Editors Note: Statistics used in article as of Sunday, Feb. 10.
Nevada has two of the best players in the nation in Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline. The two were announced as part of the 20 players still on the watch list for the John R. Wooden Award that goes to the best player in college basketball. Both players were also announced as part of the midseason list of 23 players for the Citizen Naismith Trophy which is another award celebrating college basketball’s top players.
Caroline and Martin have also been regarded as two of the best players in the Mountain West Conference — they have been so good that they have made the race for Mountain West Player of the Year a two-horse race. The pair have dominated the Mountain West Player of the Week awards so far this season has Caroline has won the honor four times this season while Martin has received it three times.
Caroline has been the Wolf Pack’s most consistent player this season as he’s scored in double digits in every game this season. Caroline is averaging a double double this season scoring 19 points and hauling in 10 rebounds per game. His point total is fifth in the conference while his rebound average is second in the conference — trailing Colorado State Center Nico Carvacho who is tops in the nation in rebounding. Caroline’s numbers should come as no surprise as Caroline recently surpassed both Kawhi Leonard and Andrew Bogut for the most double doubles in Mountain West history, both Leonard and Bogut both went on to become first-round picks in the NBA Draft.
Caroline has improved his numbers in multiple statistical categories this season as compared to last. Caroline has improved on his field goal percentage every season, and this season has been no different. The two biggest improvements for Caroline have come from beyond the arc and in rebounding. Caroline shoots 44.3 percent from the three-point line which is 11.9 percent better than his percentage from last season — and 10.2 percent better than Caleb Martin has shot this season.
Caroline’s best game this season was in Nevada’s second matchup against Colorado State. He scored 40 points and gathered 12 rebounds. His first half performance alone was better than many full-game performances. Caroline scored 30 points, on 9-11 shooting and a perfect 6-6 shooting from both three point range and the free throw line.
Caroline is the toughest player on the Nevada roster to guard as his 6’7” 230 pound frame is to big for guards, while is athleticism is above the forwards and centers who try to defend him.
The preseason All-American had a shaky start to the season but seems to have recovered since. Almost all of Martin’s numbers from last season are down, but he still has been one of the best players in the conference and the country. Martin is third in the conference in points per game at 19.3 and first in three point attempts at 232 — 35 more than Anthony Mathis who is second.
While Caroline has been the more consistent player, Martin has been the more explosive player. Martin has scored 20 or more points 13 times this season, almost double that of Caroline who has done so seven times. Caleb has shot an underwhelming 41.5 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from three this season but has improved in the Pack’s last five games. In those games Martin has shot 49.3 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from downtown.
Caleb Martin has also been the better defensive player of the two, maybe even surpassing his brother Cody — who won the conference’s defensive player of the year last season —as the team’s best defender. Martin’s 1.33 steals per game is fifth in the conference just ahead of Thurman and brother Cody who are in sixth and seventh. Caleb Martin is also fifth in the conference in blocks — he is the only player under 6’10” that is in the top five. Martin is the only player in the top five in both categories.
Martin’s signature game this season was against Boise State on Saturday, Feb. 2, at Lawlor Events Center. The senior but up his second highest scoring total of the season with 30 points, but it was his efficiency that made his game so effective. Martin found his sweet spot shooting 9-16 from the field, 5-11 from three-point range and 7-9 from the charity stripe.
Martin is Nevada’s most prolific scorer and he is going to get his no matter what. He is also a hound on the defensive side of the ball meaning teams have to try and slow down Martin the full 94 feet on both sides of the floor.
At the very least the Nevada has two players that are locks for first-team All-Mountain West at the end of the season. Although there have been occasions where the conference player of the year award has been award to two different players, Martin and Caroline could be making a case for the first time in Mountain West history that there the award could be split between two players on the same team.
Darion Strugs can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @dstrugs.