Undefeated in conference with a 4-0 record. Two close losses in conference by a total of five points to start conference play with a 1-2 record.
If you started the season with this scenario, most would have thought the Broncos would be the former, and Nevada the latter. But that is not the case. The Wolf Pack have so far been the surprise of the conference to bring their overall record to 9-8 (4-0).
Boise State on the other hand has not been a disappointment, having lost by three on the road to conference power SDSU and only by two points at home to Wyoming to have their record come to 11-5 (1-2), but I'm sure players and fans alike would rather the team be sitting in Nevada's position in conference play.
As with all Boise State games, tonight's game provides an interesting matchup. The Broncos put four guards on the floor and try to spread things out as opposed to a more traditional lineup. In fact Boise State only starts with one player above 6-7. That player is Ryan Watkins, who is huge in terms of rebounding (9.3rpg) for the undersized team. In the preseason all-MW teams, the Broncos had two players make the first team in junior guards Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks. Neither has been a disappointment. Drmic is averaging a team high 19.3ppg to go along with 5.1rpg and 1.5apg. Marks is the do everything guy for the Broncos and is averaging 15ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.8apg, and nearly 2.0 steals per game. Both of these players are key to getting a road win against the Wolf Pack.
For Nevada, playing against four guards at a time could provide for some interesting lineup tweaking from coach Carter. Does Nevada stick with its more traditional lineup with 6-8 Cole Huff, not a true power forward or small forward, playing the four spot along side the 6-8 Jerry Evans Jr. and 6-9 AJ West in the frontcourt, or does Carter match Boise State's small lineup? To start Nevada will stick with its traditional lineup, but if Huff cannot matchup on defense against a quicker guard and does not take advantage of his height on offense, coach Carter may have to feature a lineup with point guards Deonte Burton and Marqueze Coleman on the floor at the same time. Nevada's starting five is one of the best in the conference, featuring Burton, who is averaging 22ppg and leads the nation in minutes played, but the bench play is an issue.
Two big keys to watch in this game are rebounding margin and three-point shooting. Boise State, even though often playing with an undersized lineup does have a +5.0 rebounding margin on the year. Nevada has been better on the boards as of late, but only has a +0.9 margin, so will Nevada be able to use their size to dominate the boards, or will the Broncos guards have the advantage? The winning team will likely have a plus on the boards. The second key is three-point shooting. With the four-guard offense, the Broncos shoot a lot of threes, but they are shooting them at a high percentage (38%). Nevada on the other hand has had trouble guarding the three-point line allowing teams to shoot 34.2% from behind the arc. This number though has improved since conference play began for the Wolf Pack. If Boise State cannot shoot the three effectively, like Utah State failed to do against the Wolf Pack, look for Nevada to steal other conference win.