San Jose State (9-21) vs. Nevada (25-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 8, 9:00 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Orleans Arena (7,471) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: SJSU 6-8, Nevada 15-2. Away Record: SJSU 2-13, Nevada 9-2. Neutral Record: SJSU 1-0, Nevada 1-1. Conference Record: SJSU 1-13, Nevada 13-1. Series Record: Nevada leads, 50-47.
GAME NOTES: Back to the winning ways that made them such a dominant team not all that long ago, the Nevada Wolf Pack hit the floor at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas tonight where they will take on the San Jose State Spartans in the quarterfinals of the 29th annual Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
The top seed in this year's event, Nevada is trying to get back to the championship game for the first time since 2009 when it lost to Utah State by a 72-62 score. In the middle of the last decade, the Pack played in the title tilt in three of four years, winning in both 2004 and 2006 against UTEP and Utah State, respectively. Sporting a record of 15-9 in the event over the years, Nevada comes into this game having lost just two bouts since November 26, 2011.
Meanwhile, the eighth-seeded Spartans are in the midst of a campaign they'd much rather forget. While Nevada finished with a record of 13-1 in conference play, the exact opposite is true for SJSU which posted just a single league victory in 14 attempts. Adding insult to injury is the fact that one win came against a weak Fresno State group and was only decided after a pair of overtime sessions the second week of February. San Jose State, a team which has a record of only 4-14 in the WAC Tournament and has never been to the championship round, lost four straight games to close out the regular season.
Even though the overall series record between these two teams is rather close, the Wolf Pack leading by a margin of 50-47, the relationship has been dominated by Nevada over the last several years. Not only did the Pack win both of the regular season meetings this year, the team has rattled off 10 straight victories against SJSU. The teams have met only once previously in the conference tournament, with Nevada winning at home in the Lawlor Events Center in 2009 by a score of 78-69.
The winner of tonight's battle gets right back to it tomorrow when it faces the team that survives the Louisiana Tech/Utah State matchup in the semifinals.
Outside of Hawaii which had a scoring margin of minus-0.7 ppg, SJSU is the only team in the WAC that is giving up more points than it has scored (minus-5.1 ppg). James Kinney, a member of the WAC's All-Newcomer Team after attending both Eastern Utah College and Ohio University, is the top point producer for the group with his 16.2 ppg, thanks to 41.0 percent shooting behind the three-point line. Kinney, who became the fifth player in SJSU history to sink seven triples in a single game, already owns the SJSU single- season record for three-pointers made (86) and that could help to stretch the Nevada defense a bit. Keith Shamburger (13.3 ppg, 150 assists) and Wil Carter (13.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg) are also key figures in an offense that doesn't get much production beyond that particular trio.
Named the WAC's Player of the Year, Deonte Burton wasn't always the star of the show for Nevada, yet he continued to steadily build his reputation as a player who could both score (15.2 ppg) and was unselfish with the ball (129 assists). Joining Burton on the All-WAC First Team was Olek Czyz, who finished third on the team in scoring with 13.6 ppg and was one of the leaders on the glass with 6.4 rpg. A 54.6 percent shooter from the floor, Czyz did have his issues from behind the three-point line (.286) and at the charity stripe (.606), the latter being a major reason why the team shot a collective 64.4 percent at the line. Thrown in Malik Story (14.2 ppg) and Dario Hunt (10.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg), a couple of players who understand their roles and this is one of the most complete teams in the league this season.
While anything can happen in these games, the Pack clearly is the superior team in this matchup, but they have to be careful that they don't think that way heading in or else they could have their issues with San Jose State.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 73, San Jose State 61
03/08 10:31:36 ET