Nevada basketball didn't debut to rave reviews on the court Sunday night, but it did debut to rave reviews in the AP Top 25 preseason poll Monday morning.
The Wolf Pack placed seventh in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, the highest ranking in school history.
Nevada only trailed only Kansas (first), Kentucky (second), Gonzaga (third), Duke (fourth), Virginia (fifth) and Tennessee (sixth). North Carolina (eighth), Villanova (ninth) and Michigan State (10th) rounded out the top 10. It is the first time the Mountain West has had a preseason top-10 team.
Prior to today, the highest the Wolf Pack had ever placed in the AP Top 25 was 10th late in the 2006-07 season (it was ninth in the coaches poll that same year). Nevada's high-water mark in a preseason Top 25 is 22nd in 2005-06. This marks only the third time the Wolf Pack has earned a spot in the preseason Top 25, doing so in 2005-06 and 2006-07, when it ranked 24th in the AP poll to start the season. This also is one of the highest placements for a MW team ever, with BYU in 2010-11 holding the top mark (third in the nation).
Nevada returned four starters from last year's Sweet 16 team, including Caleb Martin (MW player of the year), Jordan Caroline (first-team All-Mountain West) and Cody Martin (MW defender of the year), who all tested the NBA draft waters before returning to school for their senior seasons. Nevada also added McDonald's All-American Jordan Brown and five Division I transfers who all averaged in double-figures at their previous school.
With all that talent, the Wolf Pack is aiming high this season, with many saying during last week's media day a national championship is the goal.
“That’s 100 percent what we’re shooting for," guard Jazz Johnson said. "If we believe anything else, if we think anything else about the way that our season should end, we’re selling ourselves short. There’s no other option but to think we can win a national championship.”
The season got off to an inauspicious start Sunday.
In its first exhibition game, the Wolf Pack was dealt a 91-73 loss to Washington. It was out-scored by 19 points in the second half. Coach Eric Musselman calmly roasted his team following the defeat. He was critical of his players' effort, especially on defense. Nevada allowed 51 second-half points.
“We’ve got such a long way to go," Musselman said. "We don’t usually give up 91 points. We don’t usually look like a team that quit with 3½ minutes to go. That’s not who we are since I’ve been here. You guys have seen me plenty of times all mad. It’s beyond that. It really is.
“It’s not worth it. They stunk. They didn’t play hard enough. And they can’t guard. I just have to go home and talk to my dog and ask Swish how he thinks we should play defense and maybe we’ll play a zone. We can’t play man-to-man. It’s a joke.”
AP Top 25 votes were due last Wednesday before Nevada hosted Washington, which was ranked 25th in the preseason poll. The Wolf Pack returns to the court Friday when it hosts San Francisco State in the Virginia Street Gym in its second and final exhibition. Nevada's season opener is Nov. 6 against BYU, which has won at least 20 games for 13 straight seasons.