Google Scouting Presents: Nevada Wolfpack

Logo courtesy of Chris Creamer's Sports Logos

Yes, I am preparing for my 330+ mile trip home to Chicago for the holiday season. But it doesn't necessarily mean that my job as a sports writer is done just yet. I'll be keeping a close eye on the Salukis of Southern Illinois University in between Christmas shopping and sleeping in.

Tonight's game is a rematch of one of last year's BracketBuster matchups as the Salukis return the favor as they hit the road on what must be their longest road trip of the year to face the Nevada Wolfpack.

Need some help trying to figure out what's up with Nick Fazekas' alma mater. Don't click next blog, just read down the page and you'll learn everything you need to know.

Location: Reno, Nevada. At 1,934.82 miles from Carbondale, the trip to Reno has got to rank up there on the longest road trip SIU will take this year. It's even far away from my third home, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. it's a 448.82 mile trek ... or 7 hours and 55 minutes. Here's hoping SIU AD Mario Moccia reads this blog and schedules a home-and-home with UNLV - which is 5 minutes from the MGM Grand.

Wolfpack. A pack of wolves are intimidating, so I'll give this mascot a thumbs up. If they have Sting, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, I would consider them to be dangerous.

Conference: Western Athletic Conference. It's logical, seeing they are pretty close to the Pacific Ocean. However, what is Louisiana Tech doing in the WAC? Just wondering.

Record: 4-4. Their record seems indicative of the roster the 'Pack puts out. Since their loss to SIU last year, they've lost their best scoring threat (Marcellus Kemp) and big man (JaVale McGee) to the pros.

Who to watch for: SIU head coach Chris Lowery told the media Thursday that freshman forward Luke Babbitt is a stud. The All-American (and future NBAer?) rejected a shot to play with Ohio State and the big boys of the Big 10 to stay at home. He is averaging 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Yet, another forward the Salukis are going to need to contain if they want to pick up a 'W' on the road.

Don't worry about... JaVale McGee and Marcellus Kemp. Both are gone, but neither was a factor against SIU last season. McGee, a legit 7-footer, was dominated by 6-foot-7 forward Randal Falker and Kemp was contained by defensive stopper Tyrone Green.

The 'X' Factor: SIU split a pair of payback games in its last homestand, beating Saint Louis and falling to Charlotte. Last season, the Salukis smoked Nevada, 74-49, and I'm sure that's a memory fresh in the minds of the Wolfpack.

Also road woes. SIU has struggled on the road in the last two years and the out of conference travel schedule might be getting to the young Salukis as the trip to Reno is the first of three straight games away from the friendly confines of the SIU Arena.

Notable: Nevada assistant coach Doug Novesek is a former Saluki sitting across enemy lines. Novesek is SIU's all-time leader in 3-point field goal percentage. I'm sure he is looking forward at a chance at redemption.

Quotable: I will be interested to see how freshman guard Torres Roundtree rebounds from Saturday's loss against Charlotte. Roundtree only scored one point in 20 minutes of action and was called for the foul that sent An'Juan Wilderness to the free-throw line in what would eventually lead to the 49ers' two-point win. Roundtree said in practice that he was ready to move on.

"What happened, happened. Now we live to fight another day. We just gotta be ready for the next one. We're battling a tougher team. We've just gotta rebound and find a way to get a win."

That's the spirit. Go get 'em champ!

Prediction: I'm writing this under the assumption that forward Anthony Booker (who didn't finish practice Thursday) and Nick Evans (wrist) are still injured (even though a birdie told me Evans has a shot to play) will not be playing tonight. Babbitt is a handful and a difference maker, so I'm daring the Salukis to prove me wrong. Nevada 67 Southern Illinois 66