Around the Rim: Utah St. at Nevada Preview

Around the Rim: Utah St. at Nevada Preview

Is Nevada a top team in the Mountain West this year? A tilt against the Utah State Aggies, who come Saturday, will be the toughest conference team the Wolf Pack have faced this year, will go a long way in determining whether the Pack is for real or not.

Nevada Junior Guard Michael Perez
Deonte Burton is without question the best backcourt player on the Nevada roster. But he can't do it alone. He needs a Robin to his Batman. For much of nonconference play that was fellow senior Jerry Evans Jr. But throughout his career, Evans has never been the type of player to create his own shot or be a consistent 14+ points per game scorer. (His previous scoring averages before this year were 4.9ppg, 6.7ppg, and 7.5 ppg). So who is most likely, and most needed, to emerge as Burton's Robin? Perez is the likely candidate to become Burton's sidekick. Showing flashes of brilliance against UNLV, Perez has increased his output in each of the three conference games. Against the Rebels, when Burton was not dominating the game it was Perez, who ended the game with 18 points on 7-12 shooting with seven rebounds and three assists. Like Burton, Perez plays a majority of the minutes, rarely getting a breather, and has the potential to create is own shot. When Perez and Burton both are hot, they truly become a dynamic duo. So against Utah State, and especially for the rest of the Mountain West play, Perez will need to step up, and consistently be the second best player for the Wolf Pack.

Utah State Senior Center Jarred Shaw
In his first game back from suspension for marijuana possession, Shaw, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy, had one of his worst games of the year against San Jose State. Luckily for Utah State fans, the Aggies won despite getting only 6 points on 2-10 shooting from their best player. For Utah State to beat the Wolf Pack on Saturday, Shaw will need to find his rhythm, play much better than he did against the Spartans, and have numbers closer to his season averages of 15.0 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game. Shaw will provide another tough test for Nevada big man A.J. West who has successfully defended Larry Nance Jr. and Khem Birch in his last two games. The key to stopping Shaw is to not let him get deep position, where he is very effective. Shaw is also shooting 87.9% from the free throw line this year, so not fouling will be key. Shaw will look to do most of his damage while West is off the court and senior Ali Fall, a decent defender at best, is on the court. So the key for Nevada is too have AJ West avoid picking up early and cheap fouls.

Utah State Senior Guard Preston Medlin
Medlin, as a player, is the perfect example of what the Aggies, as a team, do well. Medlin shoots the three ball at 47.3%. The Aggies shoot it at 41%. For a player that number (47.3%) is extremely impressive and for a team, 41% is efficient and good for second best in the country. Medlin also is the teams leading assist man, dishing out 4.1 out of the teams 18.4 a game, good for fifth in the nation. So basically Utah State has a team full of unselfish players who all can shoot. Medlin is all this and more. Perez and Evans should both seem time guarding Medlin on Saturday.

Do I dare go with Nevada to start 4-0 in conference play? A Stew Morrill coached team is very unlikely to get blown out, and Nevada is too hot to get blown out at home.  So, this game is a toss up that could go either way. It feels like a typical Burton buzzer beater could be the difference.

Nevada 68 Utah State 65

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