Nevada Basketball: Takeaways after first three conference games
The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team has gone undefeated in Mountain West play through three games, knocking off the Boise State Broncos, Air Force Flacons and Colorado State Rams.
The West Mountain is busy again this year, maybe even more so than last year. And Nevada is thrown into the mix as one of those teams — especially after its 13-3 start — so let’s dig into some takeaways from those three games to see what we can do together.
1. Her defense has dropped a bit, but the Pack has been able to muster plenty of offense:
Nevada’s defense has slipped in recent weeks, but the offense has been more productive so far in conference play.
They’re scoring just north of 114.0 points per 100 possessions, shooting an effective 57.2 field goal percentage — 55.1 percent on 2s and 40.4 percent on 3s — with an 86.1 free throw percentage (more on that below ).
While Nevada doesn’t crash the glass at an extremely high rate, it isn’t turning the ball over — especially late in games — and has produced efficient offense behind its guards in Jarod Lucas, Kenan Blackshear and Will Baker (also more on this below).
Their three games have come against a top-15 defense in Boise State and two below-average (and small) defenses in Air Force and Colorado State. So take his offensive outburst for what it’s worth. But the Pack is finally knocking down shots — efficiently — from all areas, which wasn’t always easy to come by — especially from 3-point range — early in the season.
If they can continue to do that while getting to the free-throw line at a high rate — which coach Steve Alford has wanted his teams to do, historically — Nevada will end up as one of the top offenses. good in the Mountain West when it’s all said and done.
2. Still bundle up at the charity stripe at an insanely high rate:
All season long, Nevada has been one of the nation’s strongest free-throw shooting teams. She ranks in the top-10 nationally in free throw rate (44.2 percent; 10th), free throw percentage (80.3 percent; 7th) and percentage from the free throw line. lira (26.0).
Among his eight players who have attempted at least 20 field goals, five have free throw rates (FT to FGA) north of 35 percent, including three with rates above 42 percent. Generating paint touches, applying pressure downhill and soaking up contact at or near the rim has been a focus for Nevada this season, which is somewhat measurable by free throw rate.
And that trend has carried itself through its three conference games; they’ve shot at least 23 free throws in every game, knocking them down to a conference-best 86.1 percent. They have a ridiculous but inconsistent 49.2 percent free throw rate in those three games, while scoring 27.1 percent of their points from the free throw line; for perspective, they’ve scored at least 74 points in each of those three games.
Some teams will defend without fouling well. But Nevada’s mistakes have looked easy all season, even if its current mark looks unsustainable.
3. Pak continues to piece together the frontcourt without Hymes:
Last week it was announced that KJ Hymes will likely miss the rest of the season after minor back surgery. Hymes is off to a tremendous start this season, averaging 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and three blocks on 66.6 percent true shooting.
But Hymes, who was one of Nevada’s most experienced veterans, has not played since Nov. 18 because of his injury. However, Nevada still has a bridge together with minutes between 7-footer Will Baker and redshirt freshman Nick Davidson, especially as conference play has arrived and Alford’s rotation is solidifying.
The Wolf Pack haven’t been as good of a rebounding team without Hymes on the floor, but they’re still protecting the rim, eliminating on and off the ball well, and both are capable of spacing the floor. Both Davidson and Baker know their roles and have executed them well during this early period.
4. Jarod Lucas, Kenan Blackshear and Will Baker continue to form one of the conference’s top trios:
They are Jaelen House, Jamal Mashburn Jr. and Morris Udeze for New Mexico.
It’s Steven Ashworth, Max Shulga and Taylor Funk for Utah State.
It’s Marcus Shaver, Tyson Degenhart and Max Rice/Chibuzo Agbo for Boise State.
Find what? There are also Kenan Blackshear, Jarod Lucas and Will Baker for Nevada.
In Nevada’s first three conference games, and throughout the first half of the season in general, the team’s top three has stepped up strongly.
Lucas scored a career-high 28 points at Air Force One, a place that is more difficult to muster enough energy on the road. Kenan Blackshear had 20 points on five dimes and two steals against Boise State, and Baker took full advantage of Colorado State’s lack of size with 16 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting Wednesday.
In total, the Wolf Pack triumvirate has combined to average 50.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.3 steals in Mountain West action. That’s a healthy amount of production, especially when they’ve had good production elsewhere in Davidson, Darrion Williams and Tre Coleman, among others.
Nevada will have tougher competition on defense against the likes of San Diego State, Boise State (again) and UNLV, but it will be difficult for teams to close out at least two of the three, let alone all three. Teams will have to pick their poison based on scheme and personnel on who to stop each night. And if the Pack can generate enough additional production from their secondary weapons, they should be in a great spot moving forward.
For now, though, Blackshear, Lucas and Baker are playing very good basketball. They’ll have a few hiccups here and there, but this should be one of the best trios in the conference as we dig deeper into conference play.