Pack ready for tourney
RENO — One goal down and a couple to go.
When the Wolf Pack knocked off Colorado State, 85-72, to win the Mountain West regular-season title, Nevada’s first since joining the MW, here was a tremendous celebration on the court as happy fans stormed the court to be near their heroes.
When Cameron Oliver, Marcus Marshall and D.J. Fenner made the trek to the media room, they had a somberness to them. They knew they still had business to finish.
“It was one of our goals to accomplish,” Oliver said. “We’re not through. One of our goals was to win (a regular-season championship). We are not done yet.”
“Like Cam said, we are not through,” Marshall said. “We have a few more games left.”
That was one thing coach Eric Musselman stressed in the locker room after the post-game celebration. He pointed out that one of the last 10 regular-season champs won the conference tourney.
“It was a great accomplishment, but it’s over with now,” Musselman said. “We start a new three-game season, I hope it’s a three-game season. It could be a one-game season. It is up to us and how well we perform. The guys are looking forward to the challenge.
“Everybody should be highly motivated. Two of the three seasons are over, the preseason and regular season. The third season is the shortest.
Four Nevada players — Marshall, Oliver, Fenner and Jordan Caroline — were honored by Mountain West media members.
Marshall, a transfer from Missouri State, was named Newcomer of the Year and first-team all-conference, and Oliver was named Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all conference.
Caroline was a second-team pick and Fenner was a third-team selection.
The media voted CSU’s Larry Eustachy as Coach of the Year. The Rams were picked to finish seventh at the start of the year by the media.
Musselman and San Jose State’s Dave Wojcik also received votes.
Oliver named POW again
Oliver, who averaged 21 points and 11.5 rebounds last week, garnered Player of the Week honors.
In the title-clinching win over Colorado State on Saturday, Oliver scored a career-best 29 points and pulled down a season-best 17 rebounds. Against San Jose State, he scored 13 points and pulled down six rebounds.
Nevada won ts first coference title since the 2011-12 season.
“Cam is playing really well right now,” Musselman said. “He played very well in the CBI final series. We need him to play well in Las Vegas to win. Marcus has to play well, and Jordan and D.J have to play well.”
History on Nevada’s side
Based on past history, Nevada is in a good position entering this week’s Mountain West Basketball Championships in Las Vegas.
The MW regular-season or co-champion has advanced to the finals of the tournament 13 times in 17 years, and the regular-season champion has won the event seven times.
San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV are the only current MW members to win a regular-season title and a conference tournament title in the same year. Also, the 2013 Lobos and the 2006 Aztecs are the only teams to capture the tournament title after winning the regular-season title outright.
The two top seeds have met eight times in the championship game, and the No. 2 seed has won all eight meetings.
Based on its 25 regular-season wins, Nevada still has an outside shot to get an at-large bid should it not win the tournament.
The annual tournament kicks off Wednesday at 11 a.m. with San Jose State and Utah State squaring off in the 8-9 game. The winner faces Nevada on Thursday at noon.
At 1:30 p.m. No. 7 Wyoming takes on No. 10 Air Force, and at 4 p.m. No. 6 San Diego State takes on No. 11 UNLV. All three Wednesday match-ups will be aired on the Mountain West Network and Twitter.
On Thursday, Nevada plays at noon followed by No. 4 Fresno State against No. 5 New Mexico at 2:30. Colorado State, the No. 2 seed plays the Wyoming-Air Force winner at 6 p.m., and No. 3 Boise State plays the UNLV-Fresno State winner at 8:30 p.m.
The semifinals on Friday are at 7 and 9:30 a.m., and the championship game is at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Nevada, by virtue of its regular-season championship, has already secured an automatic bid into the NIT should it not win the conference tournament.
Busy week in Las Vegas
Sin City will be rocking this week with three different college basketball tournaments taking place, NASCAR has a race on the weekend, and there is a convention in town expected to attract more than 1,000 people. Room rates all over town are astronomical on the Strip, going for a minimum $250 a night. Even Motel 6’s near the strip are costing $175 a night. Boulder City, Primm and Jean offer the best rates if you don’t mind driving 20 or 30 miles to go to a game.
If you want to attend the games in Las Vegas, single-session or all-session tickets can be purchased by going to TheMW.com/2017 for more information.