Nevada faces ASU in return to NCAA tourney

Nevada guard Kenan Blackshear, shown earlier this season, and his Wolf Pack teammates will open their NCAA Tournament on Wednesday against Arizona State.

Nevada guard Kenan Blackshear, shown earlier this season, and his Wolf Pack teammates will open their NCAA Tournament on Wednesday against Arizona State.
Photo by Thomas Ranson.

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A look ahead to the Nevada Wolf Pack’s First Four NCAA Tournament game Wednesday night against the Arizona State Sun Devils in Dayton, Ohio:

HOW TO WATCH, LISTEN: The game can be seen on TruTV, with a 6:10 p.m. tip-off. The game can also be heard on 94.5 FM. All of the First Four games are at Dayton (two each on Tuesday, Wednesday) and will be televised on TruTV. Tuesday’s games will be Southeast Missouri State vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3:30 p.m.), followed by Pittsburgh vs. Mississippi State (6:10 p.m.). On Wednesday, Fairleigh Dickinson plays Texas Southern (3:30 p.m.), followed by Nevada vs. Arizona State (6:10 p.m.).

TEAM RECORDS: Arizona State is 22-12, 11-9 in the Pac-12. Nevada is 22-10, 12-6 in the Mountain West.

POINT SPREAD: Arizona State is favored by 2.

AT STAKE: The Arizona State-Nevada winner advances to the 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket as a No. 11 seed to play No. 6-seeded TCU on Friday (6:55 p.m.) in Denver (Ball Arena). That game will also be seen on TruTV and heard on 94.5 FM.

THE RIVALRY: The Sun Devils and Wolf Pack have met just three times, with Arizona State winning 76-63 on Dec. 10, 2002, in Tempe, Ariz., and 78-75 on Dec. 17, 2010, at Lawlor Events Center. The Pack beat the Sun Devils 69-61 at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Dec. 7, 2019. The Nevada media guide lists three games in 1951-52 against Arizona State (Nevada won twice), but those games were actually against Northern Arizona.

THE HEAD COACHES: Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley (51 years old) is 140-112 as Sun Devils’ coach since 2015-16. This is his third NCAA Tournament with Arizona State (2018, 2019) after one as Buffalo head coach in 2015. He has a record of 1-3. Nevada’s Steve Alford (58 years old) is 69-49 as Nevada’s coach since 2019-20. This is his first NCAA tournament at Nevada after 11 total at Southwest Missouri State (1999), Iowa (2001, 2005, 2006), New Mexico (2010, 2012, 2013) and UCLA (2014, 2015, 2017, 2018). He also coached Manchester to three Division III NCAA tournaments from 1993-95. Alford has a record of 11-11 in the Division I tournament, advancing as far as the Sweet 16 in 1999, 2014, 2015, 2017.

FIRST FOUR EXPERIENCE: Both Alford and Hurley have coached in the First Four since the format began in 2011. Hurley’s first two NCAA appearances as Arizona State coach both were in the First Four. Arizona State lost to Syracuse, 60-56, in 2018, but beat St. John’s, 74-65, in 2019 to advance to the 64-team bracket (where they lost to Buffalo, 91-74). Hurley was Buffalo’s coach in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Alford’s UCLA Bruins lost in the 2018 First Four to St. Bonaventure, 65-58.

ALFORD, HURLEY CONNECTIONS: Hurley won two national titles as a player with Duke in 1991 and 1992. Alford won with Indiana in 1987. Both were NBA draft picks, Hurley in the first round by the Sacramento Kings in 1993 while Alford was taken in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks in 1987. Alford has a 4-3 record as a coach against Hurley, all when he was UCLA’s coach from 2015-19. Hurley, though, won the last three meetings, including an 83-72 decision in the 2019 Pac-12 tournament. The two were never teammates, but Hurley did portray an Indiana player in the 1994 movie, “Blue Chips,” playing for Alford’s Indiana coach, Bobby Knight.

NEVADA LAST TIME IN TOURNAMENT: The No. 7 seed Wolf Pack was upset, 70-61, by the No. 10 seed Florida Gators in Des Moines, Iowa, on March 21, 2019.

NEVADA IN NCAA TOURNAMENT: This is Nevada’s 10th NCAA Tournament. The Wolf Pack has a 6-9 record. Pack reached the Sweet 16 in 2004 and 2018. This is the Wolf Pack’s second NCAA Tournament game against a team from the current Pac-12. Nevada’s first NCAA Tournament game was a 64-54 loss against Washington in 1984.

ASU IN NCAA TOURNAMENT: This is Arizona State’s 17th NCAA Tournament. The Sun Devils have a record of 14-17 (they lost twice in 1973, including the third-place game). Arizona State reached the Elite Eight in 1961, 1963, and 1975 and Sweet 16 in 1973, 1995. This is ASU’s fifth NCAA Tournament game against a team currently in the Mountain West. The Sun Devils beat Utah State in 1963 and UNLV in 1975 and lost to Utah State in 1962 and 1964.

