Q&A with Chris Murray of Reno-Gazette Journal : Nevada Wolfpack


Chris Murray of the Reno-Gazette Journal was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the upcoming matchup between Washington and Nevada. You can follow him on twitter at @MurrayRGJ and read his work here. Catch the game at 8pm tomorrow night on ESPNU.

What are the strengths of the Nevada Wolfpack?

The Wolf Pack’s hasn’t been able to develop one strength that it can bank on this season. It is still looking for an identity as a team. Nevada has four talented players in PG Deonte Burton, SG Malik Story, PF Olek Czyz and PF Dario Hunt, but hasn’t played a game in which all four were firing. The Wolf Pack has better depth this season than in past years and will cycle 10 players in and out of the game, but if you’re looking for one noticeable strength, there isn’t one at this point in the season.

What are the weaknesses?

Turnovers have been the biggest issues. Nevada is averaging 15.6 turnovers per game, most of which are unforced. The Wolf Pack has been sloppy with the ball and can’t do the same against Washington given the Huskies ability to cause turnovers. Nevada also has struggled to score, shooting only 40.4 percent from the field. With talents like Burton, Story, Czyz and Hunt, the offensive troubles have been the most alarming aspect to Nevada’s start this season.

Who would you identify as the star or the top performer for Nevada?

Burton is probably the most talented player on the team, but he is shooting only 31.7 percent from the field. He’s struggling offensively, like he did at the beginning of last season. Burton was named the WAC preseason player of the year, so he has a lot of potential and was dominant in some games at the end of last year. He’s quick off the dribble and gets into the lane. Story, an Indiana transfer, is a dynamite shooter when hot. He’s tied for sixth in the nation in 3-pointers made (23) and is shooting 53.5 percent from 3-point range. Czyz is a Duke transfer who started the season slow, but is coming around. Hunt is the best defender on the team, a true shot blocker.

How can they beat UW?

Nevada needs to get its offense on track, limit the turnovers and slow the pace of the game down. The Wolf Pack has good athletes, but not at the same level of Washington. The slower the game, the better for Nevada. The Pack needs to rebound better than it has of late and force some turnovers to get some easy baskets. Being at home, a good start is key. The Pack was blown out by Washington last season, so a poor start could throw some doubt into Nevada’s head early in the game. For the Pack to win, it needs the big four — Burton, Story, Czyz and Hunt — to all play well.

How can UW beat Nevada?

Washington can win if it speeds up the pace of the game and doesn’t turn the ball over. Nevada is struggling with its halfcourt offense, so the Huskies need to make the Wolf Pack earn baskets in the halfcourt. Washington also could have a plus-10 edge on the boards if it crashes hard. Pressuring Nevada would also be a good idea since the Pack has struggled with turnovers. If Washington plays a good, solid game, it should win.

What is your prediction for the game?

I have Washington winning 80-70. The betting line here in Reno is the Huskies minus-two. That surprised me. I thought it’d be higher.

Thanks Chris Murray!