Nevada vs. Drake: Three keys to victory and one prediction

The Nevada men’s basketball team plays Drake on Saturday at the Dollar Loan Center. Nevada Sports Net’s Chris Murray breaks down the game with his three keys to victory and prediction. This feature is presented in partnership with Bradley, Drendel & Jeanney.

Nevada (7-0) vs. Drake (8-1)

When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m

Where: Dollar Loan Center (5,567 capacity) in Henderson

TV/Radio: Nevada Sports Net/95.5 FM

Online: BallerTV.com

Bet line: No row has been published yet

Three keys to Nevada’s victory

1. Make the roleplayers beat you: Drake has two all-conference players in Tucker DeVries and Darnell Brody. DeVries is the reigning conference player of the year and is averaging 19 points on 47.3 percent shooting, though he has yet to get his 3-point shot online (31 percent this year after shooting 37.3 percent last year ). Brody, meanwhile, is a 6-foot-10, 275-pound sixth-year senior who is averaging 13.6 points on 66.7 percent shooting. It’s a formidable duo, with the pair making 105-of-195 shots (53.8 percent) from the field. The rest of the roster is 148 of 333 (44.4 percent), which is solid for role players. But Nevada needs to focus on DeVries and Brodie and get the Bulldogs to win this one because its secondary pieces played well. The goal is to keep DeVries and Brodie under 30 points.

2. Live Online: Nevada is playing its second game away from home this season, so it will be interesting to see what kind of whistle the Wolfpack gets. Nevada averages 30.4 free throw attempts per game, the third most in the nation. Nearly 28 percent of the Wolf Pack’s points came from the charity stripe, the fourth-highest rate in the country. Drake is weak in defending the paint, allowing its Division I opponents to shoot 53.1 percent inside the arc. This ranks 262nd in the country. That’s one of the Bulldogs’ biggest weaknesses, as Drake has just 15 blocks in nine games. There isn’t much rim protection here, so Nevada should be able to attack the paint and get to the lane at its typical speed against Drake. The Wolfpack relies too much on penalties on offense, but the formula of limiting turnovers and getting to the line should work in this case.

3. Get Lucas Going: Nevada guard Jarrod Lucas is averaging 17.4 points per game, up slightly from last year’s 17 points per game. But his shooting percentage has dropped from 41.3 percent to 36.1 percent, and Lucas has struggled with his deep shot outside of two games (the Portland and LMU contests). Last season, Lucas made multiple 3-pointers in 23 of 33 games (69.7 percent). This year, it happened twice in seven contests (28.6 percent). Lucas still finds a way to score in double figures every game despite these outside struggles, thanks in large part to his nearly eight free throw attempts per game. Lucas is coming off an 0-for-9 game that needs to improve for Nevada to beat Drake. Lucas has hit just five 3-pointers in the last three games. His fewest 3-point attempts in a three-game span last year was nine. There may be some trust issues, but eventually he will figure things out. If we do it on Saturday, it will be big for Nevada.

Forecast

Nevada 77, Drake 72: Although Drake is 8-1, he has played the nation’s No. 248 player, according to KenPom, and also ranks No. 24 in the nation in Luck, according to those metrics. That’s not to say the Bulldogs aren’t a good team. But the 8-1 record is deceiving because Drake has yet to play a top 110 NET team and lost by 24 points to Stephen F. Austin, which is 4-4 against DI opponents with a NET of 123. Bulldogs star players of DeVries and Brodie power one of the best offenses in the nation, especially considering Drake has yet to shoot well from three (32.4 percent). If the Bulldogs hit eight plus 3-pointers, there’s a good chance they’ll win. But Nevada’s defense is much tougher than Drake’s, so I’ll give the Wolfpack the win. However, Nevada needs to play much better than it did Wednesday against UC Davis. Season Record: 7-0

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight into Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.

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