February 11, 2008 11:09 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
Utah State at Nevada (Western Athletic)
Lawlor Events Center - Reno, NV
10:05 PM EST
So tonight we have a rare Monday tilt in the Wickity WAC, made possible by an extreme-weather postponement on Jan. 5. (Snow in Nevada? We here at TMM are not exactly shocked about that.) It's Utah State, the 18-6 (8-1) leaders of the conference, traveling to four-in-a-row NCAA participant Nevada hanging in at 7-3 (15-8 overall), the latest in a four-year series of Pack-Aggie G!O!T!N! selections.
If there's a trend this year in the Western Athletic Conference, it's extreme youth. There will be more freshmen and sophomores on the floor this evening than your average fraternity spring rush, with 12 underclassmen in total across the two squads. We've been saying this for a while, but despite the WAC's obvious one-bid status, whichever team wins the autobid this year is instantly the favorite for the next two seasons... because there's nothing like championship experience on a young team to ensure future success. And perhaps that lucky team will be Utah State, winners of three straight and 13 of its last 14. An early 0-5 road start dug them into a hole, but the Aggies are starting to fire on a regularly complete set of cylinders. Despite its youth, the team is the fourth-best shooting team in the nation at 50.5 percent (the defense is another story). Senior leader Jaycee Carroll, he of WAC-high 21.5 ppg and 50.7 percent 3-point shooting (77-of-152), is showing the padawan Aggies the way.
On the other side is Nevada, which has a senior leader of its own, Marcelus Kemp. The 6-5 guard is second in the WAC scoring race at 19.2 ppg, leading a Pack phalanx of four double-figure underclassman scorers. Sophomore sensation JaVale McGee (13.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg) is the kind of tall (6-11) inside-outside threat that Nevada fans have come to love and expect after enjoying now-departed Nick Fazekas for so long, and the team as a whole is beginning to find the defense that championship teams tend to have. Since that 95-80 home embarrassment to Boise State, the Wolf Pack have held all but one opponent to sub-44 percent shooting. That one, of course, was USU, which torched Nevada for 54 percent in a 77-63 rollover in Logan just nine days ago. Payback time, or just pay-more?
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