Nevada hits the charts at No. 10
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – For the first time in school history, the Nevada men’s basketball team has reached the top 10 in a national poll.
After running its record to 22-2 overall with an 81-68 road win at Fresno State last Thursday, Nevada learned Monday afternoon that it has been ranked 10th in the USA Today/ESPN poll, which is voted on by college coaches around the country. Nevada was ranked 11th in last week’s poll.
It was expected that Nevada could get a No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press poll too, but Washington State, on the strength of home wins over Cal and Stanford, jumped four places and nabbed the 10th spot. Nevada is 11th, a scant six points behind the Cougars.
As expected, Nevada players and coach Mark Fox took the news in stride. Fox had said since last week that he’s trying to stress to his players the “one game at a time approach.”
“It doesn’t mean much to us,” point guard Ramon Sessions said. “We just go out and take it a game at a time. We look forward to playing San Jose State.”
“We don’t pay much attention to it,” reserve guard Lyndale Burleson said. “Obviously it’s going around the school.”
Don’t believe for a second, the Nevada players don’t care about it. They realize, however, that there are still a few weeks left in the season and anything can happen.
With only six regular-season games left plus the WAC Tournament, it can only help Nevada to be as high as it can be in the national polls.
“It’s an honor,” Fox said. “It’s not something we worry about. It’s not something we set out to do. The only thing we worry about is trying to move forward and win another game.
“I don’t know if the (NCAA) selection committee looks at them. Hopefully it (the ranking) will help get an invitation if we don’t earn our way in. We don’t believe in self-promotion here. When the school receives recognition for what you do, we take a lot of pride. It’s nice for coaches to recognize that.”
The historical significance of Nevada’s feat wasn’t lost on All American forward Nick Fazekas. And, he’s aware of the excitement that surrounds a school-best ranking.
“It’s definitely historical,” Fazekas said. “It’s an accolade. It’s not our goal. Rankings come and go. We’re not going to sit there and live on a top 10 ranking.
“When you get to see Nevada in the top 10, it’s never happened before and may never happen again. It’s something to get excited about.”
With two home games this week – Wednesday’s game against San Jose State and Saturday’s BracketBuster game against Northern Iowa – Nevada players are hoping their fans will be out in full force.
“There’s nothing like it (playing in front of a full house),” Fazekas said. “You get 11,000 fans climbing on your back and pulling for you. It gives us an advantage. It’s definitely cool. It’s what you want for an environment.”
“The home crowd can be an unbelievably imposing on a visiting team,” Fox said. “I think you see more and more in college basketball that playing at home is a real advantage. The noise is staying inside. It can’t just last 30 seconds. It has to be the entire night.”
Fox could have been referring to the Hawai’i game. Except for the final minute when the game was on the line, the crowd was a bit on the passive side. No doubt, he’d love to see a home crowd that never sat down the entire game. That in itself could be intimidating for a visiting team.
SESSIONS, KEMP ARE MUM
Sessions and Marcelus Kemp have enjoyed outstanding seasons, and both were asked if they might test the NBA in the off-season.
One site has Sessions as a No. 1 pick after his senior year. The same site has Kemp as a second-round pick.
“It’s not on my mind,” Sessions said. “I’m just trying to get wins.”
“I’m not really thinking about the NBA,” Kemp said. “I’m thinking about college basketball right now.”
OFFENSE LOOKS GOOD
Nevada is averaging a shade more than 77 points a game, and that isn’t really surprise.
“We have guys that are comfortable in our system,” Fox said. “It’s a complex system. We have an experienced team. We start five guys who can finish plays.”
In conference play, four of Nevada’s five starters are averaging in double figures. Fazekas lead the way at 20.6, followed by Kemp 18.5, Sessions 13.3 and Kyle Shiloh 10. Denis Ikovlev is averaging 7.1.