WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Chris Murray, who covers Nevada men’s basketball for the Reno Gazette-Journal, on Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.
Tip-off is at 4 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, and the game will be televised on Root Sports.
Follow on Twitter: @MurrayRGJ
At 6-13 overall, 2-5 in the Mountain West and losers of five straight, what has been the biggest issues for Nevada’s struggles of late and much of the season?
Offense. This team simply can’t score. Getting to 60 points is a big achievement. The Wolf Pack was ranked last in the nation in 3-point shooting for most of January, but has perked up a little there in recent games. The team struggles with turnovers and has missed a lot of point-blank shots, leaving little margin for error in order to get wins. The defense, a big strength in nonconference action, has slid in a major way in Mountain West play. So, in short, other than rebounding, Nevada doesn’t have a lot of strengths to draw from and usually linger around 35 percent shooting from the floor, which makes it tough to win at any level.
There have been some bad losses, but this team also started 2-0 in league play and has shown it can play good basketball. When it plays well, what does it do well?
Nevada has won six games, but two were against non-Division I teams, two were against D-I cupcakes (Marshall, Air Force) and two were against average — at best — teams (Cal Poly and UNLV). So, the Wolf Pack doesn’t really have any quality wins to this point in the season, although it usually plays within a couple baskets of every team it faces. The team’s biggest strength when playing well is center AJ West, who leads the nation in offensive rebounds and also is a high-level rim protector. When Nevada plays well, it’s getting stops and getting into transition quickly. The Wolf Pack has some good athletes and needs to score in transition because it’s half-court offense is so limited.
Has coach David Carter lost this team, and how hot is his seat getting in terms of job security?
He hasn’t lost his team. He made a starting lineup change last Saturday and that has sparked the team, with some new energy on the floor. New starters Tryon Criswell and Eric Cooper Jr. have both responded, averaging 17-plus points each in their two starts. That being said, the loss to UNLV on Tuesday was a heart-breaker. That was a chance to sweep UNLV for the second straight season. It was played in front of the largest home crowd of the season. I’m interested to see how this team reacts now. Going to Wyoming is never easy and Nevada was blown out there two years ago (when the team did quit), so we’ll see if Carter still has a hold of his team in Saturday’s game.
With the log jam that’s formed among the top six teams in the MW, who do you like and how do you think it will sort itself out?
I like San Diego State. They’re my default team in all situations because of coach Steve Fisher. However, the Aztecs haven’t been good on the road (just one true road win; at Wyoming, of course), so that’s an issue. I like Colorado State’s offense and Wyoming’s experience and coaching, but San Diego State is my team to win the Mountain West.
What are your keys for Saturday’s game at Wyoming, and how do you see the game unfolding?
For starters, I see Wyoming winning. The keys for me are the turnovers (Nevada is averaging 16 per game in the last four), the play of West (he and Larry Nance have a little rivalry going on, so expect a good game from West), the Wolf Pack’s ability to hit some 3s against Wyoming’s zone and Nevada’s ability to keep the Cowboys from going on any extended runs. I think it will be low-scoring, maybe excruciating low scoring, with Wyoming prevailing by a few baskets.
Cowboys game day
Game: Nevada (6-13 overall, 2-5 Mountain West) at Wyoming (17-4, 6-2)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie
TV: Root Sports
Radio: KFBC (1240 AM) Cheyenne; KCGY (95.1 FM) Laramie
Tickets: UW Athletics Ticket Office, 877-996-3261 or gowyo.com