When: Friday, February 4 at 8:00 p.m. PT
Or: Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.
Online TV: Fox Sports 1 || foxsports.com
Spread: Fresno State -9
Money line: Nevada +360, Fresno State -410
Death, taxes and West Mountain basketball at 8 p.m. on a Friday night. The three guarantees in life and fortunately we have the last to forget the previous two.
Before we dive in, I’m very disappointed that Boise State vs. Wyoming couldn’t be moved to this location and played Thursday instead. Two of Mountain West’s best teams deserve to have the nation’s eyes on them. Nobody’s fault but the universe.
Context to nibble
This is the second installment of Nevada and Fresno State going head-to-head in the sanctimonious Friday 8 p.m. slot on FS1. The first game gave Nevada a 77-73 win. The Bulldogs dominated the first half, at one point having a 75% chance of winning, but stumbled out the door in the second half and the Wolfpack controlled the game from there.
Fresno State turned up the heat late, making it a two possession lead for the Wolfpack with 1:30 to go. The Bulldogs were on hand to deliver a Stone Cold Stunner to Nevada, but couldn’t get that crucial turnover that ended in a three or a field goal transition.
Fresno State has gone 2-1 since the loss, beating New Mexico, losing to Boise State and battering the Spartans by 30 points.
If you read last week’s column, you know how in love I am with their star center Orlando Robinson. He’s averaging 19.2 PPG (4th in the conference) and 8.3 boards per game (5th in the conference), a huge problem overall that does a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score. . From freeing up cheap real estate to keeping drivers away from the rim, his presence is always felt.
Last week, I described it as follows:
“If you put Maximilian’s ‘aren’t you entertained’ cruelty in Gladiator and Mister Fantastic’s limbs/dexterity in Fantastic Four into a blender, you get Orlando Robinson”
After watching him wreak havoc on the Spartans on Tuesday, I came away with a new appreciation and perspective from him.
He’s practically a mix between stoic and robotic. His success seems automated like a well-running engine, and his face never shows the slightest hint of a smile or frown. He watched Medusa, turned to stone, and then developed NBA-level talent.
I don’t want my buzz taking away any more stellar Bulldogs parts. He has incredible talents like Anthony Holland, Isaiah Hill and Leo Colimeiro.
In the Spartans’ recent beating, the team combined to shoot an insane 8 of 12 of three. When the Spartans crashed into Robinson, there were Bulldogs on the perimeter letting him fly with insane precision.
The Bulldogs are a solid team that sits bottom-tier at Wyoming, Boise State, and Colorado State. The 6 losses on their CV were relatively close and will drag all night.
Now is the time to take a look at the Wolfpack.
A completely different team depending on which side of the half-court they are on.
When they have the ball on offense, you’re looking at a team that asserts dominance as soon as they walk through the door like Gordon Ramsey in “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Top scorers Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge Jr. aren’t afraid to expose passive defense or tell you your lamb chop would be ignored by a pig at a watering hole.
Their 73 PPG is fifth in the conference, which is enough to sit at the adult table with Colorado State, Wyoming and Boise State. However! The 75 PPG they allow is the second worst.
It’s as if they go from wearing their usual shoes to playing with cement boots or ice skates.
They’ve given up a 100 once and at least 98 twice this year.
In their recent loss to UNLV, they allowed an incredible 42 in the first half. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only loss they suffered that night.
If you don’t understand, ask your grandkids why it’s hilarious.
That spinning move UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton put on Wolfpack center Will Baker was a felony for public humiliation. As punishment, he would have to go to the boardwalk in Vegas and pick up cigarette butts until he filled a milk jug. That should take him about two listens to “American Pie.”
Bad defense, if it wasn’t made very clear, but pretty solid on offense minus the 49 points scored against Utah State last Saturday.
Grant Sherfield was DNP against UNLV so his status for Friday night is clear, but if he is able to play it will be huge.
His 1 of 12 nights on the field against Utah State could be related to the shoulder injury as it was his worst game of the year by a campaign mile.
No Sherfield opens up space for Cambridge Jr. or Kenan Blackshear to tear the Bulldogs defense to shreds. Blackshear’s 17 points against UNLV set him a season high in a single game.
It’s an upcoming men’s league and Blackshear has the opportunity to make the most of it.
Choose to enjoy
My career as a handicapper for Mountain West Connection started with a victory thanks to Marcus Shaver and Boise State. That was moons ago and you’re only good for your last ticket, so there’s no time to get complacent.
Moneyline Boise State for me came off the hip with little debate. Choosing the spread of this one put me in a mental pretzel. Nine points feels like a big mountain for Fresno State to climb knowing they lost to them in Game 1. On the other hand, Nevada has lost three straight since then, by at least double digits each time. It goes without saying that Sherfield is not 100% and his injury could cut his wings.
There’s not enough there to get me buying in Nevada so I’ll take Fresno State -9. My eyes might be too big for my stomach on this one, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. If Fresno State keeps hitting three like it’s a habit they can’t break, it’ll be over long before the game’s final buzzer. Don’t let the specter of the previous game inform the outcome of the one right in front of you.
I’m also willing to throw over 131.5 on my ticket. Nevada defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed and if they couldn’t handle Utah State or UNLV I don’t see how they can stop State from Fresno. Robinson will make it easier for seven-foot Will Baker.
The real question is will Nevada do its part? Saying yes to that isn’t a huge leap of faith, because Nevada can’t put points on the board and don’t go all out on a big one.
Congratulations on making it through to another Friday now let’s ride the red wave.