Game Day Preview: Nevada Wolf Pack


University of Nevada (Public – Research Institution)
Mascot: Wolf Pack
Location: Reno, NV
Enrollment: 17,800

2010-2011 Record: 13-19 (9-9 in Western Athletic Conference)
RPI: 194
Coach: David Carter (3rd year)

First Thought: This is the final season in the WAC for Nevada before it moves to the Mountain West Conference.

Best Win: 81-66 over Montana (RPI 106)
Worst Loss: 76-75 to Pepperdine (RPI 243)
Last Game: 66-60 loss to New Mexico State in the 2nd round of the WAC tournament

Average Scoring: 70.2 ppg (#130)
Average for Opponents: 62.4 ppg

Synopsis: The University of Nevada has been a dominant force in WAC basketball for the last 9 years. They have appeared in the NCAA tournament four times since 2003, plus 4 other appearances in post-season tournaments (2 NIT and 2 CBI). After 8-straight post-season appearances, they took a step back in the 2nd year under David Carter, following the departure of Mark Fox to George in 2009.

With the success that Nevada has had in recent years, including 7 straight 20-win seasons between 2004-2010, it seemed logical that Romar would schedule this 2-for-1 series with Nevada. Nevada has been the type of team Romar likes to schedule because of their strong RPI, yet still a likely UW victory. Unfortunately, it turned out the first game of that series was a year when Nevada was way down below their expectations. So, the question is, was it just a blip on the screen for this successful program or a sign of things to come out of Reno?

Well, there is reason to be very optimistic that Nevada will be competitive in the WAC this year. They are returning their four leading scorers from last year who all averaged more than 12 ppg. This core group includes sophomore point guard Deonte Burton, who averaged 13.7 ppg (35.5% from 3-point range) and led the team in assists, as well as, 6’5″ junior shooting guard Malik Story, who led the team with 14.6 ppg and nearly 40% from 3-point range. Also back is their front line of 6’8″ senior forward Dario Hunt (12.4 ppg and 9.7 rbs) and 6’7″ senior forward Olek Czyz (12.3 ppg).

This core group will all need to be watched, because all of them put up at least 24 points in a game at least once, including Malik Story’s 34 points against Fresno State in the WAC tournament. To complement this core group, Nevada is also bringing in 6’6″ sharp-shooting wing Joey Shaw who is transferring from Indiana (after a year at College of Southern Idaho – the same school Aziz N’Diaye went to).

Nevada also was a team that started to get its act together late in the season after a horrendous 3-10 start (13-9 after that). So, with that improved chemistry, it is possible they will get off to a much better start this year with everyone back together.

What remains to be seen from Nevada is what their bench will do. This was a team that relied heavily on its starters, with only 6’8″ sophomore Jerry Evans playing more than 12 min per game while only scoring 4.9 ppg in 18 mins. Will their young bench players mature and be ready to take on a bigger role this year? If not, then teams like UW who like to run and have deep benches will simply wear down Nevada over the course of 40 minutes.

My analysis: Nevada loves to run. They averaged more than 70 ppg despite only having 5 returning players who played major minutes last year. So, the key with this team is to shut down their starters and to simply run them into the floor. At 6’5″, Story will be the toughest to cover. But, luckily UW has guards of a similar size to handle him.

Without much help off the bench, if you can stop their main men from being effective out there, they do not have much of an answer. Last year UW beat them 90-60 at Hec Ed. But, this year the game is in Reno. Will a more mature Nevada team playing at home pose a bigger challenge against a more inexperienced UW team? I suspect they will and this is a game to be worried about. I think UW’s bench depth and overall talent level should result in a UW victory. But, we all know what can happen on the road…

My Prediction: UW 83 Nevada 79