Nevada vs. TCU: Three keys to victory and a prediction

The Nevada men’s basketball team plays TCU on Friday in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic. 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 (10-1) vs. TCU (9-1)

When: Friday, 2 p.m. Pacific time

Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300 capacity)

TV/Radio: ESPN2/95.5 FM

Online: ESPN+

Betting line: No line posted

Three keys for Nevada to win

1. Adjust to the pressure: One thing that’s bothered Nevada the last two seasons is a high-pressure athletic defense. Well, TCU employs just that. And we saw with last year’s losses to UNLV as well as the NCAA Tournament game against Arizona State and this year’s lone loss to Drake, the Wolf Pack can get offensively flustered by a high-pressure defense. The Horned Frogs have great length and athleticism – 33rd in the nation in team height – and force 17.9 turnovers per game thanks to their 11.8 steals an outing (fourth in the NCAA). Kenan Blackshear, in particular, needs to be able to handle that pressure and remain productive, something that didn’t happen in the Arizona State game last season or Drake game this year. While TCU ranks just 131st in field-goal defense, it is 24th in the nation in KenPom defense. That’s because of its ability to create turnovers. Nevada cannot yield to that pressure defense.

2. Get back on defense: This key goes hand in hand with the first one as TCU has led the nation each of the last two seasons in fastbreak points. That’s because of its ability to create live-ball turnovers and race up the court for easy baskets. Nevada’s defense has been outstanding while TCU’s halfcourt offense is so-so. The Horned Frogs aren’t a great shooting team (32.4 percent from three) but are fantastic inside the arc (57.9 percent, 20th in the nation) in large part because of their ability to score off turnovers. The Pack should have defensive success if it limits itself to single-digit turnovers, but it must be prepared to play great transition defense against a team that plays lightning quick (No. 32 in tempo, per KenPom). TCU had a dual point guard situation with Micah Peavy (triple-double vs. Arizona State last week) and Jameer Nelson Jr. (3.6 assists, 3.0 steals per game), so it has elite open-court ballhandling.

3. Hit some threes: Nevada has not been a high-volume 3-point shooting team, and it doesn’t want to be so against TCU. That’d be playing into a weakness. But the Wolf Pack must hit some threes in this game. TCU averages 87.4 points per game, which ranks ninth in the nation. Nevada should hold the Horned Frogs below that mark, but the Wolf Pack will be hard pressed to keep up with TCU offensively unless it has one of its better 3-point shooting games. Nevada has made just 59-of-187 3-pointers (31.6 percent). The Wolf Pack has sunk more than 30 percent of its threes in four of 11 games. It must do better than that against TCU, whose length should give the Wolf Pack fits around the rim (I’m curious to see how Nick Davidson, who has played excellently this season, fares against that interior size). Jarod Lucas will be key. He must be on point and stretch that TCU defense to open things up down low.


TCU 83, Nevada 78: TCU has won back-to-back NCAA Tournament games for the first time in program history and was picked to finish fifth in this year’s preseason Big 12 poll, and that’s the nation’s best conference. The Horned Frogs have looked impressive this season, but they also have played a bottom-10 strength of schedule nationally. TCU has played only three top-240 NET teams and would be 1-2 in those games if not for a missed call by the refs in an 84-83 win over Georgetown. Given the weak schedule, we don’t know how good TCU is, but this looks like an NCAA Tournament team, and the hunch here is that length and pressure defense eventually wins out in a close win over Nevada. Season record: 10-1

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.


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