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Nevada Basketball opponent preview and prediction: San Diego State

Can Nevada get a win heading into the MWC Tournament?

NCAA Basketball: Fresno State at San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Nevada Wolf Pack close their 2021-22 regular season with a bout against the San Diego State Aztecs inside Lawlor Events Center on Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

The Wolf Pack will be honoring just one senior: second-leading scorer Desmond Cambridge, who still has one more year left eligibility due to winter athletes previously garnering an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19.

The Aztecs close their regular season with their third game in six nights; they won a double-overtime thriller against Fresno State, 65-64, in its home finale on Thursday after a seven-point victory against Wyoming on Monday.

San Diego State’s won eight of their last nine games and 10 of their last 11 against the Pack; Nevada has lost nine of their last 12 — most recently a 73-67 loss against Boise State. It marked the Broncos’ first outright regular season Mountain West title in program history (it joined the MWC prior to the 2011-12 season).

Can the Wolf Pack build some momentum heading into next week’s Mountain West tournament? Let’s dive into the matchup and find out!

Matchup: Nevada (12-16, 6-11) vs. San Diego State (20-7, 12-4)

When: Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m. PT

Where: Lawlor Events Center in Reno, Nev.

TV/Online: CBS Sports Network || https://www.cbssports.com/cbs-sports-network/

Spread: SDSU -4

Money line: SDSU -170, Nevada +150

Last Meeting: Nevada won 65-63 (Feb. 6, 2022)

Matchup History: SDSU leads 23-6

Breakdown:

The Aztecs have not been a good offense this season, posting the conference’s third-worst adjusted offensive efficiency and the worst effective field goal percentage.

What they lack in offense — scoring and efficiency-wise — the Aztecs certainly make up with their stout defense, which is atop the nation in defensive efficiency and in the top-25 in block percentage, opponents effective field goal percentage, opponents 3-point percentage and opponents turnover percentage.

San Diego State features one double figure scorer in Matt Bradley. He’s averaging 17.5 points, though he’s posting 19.4 points in conference play with eight 20-point outings in 16 Mountain West affairs.

Bradley’s shooting 44.9 percent, including 41.9 percent from beyond the arc and 78.2 percent from the free-throw line. Bradley’s second on the team in rebounding (5.2 rpg), assists (2.7) and tied for second in steals (1.1 spg).

Nevada is led by its dominant backcourt duo of Cambridge and star guard Grant Sherfield.

Sherfield’s averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game this season, shooting 42.5 percent from the floor and 33.9 percent from 3-point range.

Cambridge is posting 16.4 points on 43.7 percent shooting, including 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also averaging 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks — trailing only Warren Washington for the team lead in both categories — as well as averaging a team-high 1.6 steals per contest.

The Wolf Pack have been the third-worst defense in the Mountain West, despite possessing capable wing defenders in Cambridge, Daniel Foster, Kenan Blackshear and Tre Coleman. They rank in the bottom-100 nationally in opponents effective field goal percentage and opponents 3-point percentage — but will look to mask their defensive struggles Saturday night in front of their home crowd.

Prediction:

Nevada’s last five meetings against SDSU have been by a combined 23 points, though all five have resulted in losses for Nevada. It’s played SDSU very well, just not well enough to generate any victories. Saturday will be another good opportunity to finally climb the steep hill. I won’t belabor Nevada’s continued struggles with securing Quad 1 or 2 victories, its shooting struggles or the fact that it hasn’t been good at home this season, but playing on Senior Night against a team who’s playing their third game in less than a week certainly offers opportunity. SDSU isn’t a good offense and I think the Pack have just enough defense to slow them down once again — they’re just going to have to shoot well enough against one of the nation’s best defenses. I’ll give Nevada the benefit of the doubt in those areas in front of the Lawlor faithful, who’ve seen Nevada lost in five of their last seven tries there. Nevada 68, SDSU 67 (Season record (20-8)