This is it.
This one is for all the marbles.
You can fill in whatever phrase or statement you want about this match-up between the Nevada Wolf Pack (24-6, 13-4) and the Colorado State Rams (21-9, 13-4) but they are all true. The winner of this game will be crowned the 2016-2017 Mountain West regular season champions.
The Wolf Pack and the Rams are coming into this contest on winning streaks as the Rams have won seven straight and the Wolf Pack have won five in a row. And if this game wasn’t big enough for Nevada, it will be Senior Day for Wolf Pack guards DJ Fenner and Marcus Marshall as they attempt to lead Nevada to their first conference championship since 2012.
“My last home game at Lawlor for a Mountain West Championship”, said Fenner on Thursday. “We wouldn’t want to be in any other position, we just have to go in there play hard, and win the game.”
This game will be a matchup of strength versus strength. Nevada is the top scoring offense in the Mountain West averaging 79.6 points per game while Colorado State is the second-best scoring defense is the conference giving up only 67 points per game. In terms of scoring margin, the Wolf Pack are first in the conference with a margin of +8.7 and Colorado State is second at a +6.2. Both teams are ranked in the top three in the conference in rebounding and Nevada head coach Eric Musselman is expecting nothing less than a slugfest on the boards against the Rams.
“Real physical team”, Musselman said of Colorado State. “We’re going to have to hold our ground on defensive block-outs. They’ll push under the basket and rebound effectively. If you don’t have great toughness, you’re not going to beat them”.
And for Nevada, the key in making sure that the Rams don’t dominate in the paint is neutralizing big man Emmanuel Omogbo. The 6-foot-8 forward dominated the Wolf Pack in the two games they played last season as he averaged close to 17 rebounds a game. For Nevada to get the upper hand on the boards, the big man tandem of Cameron Oliver and Jordan Caroline must hold their own and out tough Omogbo.
Nevada must also contain another all-Mountain West player for the Rams in guard Gian Clavell. The senior guard from Caguas, Puerto Rico is a dynamic talent who leads the Rams in points with 19 a game and is shooting 42 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point line this season. The Wolf Pack guards of Lindsey Drew and Marshall will have their hands full in defending Clavell but it must be done for Nevada to come away with the win.
This is going to be a great, hard fought contest between these teams that will decide the Mountain West regular season title. With Nevada having the strong offense and Colorado State’s strength in rebounding and defense, expect this game to come down to the final minutes. I think Nevada is a better offensive team and the combination of that and being at home on Senior Day will be enough to power the Wolf Pack to win the game and the Mountain West regular season championship.
When: Saturday at 5pm
Where: Lawlor Events Center
Online: ESPN 3