The Nevada Wolf Pack had a lot of hype around them coming into the season and they’ve lived up to it for most of the season. However, they’ve run into a couple of speed bumps in the form of road losses against San Diego State and Utah State. Since these losses Nevada has dropped to #17 in the AP Poll and people are questioning how good the Wolf Pack really is.
Nevada’s recent losses have brought questions about their poor strength of schedule and if they’ve been good all along. They don’t have one great win but a lot of pretty good wins. Wins over BYU, USC, Arizona State, South Dakota State, Akron, Utah State, and Fresno State are all good but none are great and enough to get serious respect.
There is no reason to panic for Nevada. They are still 27-3 on the season and none of their losses are unexplainable. The first two losses, at New Mexico and at San Diego State, seemed to just be that Nevada got bored against weak competition and had a couple of poor shooting nights. The most recent loss, at Utah State, is a little different. Utah State is a top-40 KenPom team and this was their biggest game of the season. The crowd was chaotic and Nevada had another off shooting night. It really wasn’t a bad loss. The common denominator among these losses is that Nevada shot under 40% from the field and under 30% from three in all of them. Lucky for the Wolf Pack, they have a prolific offense and these subpar shooting nights do not come often. They are top-25 in points per game and have KenPom’s 22nd offense.
This team is very talented and has the ability to play with anybody. Caleb Martin is the offensive leader of the team, puts up 19.4 points a game and can score from anywhere. He’s athletic and a good shooter with NBA range. His brother Cody does a little bit of everything, averaging 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. He’s got great vision, leads the fast break, and is a good on-ball defender. Jordan Caroline returns from last year’s team as well and is in my opinion their best overall player. Caroline is a good defender, an aggressive rebounder, can run the floor, and can score off the dribble by bullying whoever is guarding him. He also has an underrated shooting stroke and is very athletic. Newcomers Tre’shawn Thurman, Jazz Johnson, and Trey Porter have all carved out significant roles and played well in them. Thurman is athletic and physical and is a good defender and rebounder, Johnson is a great shooter, 44% from three, and Porter has brought much needed rim-protection to the Wolf Pack defense. These players make up most of a talented and experienced rotation.
Last year’s team played only a slightly tougher schedule and had twice the amount of regular season losses. This team is even more experienced and talented than last year. Their defense has gotten exponentially better and made for a more balanced team better suited for the tournament. Also, their tournament run last season could have earned them some respect from the selection committee and could help them get a better seed this year. The experience of this team bodes well for them overcoming their recent losses as well. Eric Musselman has built this team through the transfer market and has created one of, if not the most experienced team that college basketball has ever seen. I’d bet on the Nevada Wolf Pack bouncing back and winning the conference tournament and parlaying a good seed into a deep tournament run. With a team this good it is understable to get bored in the Mountain West and lose a game every once in a while, but I think they will turn it on when it matters.