NET RANKINGS: Nevada is No. 37 while Arizona State is No. 66.

RENO TO TEMPE: Two Sun Devils (guard Desmond Cambridge and center Warren Washington) transferred from Nevada to Arizona State after last season. Cambridge leads the Sun Devils in scoring (14.0) and steals (1.7) while Washington leads the team in rebounding (6.9 and blocks (1.7).

ANOTHER FAMILIAR FACE: The Sun Devils’ associate head coach is Jermaine Kimbrough. Kimbrough was a Wolf Pack assistant coach in 2015-16 (under head coach Eric Musselman). The 2015-16 Nevada team went 24-14, winning the College Basketball Invitation. Kimbrough has also been an assistant at Wyoming (2016-17 through 2018-19) and Loyola Chicago (2019-20, 2020-21) since leaving Nevada and is now in his second season at Arizona State. He coached for nine years at Cleveland State before joining Musselman’s Nevada staff. Musselman, coincidentally, was an Arizona State assistant coach for two years (2012-13, 2013-14).

NEVADA STARTERS: Jarod Lucas, 6-3, 195 (17.3 points, .414 FG, .379 3’s, .861 FT, 2.7 reb, 1.4 assists); Kenan Blackshear, 6-6, 215 (14.4 points, .445 FG, .281 3’s, .778 FT, 4.1 reb, 4.6 assists, 1.5 steals); Will Baker, 7-0, 245 (13.5 points, .558 FG, .356 3’s, .836 FT, 5.1 reb). Darrion Williams 6-6, 210 (7.6 points, .411 FG, .337 3’s, .795 FT, 7.3 reb, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals). Tre Coleman, 6-7, 185 (6.0 points, .440 FG, .351 3’s, .680 FT, 3.1 reb, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks).

ASU STARTERS: Desmond Cambridge, 6-4,180 (14.0 points, .398 FG, .332 3’s, .814 FT, 3.6 reb, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals); Warren Washington, 7-0, 225 (9.2 points, .562 FG, .660 FT, 6.9 reb, 1.5 assists, 1.7 blocks); D.J. Horne, 6-1, 175 (12.1 points, .356 FG, .332 3’s, .825 FT, 3.4 reb, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals); Frankie Collins, 6-1, 185 (9.9 points, .395 FG, .338 3’s, .632 FT, 4.2 reb, 4.4 assists, 1.4 steals); Devan Cambridge, 6-6, 215 (9.8 points, .500 FG, .329 3’s, .638 FT, 5.5 reb, 0.6 steals, 0.7 blocks).

LUCAS VS. ASU: Wolf Pack shooting guard Jarod Lucas has extensive experience playing against ASU and Hurley. Lucas, playing for Oregon State the last three years, has a record of 2-3 against Arizona State. As a bench player as a freshman in 2019-20, Lucas played a total of 24 minutes combined in two games against ASU, scoring six points and going 1-of-5 on threes. In 2020-21, though, he scored 33 points in two games combined against ASU, connecting on 8-of-15 threes. Last year, however, he played one game against Arizona State and scored just four points in 30 minutes, missing all six of his threes.

NEVADA SCOUTING REPORT: The Wolf Pack takes a three-game losing streak to Dayton and four losses in its last six games. The Pack has struggled on offense lately, averaging just 67.8 points a game over its last six games. But the Pack is averaging 72.6 points a game on the year and has held opponents to just 66.9. The Pack is the better shooting team compared to Arizona State, by far, shooting .444 from the floor, .346 on threes and .791 from the line. The Pack will need point guard Kenan Blackshear to at least be efficient with the ball against an aggressive Sun Devil defense. Pack freshman Darrion Williams will get a huge test against ASU’s Devan Cambridge (Dez’s brother). The Pack might put Tre Coleman on Desmond Cambridge, since Coleman is so familiar with Cambridge’s game, in an effort to take Cambridge out of the offense.

ASU SCOUTING REPORT: The Sun Devils started the year 11-1 but have gone just 11-11 since. Arizona State doesn’t shoot the ball well from anywhere (.416 overall, .314 on threes and .689 from the line). If ASU can’t go inside for easy baskets from Devan Cambridge and Warren Washington, its offense might dry up. Dez Cambridge might hog the shots early in the game to try to impress his former Pack teammates and coaches. Ex-Pack center Washington might also try to take advantage of current Pack center Will Baker in the paint. Baker, though, can take advantage of Washington by getting easy looks on threes since Washington likes to live in the paint. The Sun Devils’ strength is defense, holding opponents to 67.7 points, .398 shooting, .336 on threes and forcing 14.4 turnovers a game.

PREDICTION: Nevada 68, ASU 66 in overtime. Arizona State wants to keep this game in the 50s or 60s. The Pack wins if it hits threes, gets to the line and stands up to the Sun Devils physically.


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