Odds to win Title: +800
2017-18 Record: 29-8 (15-3 Mountain West)
NCAA Tournament: Lost to Loyola-Chicago in Sweet 16
The Nevada Wolf Pack already had a tremendous offseason. It first got a commitment from McDonalds’s All-American Jordan Brown. Then, Jordan Caroline withdrew from the NBA Draft to return for his senior season. Topping it off, twins Caleb and Cody Martin announced they would be returning, too. That quartet of players sets up Nevada in uncharted territory for itself, considering Brown is the highest ranked recruit it has ever landed.
Beyond that, Nevada has a lot of D-1 Transfers to mix it up with the best teams in the NCAA this year. Many are pegging the Wolf Pack as a Final Four contender, in light of just how well things developed for its roster.
If one were to begin to search for weaknesses on Nevada’s roster, its smallish frontcourt would probably top the list, as last year it had no rotation player over 6’7.” Caroline is 6’7” and a powerful interior player, but somehow he will have to play the 5-spot this season. Much like Draymond Green, he will be well suited for it, but apparent mismatches due his stature will be common. He is much better off at the 4-spot, but Nevada lacks the size to play him at his more natural position.
Jordan Brown represents the best hope of doing so, though. At 6’11” he towers over his teammates and is a two-time All-Mountain West performer. Trey Porter is also 6’11” and a senior transfer from Old Dominion. His strong play and rebounding ability will factor in, again, hopefully allowing Caroline the chance to move to power forward while Brown or Porter is on the court with him.
Tre’Shawn Thurman averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last year at Omaha, and he would start on just about every other conference team, but not on Nevada. Instead, he will add valuable depth to the frontcourt, which is probably going to be far better than most assume based on what Nevada had last year.
Losing Kendall Stephens is a big loss to Nevada’s backcourt rotation. His shooting ability will not be replaced, at least not individually, but the Wolf Pack should have a sufficient rotation to account for his loss for the most part. Cody Martin is a 6’7” senior transfer who will likely man the 1-spot for the Wolf Pack, and Lindsey Drew should play a role as well—at least if he has recovered from an Achilles’ injury he suffered last year.
Jazz Johnson is a lights-out shooter who nailed threes at a 40 percent clip last season with Portland. His shooting ability will help replace Stephens, for sure. Nisre Zouzoua averaged over 20 points per game last season while hitting 92 threes for Bryant University in 2016-17, and he will be a big scorer in the second unit for the Wolf Pack.
Nevada is definitely not short on talent, but last year it managed just a No. 7 seed in the tournament. Betting that still might be tricky, but it has a tougher schedule this year with three games against Pac-12 programs. The Mountain West is also better, with New Mexico and San Diego State bringing in tough teams comprised of many returning starters. Eric Musselman is probably the best coach possible for this program, to guide its deep and talented rotation.
“Potential” will be a word thrown around a lot, but Nevada’s players are more proven than one would assume—perhaps just not on the “biggest of stages,” quite yet.