Nevada Wolf Pack
Western Athletic Conference (20-12, 11-5)
Big Wins: 12/23 vs Tulsa (99-68), 1/4 at New Mexico State (77-67), 3/4 New Mexico State (100-92)
Bad Losses: 12/5 at Pacific (58-61), 1/23 at Fresno State (77-87), 2/28 at Hawaii (63-74)
Coach: David Carter
Why They Can Surprise:
Coach David Carter inherited a couple great players and even as his first year as a head coach at this level, Carter had to endure high expectations. Nevada has plenty of talent returning, but few players in the Western Athletic Conference are as talented as sophomore Luke Babbitt. The 6-9 forward is a dynamic scorer. He will use his size to battle with anybody in the paint and he has the shooting touch to step out beyond the three point arc. Babbitt is even a superb free-throw shooter and that has come in handy many, many times throughout the season. His tendency to hang around the perimeter at times has not diminished his ability to hit the glass and he will put up 20 points and grab ten rebounds on a pretty consistent basis.
Armon Johnson is to the backcourt what Babbitt is to the frontcourt. Johnson is not a shooter, but he is a great scorer and passer. His turnover numbers may look a little high, but this is a high scoring team and the team turnovers are very low and Johnson deserves a lot of that credit for setting up his teammates in good a position to score.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The Wolf Pack have had trouble with some of the tougher teams in the WAC. Babbitt will battle with the best the conference has to offer, but Coach Carter needs more effort from Joey Shaw and Dario Hunt. Shaw, who spent a season with Indiana before heading west, has developed into a good scorer who will use his size to attack the basket or shoot over most opposing small forwards from long range. However, he is not a great rebounder. Hunt is a tougher player and a fine power forward, but he is not much of a scoring threat. Nevada is not a deep team and that could be one reason why the lack of hustle against Utah State in February led to the team giving up an unacceptable 21 offensive rebounds.
Who To Watch:
Since Brandon Fields plays so many minutes as the starting shooting guard, he puts up pretty good numbers. However, some days he will score 24 points and another day he will score five. He relies on his outside shot quite a bit and his legs seem to be tiring as the season progresses. With Ray Kraemer the only player who can really fill in for anybody in the backcourt, Fields needs to find his shot and score closer to 24 points than to five points during the tournament or Nevada will not stick around too long. But Kraemer could be a surprising option. He is mostly a shooter off the bench, but he can score points in a hurry and spark the offense.
Armon Johnson, Junior, Guard, 15.8 ppg, 5.7 apg
Brandon Fields, Senior, Guard, 14.2 ppg, 2.4 apg
Joey Shaw, Senior, Forward, 10.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg
Dario Hunt, Sophomore, Forward, 6.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg
Luke Babbitt, Sophomore, Forward, 22.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.0 apg
Marko Cukic, Freshman, Forward, 2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg
Ray Kraemer, Senior, Guard, 6.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.3 (17th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 74.8 (303, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.0 (16, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.2 (229, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.6 (118, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.6 (69, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.4 (90, 3)
Rebound Margin: 1.9 (122, 4)
Assists Per Game: 14.1 (95, 6)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.7 (39, 2)
Joel’s Bracket Says: Second Round loss to Northwestern