Last week, the Mountain West Tournament took place in Las Vegas, and both men’s and women’s basketball would look to cement an entrance into the coming NCAA tourney.
Of the two, the men of Nevada Basketball had a shorter trip. As the top seed, the Wolf Pack earned a first-round bye and would wait to play the winner of UNLV vs. Air Force. The Rebels won and just like the women — who would eventually make it to the championship game before falling — the two teams would have a third and final game as a tie-breaker for the season series.
Nevada struggled in the first half. The Martin twins had trouble finding the bottom of the net going a combined 3 of 13 from the field. Both Jordan Caroline and Kendall Stephens went 2 of 8 shooting in the first half. The Pack countered their bad shooting with active defense as the Rebels only had an eight-point lead going into the half. The second half went as planned as Nevada’s shooting improved immensely and Nevada frustrated UNLV’s top guards, Jordan Johnson and Jovan Mooring, as both entered foul trouble throughout the second half. Nevada won 79-74 and awaited the winner of San Diego State vs. Fresno State.
On just over 24 hours of rest, the seven-man Nevada rotation was set to play the Aztecs of San Diego State, a team that had won their last seven games. Early on it was clear it was not going to be Nevada’s game as San Diego State literally could not miss. The Aztecs made their first seven two-point field goal attempts. With a 30-point lead at halftime, Nevada eventually cut the lead to within 20 points, but only with high, unnecessary minutes from Jordan Caroline and Caleb Martin. The 17-point loss was Nevada’s largest, as the Wolf Pack was nearly outscored by more than every other loss combined (26 points across six games).
The loss did not hurt Nevada’s NCAA tournament hopes, however, as Nevada was projected by multiple media outlets as a number seven seed in the tournament as an at-large team. On Sunday, those projections were confirmed when it was announced that Nevada would play Texas in the NCAA Tournament in the Round of 64. That game is Friday, March 16, in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Wolf Pack will have a tough matchup ahead against the Longhorns who play a completely different type of game. Texas relies heavily on its two big men, Mo Bamba and Dylan Osetkowski. They have a play style that is similar to the style of San Diego State, who also has two big men in Malik Pope and Kameron Rooks. Nevada will have to rebound as a group to have a hope of winning and play the type of defense it played all season to advance to the next round.