LAS VEGAS — Nevada, despite not having a single first-place vote, was picked to finish second in the Mountain West Conference by a vote of the media covering the conference.
The Wolf Pack is coming off a 24-14 season under first-year head coach Eric Musselman. Nevada won five of its last six games last season, and capped the year by beating Morehead State in the College Basketball Invitational finals.
“Everybody on the team wants to play in the tournament with four letters not three,” Musselman said at Wednesday’s Mountain West Media Day. “Nobody wants to play in a tournament with three letters.
“It was a great experience for our two freshmen. It gave our players confidence. It also helped the city get rejuvenated about basketball.”
Interest had definitely waned since the Wolf Pack stopped going to the NCAA Tournament. Until last season, the Pack had little success in the Mountain West.
To no one’s surprise, San Diego State is the media’s preseason pick to win the 2016-17 Mountain West Conference championship.
The Aztecs, coached by Steve Fisher, are coming off a 28-10 season and a third straight MW regular-season championship. They have won or shared five of the last six MW regular titles, and won one MW post-season title.
San Diego State had 293 points, Nevada 253, New Mexico 249, Fresno State 200, Boise State 164, Utah State 153, Colorado State 146, UNLV 120, Air Force 90, Wyoming 73 and San Jose State 41. New Mexico had three first-place votes and Fresno State had one.
MW-MISSOURI VALLEY CHALLENGE: The pairings have been announced for this year’s Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge, and nine of the 10 match-ups take place on Dec. 3.
San Diego State visits Loyola, Boise State visits Evansville, Nevada takes on Bradley, New Mexico travels to Illinois State,, and Fresno State is at Drake. Utah State hosts Indiana State and Northern Iowa visits Wyoming.
On Dec. 19, UNLV hosts Southern Illinois.
NEW FACES: UNLV and Wyoming have new head coaches.
The new UNLV coach, 54-year-old Marvin Menzies, is no stranger to Pack fans. Menzies comes from New Mexico State where he compiled a 198-111 in nine years. He made the post-season in each of his last five seasons at NMSU. He had previous ties to UNLV, having served as an assistant under Lon Kruger during the 2004-05 season.
“I know I wasn’t the first choice, but I guarantee you I was the coach that wanted this job the most,” Menzies said in a press release after being hired. “I also know if you gave me a choice of any university in the United States to coach, my first choice would have been UNLV. I can say that with credibility because I already had a stint here. I’m excited to be here.”
Menzies is happy UNLV had a practice facility built when Kruger was head coach of the Rebels, and he’s excited the team will now charter everywhere thanks to Maurice Gallagher, president of Allegiant.
He does, however, return just three players from last year’s team. He has 10 new players, including two graduate transfers, Uche Ofoegbu and Christian Johnson.
Allen Edwards steps in at Wyoming after Larry Shyatt resigned following a 14-18 season. Edwards played at Kentucky, and has been an assistant at Kentucky, Morehead State, VCU, Towson, Western Kentucky and Wyoming since 2002.
One of the things Edwards wants to do is get the Cowboys to play a more up-tempo style compared to Shyatt’s deliberate, grind it out style offense.
“I want us to be more aggressive offensively and defensively,” Edwards said. “I want our guys to be confident offensively. Defensively I want us to create opportunities (for the offense).”
Edwards hired Jermaine Kimbrough as one of his assistant coaches. Kimbrough spent the 2015-16 season at Nevada working under Musselman.