Cowboys, Wolf Pack enter as even teams on paper

Saturday is the biggest game on the schedule for the Wyoming men’s basketball team. One reason is because it’s the next game on the’ schedule. But the biggest reason is up until now, this is the best team that’s come into the Arena-Auditorium this season.

UW (12-5 overall, 2-2 Mountain West) hosts Nevada (14-3, 3-1) at 4 p.m. MT, and fans can watch it online on ESPN3. Nevada is in second place in the conference behind Boise State, but has the best record in the league.

When you look at this game on paper, you see two pretty even teams.

— Nevada leads the MW in scoring (79.4 ppg), followed by UW (78.6 ppg). Both teams allow pretty much the same amount of points. Nevada allows 72.2, UW 72.9 per contest. Look for a high-scoring, entertaining game Saturday if nothing else.

— Both teams are 1-2 in 3-pointers made in the conference. Nevada has made 159, UW 158. The Wolf Pack are second in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (39.7). The Cowboys are second-to-last (33), but have attempted a league-high 479 3s. Nevada is second at 401. On the flip side, Nevada has allowed teams to shoot just 29.6 percent from behind the arc, UW is close behind at 30.2 percent.

What does all this mean come Saturday? Who knows.

A couple of other areas where UW and Nevada are similar:

— UW leads the MW with 40 rebounds per game. Nevada is second at 39.3. Nevada’s 5.2 blocked shots leads the conference, followed by UW at 4.8.

If the game is close, and there are a lot of factors to think that will be the case, one thing to watch is free-throw shooting. UW is second in the MW at 74.9 percent. Nevada is second-to-last at 68 percent. Hope I didn’t jinx the Cowboys by making this point.

Another factor is Nevada doesn’t have a lot of depth. It’s five starters account for most of its¬†production, and only two others see consistent time off the bench. UW generally plays nine guys, and sometimes more.

Lindsey Drew

Lindsey Drew

Four of Nevada’s starters rank in the top 20 in the MW in scoring. Senior guard Marcus Marshall is tops at 20.7 points per game, and he’s made a league-high 66 3-pointers, which is 21 more than any other MW player.

Marshall, sophomore forward Jordan Caroline and sophomore post Cameron Oliver are a load for Nevada. To me, a player to watch and UW must be leery of is sophomore point guard Lindsey Drew. He’s kind the glue-guy for Nevada. He leads the conference with 5.4 assists per game, with a 2.6 assist-to-turnover margin. Drew also averages nearly five rebounds per contest. Drew is sneaky good, and if UW ignores him, Drew will do some major damage.

I see a close and high-scoring game. UW is 10-0 at home. Nevada is 3-2 in true road games — one of only two MW teams with a winning record this season on the road. But the Wolf Pack is coming off a 105-104 overtime win at New Mexico last Saturday where it overcame a 25-point second-half deficit, including a 14-point hole with just over a minute to play.

We’ve seen the Cowboys play well in stretches, and in halves, but for them to win this one they better play well for 40 minutes.

Alexander Aka Gorski

Alexander Aka Gorski

Who do you like in this game? In my MW Power Rankings I posted earlier this week on wyosports.net, I picked Nevada. Early lines I’ve seen has UW a 2-point underdog.

See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net for more on this game, including how UW junior guard Alexander Aka Gorski is having the most success so far in his Cowboys career.