When it was announced during the offseason, the matchup between Nevada and Loyola Chicago immediately became one of the marquee games of the non-conference slate. It featured two teams that had plenty of hype for their own reasons: Nevada for coming into the season ranked nationally in the Top 10, and Loyola Chicago for coming off of a Final Four run the season prior.
Oh, and it was a rematch from last year’s Sweet 16 game, which the Ramblers narrowly won en route to the aforementioned Final Four trip.
Tonight, Nevada got its revenge, and it did so in dominant fashion. The Wolf Pack asserted their will right from the jump, and eventually won 79-65 in a game that was never close.
Nevada’s offense is an absolute juggernaut
The Wolf Pack came into the game with the top ranked offense in the country according to KenPom. They’d won every game by double digits, and were pouring in a whopping 92 points per contests through their first six games. By any metric, their offense is preposterously good. But you already knew that, and tonight was no different.
Right from the tip, Nevada got whatever it wanted on the offensive end. In the first half alone, Nevada scored 1.29 points per possession behind 27 first half points from the Martin twins. For the game, it finished at 1.18 points per possession, which is actually a touch less than its mark on the season. Nonetheless, it was a dominant performance all around for Eric Musselman’s crew. Nevada shot nearly 60 percent from the floor and hit over 40 percent of its threes. It’s hard to lose when that happens.
Loyola Chicago is still searching for its rhythm
This Ramblers team is not the one that made the Final Four last year, and that’s okay. The expectations going into this season, however, might have overrated them a bit. Through the first month of the season, it’s clear that Loyola Chicago is still finding its footing. It was clear in losses to Furman and Boston College, and it was clear tonight as it was severely overmatched by the bigger, more athletic Wolf Pack.
Last year’s offensive efficiency hasn’t carried over into this year, particularly from behind the arc. Coming into tonight, the Ramblers were shooting just 31.7 percent from distance, a significant dip from last year’s 39.6 percent clip. Tonight, they knocked down just 7-20 from distance, but also had 12 turnovers. It’s just not all clicking yet, but it’s still early. Don’t hit the panic button just yet.
Nevada is good enough to win it all
Is it possible to think the No. 5 team in the country is being overlooked? With Gonzaga claiming the No. 1 spot in the country, Kansas and Duke receiving their typical hype, and other more traditional programs staking their claim to the national conversation, it’s possible Nevada has flown a little under the radar.
Nevada is deep. Nevada is big. Nevada is athletic. It can match up with anyone in the country, and although this win won’t move the needle in the same manner as a win like Gonzaga’s, it’s still a damn good win. Beware the Wolf Pack. It might be a while before they lose. If they lose.