I’m sure everyone is familiar with the extremely well publicized Nevada Wolf Pack out of the Mountain West Conference. Oh, you’ve never heard of them? Well now is the time to learn, before the March Madness NCAA Tournament.
Last year, Nevada received an at-large bid after a disappointing loss in the Mountain West Conference tournament. An at-large invitation is given to a team who does not win their conference tournament, but the selection committee believes deserves to play in March Madness. The Mountain West Conference usually only sends one team to the NCAA Tournament, the conference champion. This is because the conference is viewed as weak when compared to other conferences such as the ACC, SEC, Big 10 and so on. The Wolf Pack won two games in the NCAA tournament, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen, where they eventually lost to last year’s Cinderella team, Loyola-Chicago.
This season, Nevada returned almost their entire roster from last year, including twins Caleb and Cody Martin, who were last season’s Mountain West Player of the Year and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, respectively. The Martin brothers together are averaging 31 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Including the twins, Nevada has four starters who are averaging double digit points per game, which provides support if any one of those players are struggling in a certain game. The balanced game plan spreads the floor and opens up space in the lane on offense as well.
The Wolf Pack has what it takes to make a deep run
The two key attributes of team’s who make deep NCAA Tournament runs are bench depth and, believe it or not, tournament experience. The Wolf Pack have both. Head coach Eric Musselman plays eight to nine players every game. That’s a pretty standard bench rotation. However, the point here is that all those players for Nevada are team contributors. We’re starting to see the issue with lack of bench depth with teams such as Duke. The Blue Devils have three players who will be drafted in the top five picks of the NBA draft, yet with Zion sidelined, we are starting to see that sometimes stars cannot will their teams to victory by themselves. RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish are playing impressive basketball. However, the Blue Devils are now 3-2 in their last five games. They’re in danger of losing out on a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The second team attribute I mentioned above was tournament experience. The one and done is all the talk every year in college basketball. Which team had the best recruiting class? How many freshman will start? Will this freshman team go undefeated? Which of these freshman will be drafted where in the next NBA draft? It’s exhausting! Prior to 2015, the only real team to focus on cultivating a group of one and done players was Kentucky under head coach John Calipari. Is it a coincidence Kentucky has only won one National Championship with Calipari as coach? I think not.
We all remember the 2015 Wildcats team loaded with NBA talent from Karl Anthony Towns to Willie Cauley-Stein to Devin Booker. They lost in the semifinals to a veteran Wisconsin team filled top to bottom with upperclassmen. This current Nevada Wolf Pack team has eight seniors and four juniors. Most of them saw playing time in last year’s March Madness. The Wolf Pack will be a dangerous team come tournament time, you have my guarantee. It’s also important to note that they received a little extra motivation and fire for their upcoming conference tournament after Utah State fans stormed the court following a game earlier this week. Come join me as I live on the Nevada Wolf Pack hill, there is plenty of room up here.