4.Nevada Wolf Pack
The Wolf Pack have made it to back to back NCAA Tournaments while winning two straight Mountain West Conference Championships, however, this years team looks poised to not only do those things but they look to make a statement in March by making it to the Final Four or by winning a National Championship. The Wolf Pack return their three leading scorers as both Caleb and Cody Martin, along with Jordan Caroline are back. The Wolf Pack will add four sit-out transfers in Jazz Johnson, Corey Henson, Nisre Zouzoua, and Tre’Shawn Thurman, all of who were elite players at their previous stop. The Wolf Pack do bring in two true centers in Trey Porter and Jordan Brown, who provide some interior play, something they haven’t had in the past. With this much talent on the roster, Nevada not only could win the Mountain West but they also have a chance to make a deep NCAA Tournament run and they could be the last team standing if things break right in the Tournament.
The Wolf Pack have a solid group of incoming players that should get minutes at the guard position, playing alongside the Wolf Pack’s high amount of wings. Lindsey Drew would regularly be the teams point guard, however, due to injury concerns he might take a red-shirt year. Cody Martin looks like a solid option to start at the point guard position, he is a great defender, while he is a good passer, although his shooting numbers aren’t great. Jazz Johnson looks to be the lead option to play at a guard position, he is a combo guard who has been able to both handle the point and hit threes while at Portland. Bryant transfer Nisre Zouzoua is a combo guard who can handle the point, while he does look to be an instant offense off the bench. Wagner transfer Corey Henson is another guard, who looks to play minutes this season, he has proven to be a good scorer, while being a decent defender. The Wolf Pack will likely start the season with Cody Martin at the point, however, I think it would be in the teams best interest to have one or two of these other guards on the court at all times to help provide some floor-spacing.
The Wolf Pack have a great mixture of big men who should help this team space the floor while having the ability to block shots down low. The star is, of course, going to be Caleb Martin, who won Mountain West Player of the year last year and he looks poised to do it this year. Martin can guard 1-5, while he is a good shooter from deep, all things that make him a tough player to guard. Jordan Caroline will likely be the teams Power Forward, he is a great post player, which does help him score at a high level, and with him playing against Power Forwards and not Center’s he now looks to take advantages of some mismatches as he is more physical than most 4’s. Tre’Shawn Thurman was a high scoring forward at Omaha, he should get minutes off the bench while Martin or Caroline need a break. Down low, the decision for starting center will come between either grad transfer Trey Porter or Five-Star freshman Jordan Brown. Porter is a grad transfer from Old Dominion, who was a good low-post scorer while being a good rebounder and rim protector. Jordan Brown is a more athletic player, he looks to be a good interior scorer for the Wolf Pack as well, while also providing a rim-protector. Freshmen Vice Lee and KJ Hymes are both three-star recruits who look like good building blocks for the future, however, they look poised to red-shirt this season. The positioning at the 3 and the 4 seems to be set in stone, as Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline look to dominate at those positions, the real question should come between Brown and Porter to see who can give the most quality minutes for the Wolf Pack. Eric Musselman has flirted with the idea of starting both Brown and Porter as well, however, that doesn’t seem like a good idea as it takes away some floor-spacing.
The Wolf Pack have put together a non-conference schedule that does include a few tough games, however, it does not blow anyone away and it could potentially hurt them come Selection Sunday. The Wolfpack will start the season with four straight home games, before playing in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Holiday Classic, where they will play Tulsa and either Southern Illinois or Umass. They will play at Loyola-Chicago on November 27th as part of the Mountain West/ Missouri Valley Challenge, that game will be especially intriguing as that is a rematch from last years Sweet 16. The Wolf Pack will then play at Southern California on December 1st, which could be their toughest game of the regular season. The Wolf Pack will play Arizona State in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in the Staples Center on December 7th. Two days later they will play Grand Canyon in Phoenix as part of the Jerry Colangelo Classic. The Wolf Pack play two more home games before wrapping up non-conference play on December 29th when they will play at Utah. The Wolf Pack begin Mountain West play on January 2nd against Utah State, with their conference schedule wrapping up on March 9th when they play San Diego State at home. The Mountain West Conference Championship runs March 13th-16th, with the NCAA Tournament starting this season on March 19th.
What to expect this season
The Wolf Pack have a lot of quality players with a lot of quality experience, however, for most, they will be suiting up for Nevada for the first time this year, so you might see some struggles in terms of rotations, minutes, and this will affect them on the defensive end. Offensively they should be fine, which will help them win most of their non-conference games while staying highly ranked in the polls. Once Mountain West play starts this team should start to roll, as they look not only to win the Mountain West but they also will be looking to go undefeated in league play. The Wolf Pack should win the Mountain West Conference Tournament, which will help get them a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. In the NCAA Tournament they look poised to not only make it back to the Sweet 16 but also they could advance to the Final Four and potentially win the National Championship.
PG: Jazz Johnson
SG: Cody Martin
SF: Caleb Martin
PF: Jordan Caroline
C: Jordan Brown
Key Reserves: Corey Henson, Nisre Zouzoua, Tre’Shawn Thurman, Trey Porter
*Lindsey Drew would start at point guard in place of Jazz Johnson if he plays this season