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Nevada Basketball opponent preview and prediction: Colorado State Rams

NCAA Basketball: Colorado State at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team hits the road for a one-game stint against the Colorado State Rams, arguably the best team in the Mountain West, on Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 6:00 p.m. PST on FS1.

Colorado State is off to its best 16-game start in program history at 15-1. Its 2014-15 team, the second best, began 14-2 (and finished 27-7, its most wins in program history).

The Rams’ only loss came in a 30-point thrashing against San Diego State in early January, totaling only 49 points — including 17 in the second half on 5-of-21 shooting. But they still have four other Quad 1 or 2 victories (two in Quad 1; two in Quad 2) in the NET Rankings — trailing only Boise State for the most in the conference — with five wins over top-110 opponents, per KenPom.

The Wolf Pack picked up their first Quad 1/2 victory of the season Friday, downing Fresno State 77-73 at home. It was also their first win over a top-100 opponent this season and its third Mountain West victory. They currently sit at 9-7, with a 3-2 conference record.

Cam the Wolf Pack pull off the upset victory in Fort Collins? Let’s dive into the position preview and find out!

Matchup: Nevada (9-7, 3-2) vs. Colorado State (15-1, 5-1)

When: Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 6:00 p.m. PT

Where: Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo.

TV/Online: Fox Sports 1 || foxsports.com

Spread: Colorado State -8.5

Money line: Colorado State -360, Nevada +300

Last Meeting: Nevada won 85-82 (March 5, 2021)

Matchup History: Nevada leads 16-10

Breakdown:

Colorado State has unquestionably been the Mountain West’s most efficient offense, ranking 19th nationally per Ken Pom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. It also ranks in the top-25 in effective field goal percentage, turnover rate, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage and 2-point percentage. Efficiency!

The Rams’ offense has had much to do with the play of stalwarts David Roddy, who’s in contention for the Mountain West player of the year after finishing as a finalist last season, and Isaiah Stevens.

Roddy’s averaging 18.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks — all being team highs — along with 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He’s shooting 57.7 percent from the floor and 44.7 percent from beyond the arc after knocking down just 23.5 percent of his triples in his first two years combined on similar volume (2.9 attempts this year, 2.5 from 2019-21).

In six conference games, Roddy’s posting 15.8 poins, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks on 55.0/40.0/65.7 shooting splits in 31.3 minutes per contest.

Stevens, one of the best point guards in the Mountain West, is dishing out 5.5 assists along with 15.1 points and a team-most 1.4 steals per game, shooting 47.6 percent, 36.1 percent from 3-point range and 87.8 percent from the free-throw line.

Roddy and Stevens are the only two Rams players who play at least 25 minutes a night.

John Tonje is the team’s only other double-digit scorer and is a mainstay amongst their second unit alongside Jalen Lake and Chandler Jacobs. Tonje is averaging 10.6 points to go with 3.1 rebounds on 52.5 percent shooting, including a team-high 47.9 percent from distance.

Nevada ranks fourth in the conference in offense with the third-worst defense. It has been a below average 3-point shooting team, which has been atypical compared its past squads, though it’s been good inside the arc (51.6 percent) and at the charity stripe (75.2 percent), despite its dismal 14-29 shooting at the free-throw line on Friday.

Grant Sherfield remains the only player in the nation who’s averaging at least 19 points (19.4) and 6.5 assists (6.5), recording nine 20-point games with one 30-point performance (career-high 31 points against George Mason). He shot 44.4 percent, including 38.3 percent from beyond the arc and 86.3 percent from the free-throw line.

All-Mountain West guard Desmond Cambridge has registered three straight games with fewer than 10 points after recording double figures in 12 of his first 13 games. Nevertheless, Cambridge’s still averaging 15.3 points, 4.8 rebounds with a team-high 1.6 steals per game in 16 contests.

Will Baker (11.6 ppg) and Warren Washington (10.8 ppg) are the Wolf Pack’s only other double figure scorers. Kenan Blackshear (7.8 ppg), one of the Pack’s best defenders, however, has kicked up his scoring numbers of late, averaging 12.7 points across his last three games and 10.8 points in his last five games.

Prediction:

Nevada has not fared well in its three other contests against top-35 offenses this season, surrendering 77 points to Wyoming (35th), 88 points to No. 5 Kansas (3) and 102 points to South Dakota State (11th). Its defense, particularly against the three teams above, has waxed and waned — and it can’t afford to do so again in Fort Collins. The Pack will face yet another conference player of the year candidate in David Roddy, who had 20 points on 10 shots with 11 trips (and makes) to the free throw line in last year’s bout with the Wolf Pack. Head coach Niko Medved will certainly utilize its depth, but Nevada will need to hold both Roddy and Stevens, who also scored 20 in last year’s affair, in check. But that’s another tough task to ask for on the road; while it’s notched a few home victories in conference play, the Rams have still blasted opponents by an average of 16.7 at home this season. Nevada head coach Steve Alford has repeadedly stated how his team needs to be tougher — needless to say, this is a game that’ll certainly test it. Colorado State 79, Nevada 68 (Season record: 11-5)