Andrea Wilkinson/Nevada Sagebrush
Forward Jordan Caroline (24) hangs off the rim in celebration after slamming down a huge dunk in Nevada game against Pacific at Lawlor Events Center on Tuesday, November 30. Caroline had nine points and 10 rebounds in Nevada’s 77-67 win.

The Nevada basketball team officially began their pre-season practices this past Friday. Heading into the season, the Wolf Pack are the defending regular season and conference tournament champions of the Mountain West Conference. Over the next six weeks, the Wolf Pack plans to continue to build upon the progress that they have built over the summer.

Over the off-season, the Wolf Pack continued their traditional Tahoe conditioning runs, went on a team trip to Costa Rica, and upped their mile test run to two miles. With this extra preparation, Nevada hopes it will translate to success in defending their conference titles and once again return to the NCAA Tournament.

While the Wolf Pack lost some key contributors this past offseason in Cameron Oliver, D.J. Fenner and Marcus Marshall, they still return some key players to the fold, headlined by Jordan Caroline.

“I think we’ve done a really good job of being healthy when we have to be healthy,” head coach Eric Musselman said. “Just kind of had some freak injuries. We’d rather have them now than later but it’s our job to manage and get our guys ready for opening day in some way shape or form.”

 

Caroline, who is currently recovering from an ankle injury but should be ready come the beginning of the season, made note that this version of the team is one of the most competitive since he has been here.

 

“I think we have a lot of competitive people,” Musselman said. “We don’t have any players who take off from practice or go half speed and you can feel it. It’s been a whole summer whether it’s running a mile, we’ve added a two-mile run. Everything that this group does, they do it at a high level. They’re the best talking team that we’ve had as far as communication on the court and they push each other.I think that’s really really good which is why we’re kinda banged up on day one of practices probably because of how hard they’ve played in practice.”

 

Coach Eric Musselman, who has been constantly recruiting high-quality transfers to add to his program, is excited to incorporate sit-out transfers from last season to this year. That group, who is comprised of Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, Kendall Stephens, and Hallice Cooke look to bring immediate impact to the team.

This is a more versatile group all-around,” Caroline said. “It helps a lot because you can switch one to five and you’re going to be okay. They’re all really good, honestly, the incoming class.”

One of the points of emphasis this past off-season was to build a strong schedule to help build their resume come Selection Sunday. The Mountain West has been a one-bid conference the past three years. In the event that the Wolf Pack does not win the Mountain West Conference Tournament, they wanted to build a strong enough resume so that they can be considered for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.

The four games that stand out from their out of conference slate are the home game against fellow 2017 NCAA Tournament team Rhode Island and their neutral site game at the Staples Center against TCU who won the National Invitational Tournament.

 

We’re more than ecstatic,” Musselman said. “We’ve got some really really good games and then when you look at our schedule and we were just looking at it just now because we were just doing our travel, it’s like an NBA schedule. We hardly have any off-days. It’s like some weeks we play three, four games with very little prep time and that’s going to affect us because our prep has been really important to us. But with all the games sandwiched and having two extra games, two more games than most people, it’s going to put some pressure on us in quick turnarounds but it’ll help us in the conference tournament, understanding how quickly you have to respond after one game and not having a lot of time to prepare.”

 

The Wolf Pack will return to action on Oct. 14, for their second annual “Arch Madness” event next to the downtown Reno Arch.