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Wolf Pack basketball preview: Nevada opens with North Dakota State in the Golden Window Classic

Nevada v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

The Nevada men’s basketball team will face-off against the North Dakota State Bison in its season-opener Wednesday in the Golden Window Classic in Lincoln, Neb.

As of last week, Nevada’s season opener was slated for Western Kentucky, who darted off for the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic over the weekend, with Division-II Chadron State on Thursday. Chadron State also pulled out, so the Pack are set to play Nebraska on Thursday.

North Dakota State was scheduled to play in the MKE classic on Wednesday, but a COVID-19 outbreak within the University of Milwaukee forced a tournament cancellation. The Bison will play Nevada and then Nebraska on Saturday.

The Bison totaled a 25-8 record and a 13-3 Summit record, earning a share at the regular season title. If COVID-19 did not force cancellation, they would’ve advanced to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth appearance after earning its second straight Summit Conference Tournament title in an 89-53 win over intrastate rival North Dakota.

In Steve Alford’s first year with the Wolf Pack, they finished 19-12 with a 12-6 record. They got bounced in the first round of the conference tournament with a 74-71 loss to Wyoming.

Nevada (0-0) vs. North Dakota State (0-0)

When: Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 12:00 p.m.

Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb.

TV: None

Online: Mountain West Network

Matchup History: NSDU leads 2-0

Last meeting: NDSU won 101-94 (Dec. 12, 1976)

Breakdown:

The Bison graduated two All-Conference guards in Vinnie Shahid (18.4 ppg) and Tyson Ward (16.9). Ward, listed at 6-foot-6, finished atop the team in rebounding (7.2 rpg).

They are both two of the most accomplished players in school history.

Shahid was the second player in program history to total 1,000-plus career points in just two seasons with the program, while Ward was the only player in school history to record at least 1,500 career points, 700 rebounds and 250 assists.

NDSU led the nation in free throw percentage (83.1 percent) and No. 51 in makes (490), largely at the expense of Ward and Shahid. The two combined to shoot 317 of the team’s 614 total free throws at an 83.2 percent clip.

Now those two are not there, the scoring production must come elsewhere.

North Dakota State’s top player is senior forward Rocky Kreuser, who was third in scoring (10.0) and second in rebounding (6.0). Kreuser was voted onto the preseason second-team All-Summit — the only Bison to earn a preseason award.

North Dakota State v Kansas State
Rocky Kreuser #34 of the North Dakota State Bison drives against Cartier Diarra #2 of the Kansas State Wildcats.
Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Krueser, listed at 6-foot-10, shot 33.1 percent from the 3-point line on 4.5 attempts per game; over half of his shots came from the three-point line.

The Bison return Tyree Eady, who started in 19 of the 30 games he appeared in last year. He averaged 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per contest. They also bring Sam Griesal (6.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg) who saw time as a starter.

Nevada loses a considerable amount of overall production from last year’s team.

Nevada’s production lost heading into 2020-21

Entering the.... Points FG 3PFG Offensive rebounding Total rebounding Steals Blocks
Entering the.... Points FG 3PFG Offensive rebounding Total rebounding Steals Blocks
2020-21 season 79.9 percent (1,911-of- 2,391 PTS) 83.1 percent (666-of-801 FG's) 82.5 percent (255 of 309 3PM's) 46.3 percent (126-of-272 ORB's) 59 percent (701-of-1,188 REBS) 78 percent (124-of-159 STLS) 53.2 percent (58-of-109 BLKS)

The Wolf Pack lose their top four scorers: Mountain West Player of the Year runner-up Jalen Harris (21.7 ppg), Jazz Johnson (15.9 ppg), Lindsey Drew (11.4 ppg) and the conference’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year Nisre Zouzoua (9.8).

Zane Meeks, who averaged 6.4 points on 36.4 percent 3-point shooting, leads all returning scorers. Robby Robinson started all 31 games in 2019-20 and is the squad’s only returning starter. Robinson averaged 2.7 points and 5.1 rebounds last year.

If any Pack player garners the most hype heading into this year, it’s Brown transfer Desmond Cambridge. He has the capability to be one of the top scorers in the Mountain West.

Cambridge averaged 16.5 points — 17.3 as a freshman — along with 4.2 rebounds, one steal and 1.4 blocks per game in two seasons with the Bears. He won the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year Award and earned All-Ivy League second team honors as a freshman.

The Wolf Pack welcomed Wichita State transfer Grant Sherfield in spring. Sherfield became immediately eligible in September with three seasons of eligibility remaining.

He averaged 8.1 points and 2.9 assists per game, shooting 35.4 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from 3-point percentage in his lone season with the Shockers.

Nevada’s only returning starter is Robby Robinson, a 6-foot-8 forward. He averaged 2.7 points and 5.1 rebounds — starting in all 31 games last year.

Prediction:

  • Nevada: 81
  • North Dakota State: 76

Nevada might not be as experienced, but they are a more talented group. Both teams lost considerable depth, but I believe the addition of Cambridge, Washington and Sherfield will compensate. One thing Alford has touched upon that he wants to see lots of improvement would be defensively, and the Wolf Pack must find a way to limit the 6-foot-10 Kreuser because of his adept 3-point shooting. Alford is going to be shifting guys throughout the game, so he Kreuser could potentially see 4-to-5 different bodies on him. If Nevada can limit his production while getting into a groove offensively, they could win this game. Though the question remains: With this inexperienced roster, will that task too tough to fill? Season-record: 0-0

Additional Links:

Mountain West Network Stream: https://bit.ly/39h1W2f

Radio: https://bit.ly/33heBPg

Live Stats: https://bit.ly/39h4cqq