Around the Rim: Nevada at SDSU Preview

Around the Rim: Nevada at SDSU Preview

Facing the #5 team in the nation on the road this Saturday will be in interesting test for the Wolf Pack who are coming off a loss to Utah State. Nevada has struggled this year against the tops tier teams they have faced; will the Aztecs be any different?

San Diego State Point Guard Xavier Thames
Basketball fans in the Mountain West have to be excited for the matchup at point guard with Thames and Nevada's Deonte Burton. Both players are leading candidates to be MWC Player of the Year, and Thames has even emerged as a national player of the year candidate for the 20-1 Aztecs. If Burton wants to make a name for himself nationally, this may be is best shot, to outplay Thames and upset the #5 team in the nation. Thames, who does nearly everything at a high level, averaging 18.2ppg, 3.0rpg, and 2.6apg, won't let that happen without a fight. The 6-3 senior attacks the basket off the dribble, averaging seven free throw attempts per game, shoots a high efficiency from deep, 45% from three on the season, and even plays hard nosed defense, averaging 1.8 steals a game. With Thames you pick your poison each game. What are you going to give him? If I'm the Wolf Pack, I make Thames beat the team from deep and focus on limiting his driving ability. San Diego State is a not a scary offensive team and if Thames can be limited, Nevada has a decent opportunity to give the Aztecs their first conference loss.

San Diego State Forward Josh Davis
Rebounding will make a huge difference in this game. Nevada has struggled lately on the boards and if that trend continues Saturday, the Aztecs will win in a game that wont be close. The Wolf Pack will have to key on Davis, the best rebounder in the Mountain West. Davis grabs roughly 11 rebounds a game and four of them are on the offensive end. Winning on the road in a hostile environment alone wont be easy for the Wolf Pack, but if Davis dominates the boards and Nevada's big men like A.J. West, Ronnie Stevens Jr., and Ali Fall cannot contain him and limit his easy put backs this game could be over by half. How do you limit a player like Davis? You get him off the floor. And to do that Nevada will need to get him in foul trouble because if Davis is on the floor he will be having a positive impact. So guards Burton and Michael Perez will have to penetrate early in the game and see if they can get Davis to pick up a couple cheap fouls.

Nevada Senior Guard Jerry Evans Jr.
Both teams in this game are defensive first teams, which is why they are both so successful in conference. Evans Jr. is Nevada's best perimeter defender and he will have his hands full defending Thames or Winston Shepard, an Aztec forward. Evans Jr. has the ability to limit either of these guys. To get a win though, the Wolf Pack will need the senior leadership that Evans can provide. This could be the toughest environment many guys on the team have ever played on because many of the guys are JC transfers, like West or Stevens, and some key contributors are still relatively young, like sophomores Marqueze Coleman or Cole Huff. That's not to say these guys mentioned above can't handle the pressure but teams often look to seniors to provide a big bucket or a calming effect. Evans Jr. will need to do those things. Struggling against Utah State in the last game, Evans Jr. seemed to be forcing his shot at certain points. If Evans Jr. can let the game come to him and score roughly 18 points, five points above his season average, the Wolf Pack has a chance to escape with an upset win.

Prediction:
This game features two of the best defensive teams in the Mountain West. Points will not come easy, especially if shots are not failing from deep. This game comes down to more than just Thames vs. Burton. I believe Burton will outplay Thames, but San Diego State's role players and bench will outperform Nevada leading to a close Aztec win.
San Diego State 65 Nevada 59



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