Monday, March 21, 2016

The Big Sky's last hope — previewing Eastern Washington-Nevada

College Basketball Invitational

BETTING LINE: Nevada -5.5
KENPOM GIVES Nevada a 75 percent chance to win

CAN YOU WATCH? Watch … live stats

WINNER moves on to the CBI semifinals March 28-April 1. The tournament is re-bracketed following the quarterfinals. Check out a fully updated CBI bracket here.

HOW WE GOT HERE: Last Wednesday … Eastern Washington knocked off Pepperdine 79-72. EWU’s Venky Jois was limited to 12 minutes with a sore knee (according to EWU athletics) and the Eagles shot 10 for 32 from 2-point range — not good. But led by Austin McBroom, Felix Von Hofe and Bogdan Bliznyuk, the Eagles drained 14 3-pointers and 17 of 20 free-throw attempts to sneak out a win.

Last Wednesday … Nevada trailed Montana by 10 at halftime, but rallied in the second half behind D.J. Fenner’s and Lindsey Drew’s combined 30 points and six 3-pointers of a 79-75 victory.

PREVIEWING THE GAME: First things first: Yes, Jois is expected to play against the Wolf Pack. And on the injury front for Nevada, the Wolf Pack’s leading scorer, senior guard Marqueze Coleman, should return to the floor.

Coleman, Nevada’s highest usage rate player, averages 15.9 points a game but has been fighting a bum ankle he turned Feb. 24 against Utah State.

On the matchup itself, this is strength versus strength. Eastern is 62nd in the country in offensive points per possession (1.102), and Nevada is 39th in defensive points per possession (.965).

It’s also a game of weakness versus weakness. Nevada has one of the country’s least-productive offenses, ranking 289th in offensive points per possession (.978), and Eastern is even worse defensively, giving up 1.133 points per possession, 329th in the nation.

So in really simple terms, can Eastern overcome its porous defense by hitting enough 3-pointers to outscore Nevada? Or maybe the Wolf Pack will take advantage of the Eagles and have a great offensive performance.

Nevada is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in college basketball, but seven 3s in the second half against Montana helped drive the Wolf Pack in the come-from-behind victory. Fenner, a junior, had a team-high 24 points, and even if Coleman is able to return, Fenner has become a good gauge for Nevada’s success. The Reno Gazette-Journal’s Chris Murray, in an article you can find here, wrote that in Nevada’s wins, Fenner averages 14.9 points on 39.7 percent shooting. In the team’s losses, his production drops to 30.4 percent shooting and 10.8 points a game.

A couple tidbits to keep in mind for the game: Eastern’s win against Pepperdine was the school’s first in a national postseason tournament as a member of Division I. … It was also EWU coach Jim Hayford’s 500th game as a collegiate head coach. … The Eagles are 3-9 all-time versus the Wolf Pack. Eastern’s lone victory in Reno against Nevada was on Feb. 22, 1990. … EWU’s Jois, who has 1,803 points in his career, needs seven more to move into 12th place in Big Sky Conference history.

— Kyle Franko


  1. Will you be doing an "way-too early thoughts" entry on the 2016-17 season?