SDSU looks to tame the Wolf Pack on Wednesday at Viejas Arena

Jaedon LeDee slams one home against Nevada last year at Viejas Arena. (Don De Mars/EVT)

Darrion Trammell dribbles against Nevada last year. (Credit: Don De Mars/ EVT)

Nevada is coming off a tough 64-56 home loss to Boise State.

After giving up a conference game on their home court in Reno, they will be looking to get one back by defeating SDSU at Viejas Arena. The Wolfpack will be locked into this game.

San Diego State is coming off a tough defeat of its own. The Aztecs took a beating in Albuquerque, putting up an uncharacteristic performance. They should similarly be ready to play. Both teams want to avoid a losing streak in a conference race that will likely be close until the end.

General Observations

Nevada is one of the most experienced teams in the nation, coming in sixth, according to KenPom. They are very balanced, top 55 in KenPom in both offense and defense. They do not take many three-point shots due to a lack of shooters. Their only other weakness is on the offensive glass. 

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Defending Nevada

On defense, the Aztecs have been switching more lately. San Jose State tried to take advantage by hunting Jaedon LeDee and matching him against a perimeter player. According to Synergy, LeDee had seven possessions as the primary defender and gave up zero points. 

Continuing to switch may work against Nevada to disrupt their flow.

The one thing the Aztecs absolutely cannot do is utilize drop coverage against Jarod Lucas. If Lucas sees drop coverage, he will pull the trigger. With him shooting almost 40% from behind the arc, that is not a winning strategy for defenses.

One unique aspect of Nevada’s offense is their willingness to post up their point guard. They will have Kenan Blackshear back down his man because Blackshear, at 6-foot-6, is much taller than most other point guards. 

SDSU coaches will need to decide who should guard Blackshear. He averaged 15 points and 6 assists against the Aztecs last season, with Butler his primary defender. Would someone taller like Reese Waters, Micah Parrish, or even Miles Byrd in stretches have more success against the star point guard?

Attacking Nevada

In the pick-and-roll, Nevada likes to hedge the ball screens and tag the roll man with a weakside defender. It is a coverage the Aztecs are used to seeing. It can be manipulated by putting a shooter in the weakside corner. That way, if the defense helps, it leaves a shooter open. If they stick to the shooter, there is no defender around the roll man. Getting the roll man the ball will not be easy against Nevada’s size and length, but there will be options. 

When defending a Chicago action, the Wolfpack send the defender over the first screen, and then switch the handoff. In the clip below, Fresno State tries to get the ball inside on the roll, and the ball gets stolen.

The Aztecs will have a couple of different options. First, if they really want to get the ball inside quickly, it should be with a lob. Jaedon LeDee, Miles Heide, and Jay Pal could all go up and get a ball thrown over the switching defender. 

A more conservative approach would be to reverse the ball back to the screener for a post entry to LeDee. The roll should give him deep position in the paint, and the Aztecs can even manipulate who is going to switch onto him if they run the action correctly. Targeting someone like Lucas with that action could have huge benefits. 

In the post, Nevada will send double teams against LeDee. The Wolf Pack like to double off of a cutter, as in the clip below. If the cutter does not move, as is often the case against the Aztecs, the double team will be a dig, where the closest perimeter defender comes down to double. LeDee will have to make the decision to attack before it comes or kick out to a shooter or cutter. 

Play to watch for

Horns Chicago Stagger

This play has multiple decoys in its attempt to confuse a defense. It starts looking like a typical weak-side stagger screen out of a horns set. The screen is rejected in favor of a backcut that will burn teams who try to overplay. 

Then the Chicago action happens, but its only real purpose is to set up the screeners in the right position for the stagger screen. Lucas then comes off the stagger and has multiple options, the most prevalent being to take the open shot. 

Players to watch

Kenan Blackshear, #13, 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists.

Blackshear was thrust into the PG role last season due to injury but has quickly blossomed into a fantastic player. His size at the position gives him versatility most players do not have, and he picked up the skills quickly. He is a threat everywhere on the court, and he makes his teammates better. 

Jarod Lucas, #2, 17.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists.

Lucas is one of the best shooters in the nation. His percentage doesn’t do him justice, because many of his shots are high difficulty. He will shoot coming off of screens or shoot pull-ups off the dribble and still drain them at a high clip. The Nevada offense is built off of his abilities more than anyone else (although Blackshear is a close second.)

Nick Davidson, #11, 10.8 points, 7 rebounds, 1.5 assists.

Davidson has made a leap since last season. He does what big men should do. He rebounds well, scores inside, and brings a level of physicality missing from the rest of the roster. Whether he has the wherewithal to matchup against LeDee remains to be seen, but if he plays well, it could spell problems for the Aztecs. 

X-Factor

Paint defense. Nevada, similar to New Mexico, does not take many shots from deep. Lucas and maybe Hunter McIntosh are their only volume shooters. Everyone else is hesitant. This will allow the Aztecs to pack the paint and help more aggressively. Preventing points in the paint will be key for an Aztec victory.

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