For my money, Colorado State is the best team team the Rebels have seen this season. The Rams (21-4, 8-2) have everything you need to make a deep NCAA tournament run — talent, size, good coaching, experience (five senior starters), and perhaps most importantly, an identity. CSU knows exactly what kind of team it is, and the Rams play to their strengths every time they take the court.
That’s something UNLV has struggled with this year, as we’re five games from the postseason and the Rebels still don’t have a true identity. But that’s not to say they can’t knock off No. 22 Colorado State on Wednesday (7:15 p.m., CBS Sports). Let’s take a look at some of the numbers that could determine which team comes out on top of this late-season showdown.
Over/Under: 5.5 points for Mike Moser
Moser scored nine points in the win over San Diego State, and that constituted his highest total since he netted 14 against Air Force on Jan. 12. Moser also looked healthier than he has in months, and Dave Rice could sure use all the big bodies he has available to him against Colorado State. That leads me to believe Moser will once again see upwards of 20 minutes on Wednesday, and I think he can knock down a couple shots to get him to the OVER.
Over/Under: 20.5 combined rebounds for Pierce Hornung and Colton Iverson
Both of the Rams’ big men average 9.6 rebounds per game, and together they help make CSU the best rebounding team in the country (42.3 per game). The Rams have won the rebounding battle in every game this season, including topping the Rebels, 36-34, in that department when the teams met in Fort Collins a month ago. Fans will remember that as the game where Anthony Bennett struggled to cross half court on one occasion and finished with nine points and six rebounds. I think Bennett’s conditioning has improved since then, but I still don’t think he can match Hornung’s effort level on the boards. I’m taking the OVER.
Over/Under: 15.5 second-chance points for Colorado State
This ties in to the previous entry. In the first meeting, CSU tallied 17 second-chance points and won the game, 66-61. Dave Rice has stressed the importance of competing on the glass in this game, but I have to wonder if the Rebels are capable of matching up. Every time I start to lean toward the under, I think back to CSU closing out the first meeting by grabbing an offensive rebound on the game’s biggest possession. Bennett and Khem Birch are dynamic players, but neither is a physical presence on the boards. Rebounding is the Rams’ strength; it’s just what they do. OVER.
Over/Under: 6.5 assists for Anthony Marshall
One stat that went unnoticed in the first meeting was UNLV’s assist total, as the Rebels recorded just six helpers. For a team ranked sixth in the nation in that category (17.2 per game), it underscored just how much the offense struggled. Colorado State was extremely physical with Bennett, and the Rams’ overall strategy of turning Anthony Marshall into a scorer worked to perfection — the MWC’s leading assist man (6.0 per game) took a team-high 17 shots and dished out just three dimes. But I don’t think that game plan will work at the Thomas and Mack Center. The Rebels will be fired up, they’ll be running the floor better and there will be less standing around on offense, which will open up passing lanes for Marshall. I think he’ll go OVER.
Over/Under: 0.5 3-pointers for Justin Hawkins
It’s been a tough month for Hawkins, as the much-respected senior sixth man has suffered through the worst shooting slump of his life. He’s now missed 18 straight 3-pointers after going 0-for-3 against San Diego State, but there were other signs that Hawkins may be ready to snap out of it. He played great defense and generally seemed active and engaged at both ends, a turnaround from his listless performance at Air Force. I have a feeling that he just needs to see one long-range shot drop before the floodgates open, and I think he makes that shot at some point on Wednesday. Going with my gut and the OVER.
Prediction: UNLV 71, Colorado State 69
Player of the Game: Bryce Dejean-Jones — 18 points, six rebounds, one steal
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