As a competitor, you should relish the idea that you are going to get everyone’s best because it is those victories that are sweetest. While Nevada is getting other teams best shot this isn’t the ACC or Big10, it’s the MWC in a very down year. While Nevada is getting the best teams like Boise, Fresno State, Air Force, and Utah State have to give a team like Virginia is facing the best from teams like Duke, Virginia Tech, Florida State and VCU.
Virginia is facing much better teams, taking their best shots and is winning much more convincingly than Nevada is. (Yes Duke beat Virginia but would anyone be surprised if both these teams were in the final 5)
It’s not just the Cavaliers, there are about a dozen teams playing much better basketball over the last month or so than Nevada. Musselman is a hard person to read at times but I found his proclivity of late to seemingly be satisfied with getting the win as opposed to being concerned about the stagnation of the team’s performance of late somewhat confusing.
Confusing because Musselman has the reputation of never being satisfied. While not willing to show his disquietude over Nevada’s lack of overall progress to the public, rest assured that Musselman has sought advice from many and tried many different tacts.
Now don’t get me wrong, Nevada has been playing like a good basketball team and at times like a very good one. Those of us that jumped on the Nevada hype train early have high expectations and Nevada has simply not lived up to those expectations.
Three-point shooting has been a hot topic all season when talking about Nevada. First, it was the question of who was going to fill Kendall Stephens roll, then came the Caleb Martin slump followed by the team slump. Going into last night’s Colorado State game Nevada was dead last in the conference in 3 point percentage. Musselman says that this is actually a better team shooting from distance than last year’s squad, in practice. Somehow that is just not translating over to game time situations with players that have lots of court experience.
Defensively Nevada at times plays like an elite defense, but only at times. Make no mistake, this is a much better defensive team than last years squad but let’s not confuse it for a Virginia or Texas Tech defense. While the trend line for most Nevada hoops metrics from the beginning of the season is headed in the wrong direction the forced turnover rate is a bright spot.
Live ball turnovers lead to transition offense, something the Wolf Pack does very well. I would suggest that the problem with Nevada getting off to slow starts is more a product of defense than it is offense. Nevada plays better in the second halves of games because they play better defense in the second half.
In the steals by halves in the last two games where Nevada true to form, played as so-so first half and a much more impressive 2nd half. Against Colorado State, the Wolf Pack had a 7 point lead at halftime despite shooting at nearly 57 percent from the floor including 6-12 from deep. CSU had actually cut the lead to 1 with a little over 3 minutes to go in the first half, Nevada steals in the first half was two. Fast forward to the second half, 9 steals and the Wolf Pack outscore Colorado State by 33. Against Air Force, Nevada down by 4 at the half, 1 steal. Fast forward to the second half 7 steals and the Pack outscore Air Force by 19 in the half.
Is Nevada capable of having a special season? Of course, but they either need to start improving as a team or rely on luck come March. The CSU game is the kind of result Nevada should be getting night in and night out against what is for the most part mediocre competition in the Mountain West this year. The Pack needs to be blowing teams out on a nightly basis if they want to improve their seeding in the NCAA tournament. In-state rival UNLV is up next for the Pack and yes the crowd will be loud, the Rebels will play one of their best games of the year because of the target on Nevada’s back.
That’s the reality. Is Nevada the kind of team that craves their opponents very best and then enjoys crushing the will out of that team by games end, leaving no doubt which is the better team, or are they just happy to get the W.