Last week, I published a story titled, "What the Internet is saying about the Nevada basketball team" with a roundup of links to national coverage of the Wolf Pack. According to the pageviews, you really liked that article. Perhaps you have tired of just reading my thoughts on the team. So, we're back with "What the Internet is saying about Nevada basketball, Vol. 2." Here is a look at some national coverage of the Wolf Pack this week, with my thoughts attached. If you keep reading stuff like this, I'll keep rounding them up every week.
ESPN's Wolf Pack feature
ESPN's Jeff Borzello was in Reno and penned a long feature on the Wolf Pack headlined, "How Eric Musselman turned Reno into Nevada's basketball capital." You can read the story here. It was a good story from Borzello, although I would note Reno has been Nevada's basketball capital for some time. Let's just take a look at the last 15 seasons.
Nevada last 15 seasons (plus this year): 347-179; 66 winning percent; 12 20-win seasons; eight regular-season conference titles; three conference tournament titles; six NCAA Tournament berths (6-6 record in the tournament); two Sweet 16s; 12-12 against UNLV; six players drafted; 53 weeks in the AP Top 25; highest AP ranking of No. 5
UNLV last 15 seasons (plus this year): 328-189; 63.4 winning percent; nine 20-win seasons; zero regular-season conference titles; two conference tournament titles; six NCAA Tournament berths (3-6 record in the tournament); one Sweet 16; 12-12 against Nevada; four players drafted; 32 weeks in the AP Top 25; highest AP ranking of No. 11
So over the last 15 seasons, Nevada has more wins, fewer losses, three more 20-win seasons, nine more conference titles, three more NCAA Tournament wins, one more Sweet 16 berth, has spent 21 more weeks in the Top 25 and has two more players selected in the NBA draft when compared to UNLV. Reno has been Nevada's basketball capital for the last 15 years, at minimum.
Most dangerous teams
ESPN listed the most dangerous teams to win the national title outside of the top five. Nevada made the list. ESPN writes:
Why they're for real: Nevada is big and Nevada is experienced. That's enough to overwhelm most opponents, as the Wolf Pack start 6-foot-7 Cody Martin at point guard and surround him with four players just as tall or taller. They have three studs in Cody and his twin brother, Caleb Martin, as well as Jordan Caroline. All three players create matchup issues with their size and versatility and are all capable of putting up big offensive numbers.
Eric Musselman has also shored up some of Nevada's issues from last season, adding Old Dominion graduate transfer Trey Porter, who brings his 6-foot-11 size and is the X-factor at both ends of the floor. They push the pace offensively but still take care of the ball and constantly put pressure on the defense by attacking the rim. And as much attention as the offense gets, Nevada's defense has been even better. The Wolf Pack are by far the best defense in the Mountain West, allowing just 0.86 points per possession in conference play. Their size and length make them tough to score on at the rim.
"They have experience and talent at all spots, and versatility. You can't just key on one guy," one Mountain West coach said. "They also have the unique ability to switch everything defensively, which drives a lot of teams out of rhythm."
Why they're not: Because of Nevada's size and NBA-style offense, the Wolf Pack can at times get bogged down and go too isolation-heavy or settle for too many outside shots. They went 4-for-22 from 3-point range in their lone loss of the season, a 27-point blowout at New Mexico in early January. After ranking 25th in the country last season in 3-point percentage, they have dipped into the 200s after the graduation of Kendall Stephens and Hallice Cooke.
Caleb Martin, while an elite scorer, can be the bellwether of Nevada's offense at times. He finished with eight points on 2-for-14 shooting in the loss to New Mexico and shot a combined 21-for-57 in the Wolf Pack's final three losses last season.
"[At times] they don't have very good ball movement and ... they struggle to make enough perimeter shots consistently," one opposing coach said. "You have to have the bodies to put in spots defensively, [like] if they draw high-major teams that are physical to offset them."
That's a good summation. Nevada has an excellent defense backed by an inconsistent but potentially potent offense. It really comes down to Caleb Martin and the 3-point shooting. If both of those things are on (and they have been the last five halves), Nevada is impossible to stop in the Mountain West and a legit title contender.
CBS on the Wolf Pack
CBS national writer Gary Parrish was on NSN Daily this week to give the national perspective on the Wolf Pack.
"They're not only a legitimate Final Four contender, they're a legitimate national championship contender," he said.
Parrish also is a more bullish on the Wolf Pack's NCAA Tournament seeding than the consensus. He sees the Wolf Pack getting a two seed if it wins out and a four seed at worst despite not having a Quad 1 victory this season. He also doesn't think Nevada's relative lack of tough competition this regular season will be a big deal come March. Finally, Parrish discussed Eric Musselman's longevity at Nevada, a much discussed topic in town.
"If he's able to get a top-shelf job in a Power 5 league, if you're a Nevada fan you wish him all the best in the world and appreciate all he did for you and you go out and try to find the next great coach," Parrish said. "Short of that, you're going to hold on to him probably longer than the record suggests and history suggests you should. Once upon a time, you lost Mark Fox to Georgia. I don't think you'll lose Eric Musselman to a job like Georgia."
You can watch the full interview below.
Caleb Martin a national star
ESPN listed the 25 best players in the nation and Caleb Martin made the cut at No. 10. It writes of Martin:
10. Caleb Martin, Nevada Wolf Pack
This week, in what was supposed to be a tougher-than-usual road test for Eric Musselman's team, Martin scored 26 points on just 12 shots as the Wolf Pack put an 87-70 beating on UNLV in Las Vegas. Put that game on your 2019 shelf and label it vintage Musselman. Nevada is an elite defensive team that consistently overwhelms opponents and then primarily, though not necessarily exclusively, needs Martin to do what he does on offense. So far, that has been a winning arrangement 20 out of 21 times.
Jordan Caroline did not make the list, although he probably should have. I've been asked a lot of late about who the Mountain West player of the year front-runner is, and I've said Caroline. I've also been asked which Nevada player is most likely to make an All-American team, and I've said Caleb Martin. The reasoning: Martin just has more national street cred, as this story shows. But whoever is the MW player of the year gets an automatic spot on the AP All-American honorable mention list, so both Martin and Caroline could make that cut in one form or another.
ESPN's latest Bracketology has Nevada as a four seed against Texas State in San Jose as part of the West Region. That's down from a three seed last week. The lack of quality wins is going to be an issue for the Wolf Pack, which also is a four seed in the BracketMatrix consensus. For me, location is more important than seed anyway. If you're the Wolf Pack, you'd rather be a four seed in the West Region (playing in San Jose or Salt Lake City in the first two rounds) than a two seed in the East, South or Midwest Regions.
A few more links
* AP sports columnist Tim Dahlberg, who has some Sparks roots, penned a column titled, "No matter the name, No. 8 Nevada is for real."
* I took a look at Nevada's rising attendance and how it compares with other West Coast Schools. That story is here.
* I also took a look at one of the Wolf Pack's incoming transfers Eric Parrish, who could be the star of the 2019 class.