#50 Nevada Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Nevada Wolf Pack
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #50
Conference Rank: #1 Mountain West
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Nevada won the Mountain West regular season and tournament championships last year and they are back and ready for another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Eric Musselman had opportunities to go to a larger program, but opted to stay with the Wolf Pack. After a CBI championship in his debut campaign and an NCAA Tournament appearance last year, Nevada did a great job of securing Coach Musselman’s services. There are some huge holes to fill, but there are also five eligible transfers with power five experience.
2016-17 Record: 29-6, 15-3
2016-17 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Eric Musselman
Coach Record: 52-21 at Nevada, 52-21 overall
Who’s Out:
Cameron Oliver opted to head to the professional ranks after his sophomore season. He is coming off a big year in which he averaged 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. Losing the 6-8, 225 pound presence in the paint will be an issue Nevada has to deal with on both ends of the court for quite some time. Leland King II added some decent minutes off the bench in the frontcourt as a senior as well. The departures on the perimeter are just as big. Marcus Marshall led the team with 19.7 points per game and was a very prolific outside shooter. D.J. Fenner was a big time shooter too and connected on an impressive 43.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc during his senior season. Point guard Devearl Ramsey opted to transfer after seeing limited minutes as a freshman.
Who’s In:
There are five eligible Division I transfers this year and four more who will sit on the sidelines during the 2017-2018 campaign. The highlights of the eligible newcomers are the Martin brothers, Caleb and Cody. They come to Reno from North Carolina State and will immediately bolster the new look frontcourt. Both were part-time starters with the other Wolfpack two years as sophomores. Cody averaged 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists, while Caleb scored 11.5 points and added 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Darien Williams, a 6-8 center graduate transfer from St. John’s, will add more muscle in the paint. He averaged 3.8 points and 2.6 rebounds with the Red Storm last season. Hallice Cooke and Kendall Stephens are the transfers on the perimeter. The well-traveled Cooke played limited minutes with Iowa State two years ago, but was more productive earlier in his career while at Oregon State. Stephens is a big 6-7 guard who had some ups and downs during his three seasons with Purdue. He did prove that he can score and shoot. John Jones is the lone incoming freshman and he should have time to develop his game.
Who to Watch:
The newcomers would form a pretty good team on their own, but there is talent coming back too. Lindsey Drew and Jordan Caroline were both extremely productive last season. Drew is not a major scoring threat, but he set a school record by dishing out 164 assists last season. Amazingly, on top of his 4.7 assists per game, Drew committed just 1.8 turnovers. Coach Musselman has plenty of scoring options at his disposal and having a leader like Drew on the floor who can spread the ball around is extremely important. One of those scorers will be Caroline, a 6-7 wing who averaged 15.0 points and 9.2 rebounds last season. Caroline is not a great shooter, but is at least a threat to shoot the ball. More often he will use his large frame to take on opposing defenders in the paint. Josh Hall is another big wing who can shoot the ball and use his size to finish around the basket. As a freshman he averaged just 3.7 points per game, but he was playing very well at the end of the year. The return of 6-7 forward Elijah Foster will strengthen an already intimidating frontcourt. Foster started seven games last year and averaged 12.0 points and 7.4 rebounds before missing the rest of the campaign due to suspension.
Final Projection:
This Nevada team could be more talented than the group last year, but it is a different type of team. There is no big time shot blocker in the paint. In fact, there are a ton of 6-7 players and Williams, at 6-8, is the only taller player on the roster. Oliver was not any taller, but he did play very big and it showed on both ends of the floor. This time around the Wolf Pack will be smaller in the paint, but perhaps even bigger on the perimeter. It would not be a huge surprise if four players that were 6-7, along with a 6-4 point guard, started. The other concern is the outside shooting. Last year, led by Marshall, Fenner and Oliver, Nevada ranked first in the Mountain West in three-point field-goal percentage and second in three-pointers made. The pressure will be on Cooke and Stephens to help stretch out the defense with their outside shooting and create space for the slashers to get to the basket.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Lindsey Drew, Junior, Guard, 5.9 points per game
Kendall Stephens, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Jordan Caroline, Junior, Guard, 15.0 points per game
Elijah Foster, Senior, Forward, 12.0 points per game
Caleb Martin, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.8 (37th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.3 (151, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.8 (146, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.8 (120, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.1 (33, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.2 (42, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.5 (159, 6)
Rebound Margin: 3.5 (72, 1)
Assists Per Game: 16.0 (32, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.0 (26, 2)