Returning seniors and a top-20 recruit make Nevada a new powerhouse.
While Duke, Villanova, and Michigan State are trying to fill major pieces of their lineups after the NBA Draft, the Nevada Wolf Pack is comfortably preparing for the 2018-2019 season.
After possibly the greatest comeback in NCAA Tournament history against Cincinnati and a trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 14 years, the Pack is flying high. But it looks like the squad isn’t done flying yet. In fact, it has a chance to go even higher.
The Wolf Pack has some of the best (if not the best) experienced talent in the nation returning for their senior seasons. It also has a five-star big man recruit who will add size and strength to a relatively undersized frontcourt. On top of it all, veteran coach Eric Musselman could’ve taken another job but decided to stay with the Pack. It’s been the perfect offseason, aside from the transfer of talented forward and tournament hero Josh Hall.
The Wolf Pack looks like a real top-10 contender, and if they can stay healthy, well, “the ceiling is the roof,” as Michael Jordan famously quipped.
Dodging The Draft
The Pack successfully dodged the NBA draft this time around, and it’s going to pay off. Juniors Jordan Caroline, Cody Martin, and Caleb Martin all decided to return to Nevada for their senior seasons. For a team that was already one of the older teams in college basketball, the three seniors will provide amazing veteran leadership.
But leadership isn’t all they’ll provide. The trio played over 80% of the team’s minutes in 2017-2018 and produced monster results in a 29-8 season. The Pack can easily surpass that record with their new and returning stars.
Cody Martin ran the point most games, and at 6‘7, he was near impossible to stop. He averaged 14 points/6.3 rebounds/4.7 assists per game. In the NCAA Tournament, he tallied 18.7/5.3/6. It’s difficult to find a guard with that size and such well-rounded numbers. He also played phenomenal defense, posting a block rate of 4.5% and a steal rate of 2.7%. Cody can dish it, drive it, jam it, and shoot it. Having an NBA-style floor general with three years of experience and a versatile skillset will make the Pack a formidable foe in 2018.
Cody’s twin brother Caleb, who uses his 6‘7 frame in a different way, has more in common with his brother than just his identical appearance: He also can do it all.
While Cody has the edge in defense and passing, Caleb is an offensive juggernaut. He averaged 18.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season, while posting a miniscule 11.3 turnover rate. He’s careful and skillful with the ball in his hands, and he knows how to bully defenders and get to the charity stripe, drawing nearly five fouls per 40 minutes.
Combined with his sweet stroke, Caleb Martin is an all-around weapon. He shot over 40% from deep in 2017-2018 and posted a stellar true shooting percentage of almost 60. As one of the most athletic and offensively talented wings in the country, Caleb is just another piece for the star-studded Wolf Pack.
Jordan Caroline, another scoring-minded 6‘7 weapon, is returning for his senior season. Caroline is the closest thing the Wolf Pack had to a starting center.
Although his defense is lacking (just a 0.5 block percent), he puts on a show on the boards and with the ball in his hands. His offensive and defensive rebounding rates—8.9 and 18.7, respectively—match up well with most any opponent.
Caroline went to work in 2017-2018, racking up 17.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. But what’s most impressive about him is his ability to dominate defenders. He averaged just about six fouls drawn per 40 minutes and got to the free throw line on nearly 54% of his scoring attempts in his junior season. Those are top-tier numbers, especially for a power forward/center. For his position, his 70% free throw rate isn’t too shabby either. Caroline’s strength down low will provide stability for the Pack, especially with young center Jordan Brown stepping on the scene as a freshman.
Five-star recruit Jordan Brown is 6‘10, the number 12 player, and the third-best power forward in his class, according to Rivals. It’s a dream come true for a team that lacks a true low-post star. With 6‘7 players all over the court, a big man down low will make Nevada even more lengthy and dangerous.
He averaged 21.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game at Prolific Prep in California, and if those numbers are any indication, he’ll be a force on both ends of the floor.
Brown should play either power forward or center, taking some pressure off Caroline and the Martins on the boards. However, the rebounding ability and size of the team means they should now be an elite rebounding team. Assuming Brown integrates quickly and plays to his full potential, the Wolf Pack should see themselves in the top 10.
The addition of Brown will also make up for the loss of forwards Josh Hall and Kendall Stevens. For a team that is already the seventh most efficient offense in the nation, Brown’s production will give the Pack a true post option. Rather than slashing, the Martins can leave more of the post work for Caroline and Brown. I’m already looking forward to watching this offense cause nightmares for their opponents.
They’ve Got The Mussel-Man
In three seasons with the Wolf Pack, Eric Musselman is 81-29. His first class as a college head coach included Caroline as freshman, and soon he had the Martins, too. For those three team leaders, another season with a coach they know and respect can only help their case.
With high-profile jobs open this offseason such as Pitt and Louisville, Musselman has proved he cares about this team. He’s staying, and the team has to appreciate that. He’s even locked up a top-20 recruit in Brown, showing the team is headed in the right direction.
Ranked by KenPom in preseason rankings at No. 7, the Wolfpack seem to be a clear contender for a deep run into March. With Musselman at the helm and myriad talent, I’m calling it early: Wolf Pack to the Final Four.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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