern Kentucky. Nevada has matchable size to Washington, so that’s not a concern. But the Huskies’ athleticism could alter the Wolf Pack’s shot-making ability. Nevada had 15 shots blocked in its two games against Pac-12 teams last season, so navigating that length is a potential concern for a team that went 0-3 against power-conference schools a season ago.
Nevada 73, Washington 70: The Wolf Pack and Huskies are ranked No. 69 and No. 70 in the KenPom rankings, so this is an even game. Nevada has won four straight games in this series and five of nine all-time against the Huskies, so it has owned this series, including a 19-point win in November 2021. These are older, guard-oriented teams, and whichever one shoots better from distance should win. Nevada needs strong games from its super senior guards, Jarod Lucas and Kenan Blackshear. I was leaning toward Washington until the Huskies’ narrow shave against Northern Kentucky, which is not a good team. So, we’ll side with the Wolf Pack to extend its win streak in this series to five. Season record: 1-0
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.
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