Texas vs Nevada Preview and Prediction
Texas vs Nevada Preview
Seedings are irrelevant when you are looking at the seven vs ten matchup in the NCAA Tournament–and this showdown is no different. The teams however, are exact opposites of each other.
One team, the seventh-seeded Wolfpack, is great on offense, small on size, loves an up-tempo attack, possesses experience in the Big Dance and is a proven success on the road.
The other, 10th-seeded Texas, has one of the country’s best (and tallest) frontcourts, plays at a more deliberate pace, has only one player with NCAA Tournament experience and has fewer road wins this season than all but two of the 68 squads in this event.
The Wolf Pack (27-7) ripped through their Mountain West Conference schedule, going 15-3 in league play en route to their at-large bid. Nevada was forced into the at-large waiting game by a 90-73 loss to eventual MWC tournament champion San Diego State in the league tournament.
The Wolf Pack’s aggressive scheduling and nation-leading 12 road victories were recognized and rewarded by the NCAA Tournament Committee.
“It’s a little bit different than last year,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “When you win the automatic berth, you know you’re in and just sitting there. Obviously, there are a lot of quality teams that aren’t in this tournament, teams that have had unbelievable years, power conference teams. I couldn’t be prouder of our team. The selection committee gave us a lot of respect as a seven seed. We’re excited.”
Nevada versus NCAA Tournament teams
The Wolf Pack played six teams this season that made the NCAA Tournament field, including Texas Tech and TCU as well as San Diego State, Rhode Island, Davidson and Radford. Nevada went 4-4 against those teams.
Texas conference woes
Texas (19-14) struggled in the loaded Big 12 Conference (which sent seven of its 10 teams into the NCAA Tournament and two more into the NIT), going 8-10 in league play although it played the nation’s third-hardest schedule. Only three NCAA Tournament teams won fewer than 19 games.
“It’s a fresh start for everyone — all 68 teams,” Texas third-year coach Shaka Smart said. “Most of us have been there before where it’s not so much about your seed or where you’re going to play, it’s just about the opportunity. You know you’re going to play a great team. There are no teams this time of the year that are not great teams.
Texas missed the NCAAs last season and lost its first game in 2016 in Smart’s first year at the helm. As hard as it is to fathom, the Longhorns haven’t posted a win in an NCAA Tournament game since 2014.
Mo Bamba and company
If you haven’t followed Longhorns basketball or aren’t privy to the upcoming NBA Draft, then maybe you haven’t heard of Mo Bamba, but he is a player you need to know.
Mohamed Bamba, the Big 12’s leading rebounder and shot blocker is a projected Top 5 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Bamba missed four of Texas’ final five games with a toe injury but said Sunday that he’s “100 percent.” If healthy, Bamba will be the best player on the court and a true mismatch to whoever Nevada coach Eric Musselman chooses to guard him with.
The Longhorns’ leading scorer is 6-9 Dylan Osetkowski, but he’s been up and down through the second half of the season.
Texas will be without guard Andrew Jones, who was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this season and is out indefinitely, and guard Eric Davis, who has been suspended the last five games amid allegations he accepted a loan from an agent.
The Longhorns were last in the Big 12 in scoring (71.7 points per game, ranking No. 237 nationally) and three-point shooting percentage (31.5, ranking No. 331 among the 351 teams). Yet Texas averages nearly 23 three-point attempts per game.
“Nevada does a great job of defending the three-point-line,” Smart said. “So we probably do need to make a conscious effort to get the ball inside more, get to the rim and to the foul line.”
Who to watch for on Nevada
The Wolf Pack are a balanced team, but they are led by two juniors, Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline.
Martin is the teams leading scorer averaging 19.1 PPG–in addition he adds 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. At 6’7 he doesn’t have the height to matchup with Mo Bamba, but he has the strength to attempt to slow him down in the paint.
Caroline is another 6’7 forward who is second on the team with 17.9 PPG. He leads the team in rebounding with 8.8 rebounds per night and adds 2.1 assists.
LINE: -1 Nevada
Texas did not accomplish nearly as much in the regular season as Nevada did, but they have NBA talent and can lock teams down defensively. As long as the Longhorns are able to convert on the offensive end, I do not doubt their ability to slow the Pack down from scoring.
Expect a tight, low scoring affair.
Texas 60 Nevada 58