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Nevada Basketball opponent preview and prediction: Boise State Broncos

NCAA Basketball: Utah State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack conclude its 2021-22 road slate Tuesday, taking on the Boise State Broncos inside ExtraMile Arena at 6:00 p.m. PST on Fox Sports 2.

The Broncos, who are 1.5 games ahead of the Colorado State Rams and two games of the Wyoming Cowboys, can clinch the Mountain West regular season title with a win over the Wolf Pack, who have lost eight of their last 11.

Boise State split its head-to-head meetings with the Cowboys and has lost its only contest against Colorado State this season (77-74 OT), though the two meet again in the regular season finale on Saturday, March 5 in Fort Collins, Colo.

Meanwhile, Nevada’s have been out of contention for the Mountain West title for *checks notes* a while. After recording its first three-game win streak in two months, the Pack have lost two straight to UNLV and Wyoming.

Nevada (12-15, 6-10 MWC), the current 8-seed in the Mountain West, has two games remaining against Boise State and San Diego State. The team one slot above them, Utah State (16-14, 7-10 MWC), plays San Jose State on Saturday in its regular season finale. So Nevada — who would play New Mexico in the first round of the MWC Tournament if the season ended today — would have to split its final pair of games to have a chance at moving up in the conference standings.

Can the Wolf Pack bounce back and earn a win in their final road game of the season? Let’s dive into the matchup and find out!

Matchup: Nevada (12-15, 6-10) vs. Boise State (23-6, 14-2)

When: Tuesday, March 1 at 6:00 p.m. PT

Where: ExtraMile Arena in Boise, ID

TV/Online: Fox Sports 2 || foxsports.com

Spread: Boise State -9.5

Money line: Boise State -500, Nevada +400

Last Meeting: Boise State won 85-70

Matchup History: Nevada leads 51-29

Breakdown:

For the first time in his career, Boise State forward Abu Kigab was rewarded the Mountain West player of the week Monday because of his two-game performance against SDSU and UNLV.

He posted 20 points in both games, averaging 22.0 points on 65.0 percent shooting from the floor, knocking down five of his seven triple tries (71.4 percent) and went 13-for-21 (61.9 percent) from the charity stripe. He also averaged 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals.

His two 20-point outings were the fourth-and-fifth time he’s notched at least 20 in a game this season, respectively, including a season-high 32 points (one shy of tying his career high) on 10-of-12 shooting against Prairie View on Dec. 10.

For the season, Kigab leads the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game, shooting 49.3 percent from the floor with a 56.9 true-shooting percentage. He also leads the team in steals — corralling 1.2 per game — and is second in both rebounding (6.0 rpg) and assists (2.1 apg).

Marcus Shaver is second on the team in scoring, recording 13.9 points on 43.8/38.3/75.6 (61.6 TS%) shooting splits, adding 3.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 steals per contest. Emmanuel Akot (10.3 ppg) and Tyson Degenhart (10.3 ppg) — who’s unquestionably been the top freshman in the Mountain West — round the team’s double figure scorers.

Akot’s shooting just 39.2 percent from the floor, though he’s knocking down 41.1 percent of his 4.5 triples per game — also tallying 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 0.6 steals per game. Degenhart, the team’s most efficient long range shooter, is shooting 42.7 eprcent from deep (49.8 percent overall) while grabbing four boards a contest.

Nevada is led by its stout backcourt duo of Grant Sherfield — one of the most dynamic point guards in the Mountain West — and Desmond Cambridge.

Sherfield’s averaging 18.4 points and 6.5 assists per game, shooting 42.7 percent with a 34.7 3-point percentage and a remarkably high 87.5 free-throw percentage, one of the best marks in the Mountain West.

He is one of two players nationally — along with Wyoming’s Hunter Maldonado — who’s posting at least 18 points-6.0 assists per game. Though he had just 12 points Saturday against the Pokes, in his four games prior, he was averaging 22.3 points, four rebounds, 7.8 assists on 47.0/38.5/88.0 shooting.

Cambridge is averaging 16.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.3 per contest, knocking 43.8 percent of his shot attempts, including 37.7 eprcent from deep and 72.0 percent from the charity stripe. Cambridge is, by far, Nevada’s most effective and willing 3-point shooter.

His 78 made triples are six behind Wyoming’s Drake Jeffries for the most in the conference, shooting over 8.0 attempts per game with a 56.7 3-point rate (the percentage of field goals taken from distance).

Prediction:

Barring anything significant, Nevada’s all but locked up as the 8-seed. It has struggled against Quad 1 or 2 foes — going a combined 2-13 — this season, so it’s hard foreseeing them moving up. While they are still going to play for seeding — as they absolutely should! — the odds are definitely not in their favor. The Wolf Pack have one quality road win at Utah State, but has struggled to secure victories otherwise. It’s now fully healthy, and they don’t have a lot of time to find their groove before the Mountain West Tournament tips off. Given Nevada’s struggles offensively of late against Boise State’s top-20 defense, it’s going to need strong performances from multiple of Sherfield, Cambridge, Will Baker or Warren Washington. If I were to choose, I think their best chance at winning either of its final two regular season games will be in front of its home crowd on Senior Night against the Aztecs, so I’m going to chalk this one up as a loss. Boise State 72, Nevada 59 (Season record: 19-8)