Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nevada Preview: West Coast Swing Opens

It's never easy to go West. It's not easy to travel across time zones and play teams in the comfort of their own building. It does not happen frequently in the world of college basketball where teams play multiple games a week most of the time.
The Mocs are on a four game West Coast swing. It all begins on Friday night when they travel to Nevada for a 10:05 Eastern tip. Yikes. Talk about messing up the body clock. My poor body clock may not recover! They follow that up with a Sunday trip to UCLA that tips at 10:00. The work week will start extra early on Monday morning.

Nevada has been playing a lot of close games so far this year. They lost their opener against Pacific, 80-78 in Reno. Their second game was at Cal Poly, who they beat 60-58. Then their third contest was also a road game, was the Wolfpack beat San Francisco 92-90. That's three games all decided by two points. Their fourth game was at Cal State-Bakersfield. The Wolfpack lost 74-66.

How will the Mocs fare in Reno? The Wolfpack are big, but the Mocs showed they could play with bigger teams against Kennesaw State. In fact, they outrebounded the Owls by 18, an impressive total given the Owls height advatntage. Nevada has an OR% of 32.6%. The Mocs have a DR% of 72.7%, which is good for 83rd in the country. The Mocs have the edge in rebounding, but playing against the bigger Wolfpack could be a problem. They need to hold their own in rebounding if they hope to stick around in this game.

The Mocs will have their hands full with Deonte Burton, the 6-1 senior. He is averaging 25.0 points per game this year, along with 2 assists per game (second on the team) and 2.8 steals per game (tops on the team). He has made 9 of 23 from long range so far. He had played 38 minutes per game. In other words, he is the Wolfpack's best player. He has been committing 2.8 turnovers per contest. That's not absurd for a player who plays as much as him, but still a potential weakness for the Mocs to exploit with their pressure defense.

Cole Huff (at 6-8) is averaging 12.3 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per contest. He also averages 1.3 blocks. He can step back and make a three, averaging over one per game. He shoots 54.8% from the field. Michael Perez (at 6-3) is the other Wolfpack player to average in double figures with 12.0 per game and four rebounds. He leads the team in assists with 2.8 per game.

Jerry Evans Jr does not normally start, but he leads the team in rebounding with 6.0 rebounds per game. He is 6-8. Cheikh Alioune Fall has been starting and is 6-9, however he is averaging just 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

The Wolfpack don't shoot a ton of threes. They also do not have a lot of assists. That being said, they do not commit a lot of turnovers. They are in the Top 100 in the country in TO%. How will the Mocs pressure effect them? I'm not sure. The Mocs pressure worked OK against Kennesaw State, but not as well as they hoped. If the Mocs can get back to forcing turnovers and not committing them, and can handle the Wolfpack size, maybe the Mocs can hang around in this one.

The Mocs effort has been outstanding, but their shots are not falling yet. Eventually, shots will fall. This is the toughest environment they will have played in yet- and it will only get to tougher on Sunday night.


The Mocs bring the effort and that will keep them in this game longer than many people are expecting. But it's hard for me to imagine them being able to continue rebounding at their current clip against a team like Nevada. They are just too big. The Pack haven't been turning the ball over, so how will the Mocs defense stop them from scoring? Burton has a huge game. The Mocs hang around for a long time before falling. Nevada 80, Chattanooga 68.

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