Darrell Moody: Nevada Wolf Pack hype is now truth
The hype started not long after Eric Musselman was hired at the University of Nevada three seasons ago, and it hasn’t stopped.
Musselman’s energy, coaching ability and recruiting prowess has made Nevada one of the best basketball programs in the country.
His outgoing personality has made him a big hit with fans in the Northern Nevada community, and he continually reaches out to get more and more backers for the program.
Lawlor was a tough place to win before he got here, and it’s gotten tougher since. Just ask Rhode Island and Davidson, two of the Pack’s victims last season. Both of those A-10 teams made the tournament, and RI won the regular-season title.
The fervor around the program is non stop. I wouldn’t expect anything different after three straight postseason appearances, including last season’s thrilling run to the Sweet 16 in Atlanta when it lost to Loyola, 69-68.
Loyola went on to reach the Final Four, and I have chronicled here before that Nevada would have done the same thing had it not lost.
The season ended just a couple of weeks ago, and already national websites and print folks are making bold predictions about the Pack for next season. Most have Nevada as a top-10 team in their preseason polls.
I can understand the excitement to a point.
People take a look at Caleb and Cody Martin returning along with Jordan Caroline, Josh Hall and Lindsey Drew, who will be coming off a ruptured Achilles injury. Drew’s status is iffy right now. Barring a minor miracle, he won’t be ready until late December at the earliest. His absence was huge last year at both ends of the court, but especially on defense. He was a good on-the-ball defender and he could rebound.
Nevada will have the services of 6-2 Corey Henson, 5-10 Jazz Johnson, 6-1 Nisre Zozoua and 6-7 Tre’Shawn Thurman, all of whom redshirted last season. Thurman is a big body who should be able to help Caroline on the inside. The key is whether any of the other redshirts can replace sharpshooter Kendall Stephens.
Stephens had a phenomenal year, breaking the Mountain West and Nevada single-season record for made 3-pointers. Stephens was a true catch-and-shoot guy with a quick release, and at 6-7 he could shoot over players flying out at him.
Stephens had his worst game of the season against Loyola, going 0-for-8 from the floor, but he leaves a big gap. My only knock on Stephens is that he didn’t rebound like I felt he should have.
I certainly feel Nevada should start the season ranked in the top 15. The Pack will bring a lot to the table next season, but the experts should wait and see the final schedule, and more importantly, see who is still there the first day of practice.
The Martins and Caroline have declared for the draft but haven’t hired an agent. That is good news. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be drafted if they decide to go through the whole process. Everybody thought Cam Oliver was a sure bet to be drafted, but he didn’t, and played for two teams in the G League this season.
I’d like to see the aforementioned trio stick around until they graduate for obvious reasons. It makes the Pack the favorite to win another regular-season MW championship and a pretty solid bet to make the NCAAs for the third straight year.
And selfishly, they are good media guys. The Martins are down-to-earth and great quotes.
With one scholarship to give, barring any last-minute issues, Nevada is hard on the recruiting trail.
The Pack still covets 6-10 Jordan Brown from Prolific Prep in Napa, and a new name to emerge is 6-11 Michael Finke from Illinois, who would be eligible to play immediately as a graduate transfer Finke has length and can shoot the 3. Finke averaged 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds a game. He would be considered more of a stretch 4, but he has length, and that is what Nevada needs.
Getting either would be a coup. The Pack is going against the likes of Kansas and UCLA for Brown. Certainly all Finke needs to do is look at the success transfers have enjoyed at Nevada and playing for Musselman.