Nevada Basketball: Offseason Questions That Must Be Answered
Questions that Nevada basketball must answer this offseason
Nevada basketball’s offseason question marks
Nevada’s storybook season came to a close Thursday evening in Des Moines, a heartbreaking loss to tenth-seeded Florida in the round of 64.
After one of the best seasons in Mountain West history, the Wolf Pack are tasked with picking up the pieces and building for the future.
Below are five questions I have about Nevada basketball that must be answered this offseason.
Will Eric Musselman return?
The answer to this question not only shapes the 2019-20 season but also the trajectory of the Nevada program. Nevada won nine games the season before Eric Musselman was on campus. The Wolf Pack are 110-34 in the four years since, reaching the NCAA Tournament three times, advancing to the Sweet 16 and capturing three regular season Mountain West titles. Vacancies are already opening up for a handful of power conference programs and more dominoes could fall at places like LSU and Arizona, which have been impacted by the FBI scandal. Musselman will surely get calls, but whether he responds or interviews with these programs are the deciding factors.
Who will Nevada add to the roster?
The Wolf Pack say goodbye to a whopping seven seniors on the nation’s most experienced squad. That’s brutal. If there’s any team that can bounce back roster-wise, it’s an Eric Musselman-led group. As everyone knows, this staff will be ultra-aggressive on the transfer market in hopes of sculpting the ’19-20 roster and beyond. A handful of available transfers have already been contacted by the staff and you can expect there will be a number of grad transfers on next year’s group. In terms of returnees, senior leaders Lindsey Drew, Jazz Johnson and Nisre Zouzoua will help anchor a squad that will hope to reenergize as opposed to rebuild.
Can the Wolf Pack avoid the issues that plagued the ’18-19 season?
On February 18, Nevada was 24-1 and ranked sixth in the AP poll, looking all the parts of a national title contender. The Wolf Pack, however, wrapped the remainder of the season on about as bad a note as possible, especially a team with as many talent, experience, and hope. Eric Musselman’s group went 5-4 the rest of the way, trailing San Diego State by 16 in its February 20 loss, trailing Utah State by 13 in its March 2 debacle, trailing San Diego State again by 13 in its Mountain West Tournament flameout and then trailing Florida by 18 in the round of 64 loss on Thursday. The team that was built upon energy and enthusiasm looked lifeless at times over the final month of the season, showing signs of frustration, opting to play more as individuals than as a collective unit, and ultimately falling behind in hopes of mounting insurmountable comebacks.
Which teams will be on the non-conference schedule?
As much as Nevada’s late-season struggles marred the campaign as a whole, the Wolf Pack’s 13-0 non-conference slate provided nothing in terms of value on Selection Sunday. Nevada had intentions of building a strong non-conference schedule as a foundation for a long March run, but its opponents fell apart during the season, resulting in zero quadrant I non-conference wins for the Wolf Pack. Only so much of the blame can be put on Nevada, which scheduled BYU, USC, Arizona State, Utah, South Dakota State, and Grand Canyon on what was supposed to be one of the better non-league schedules in the country. Only one of those teams (Arizona State) made the NCAA Tournament this year. Nevada is now faced with the challenging task of trying to build a strong schedule as a mid-major that few high-majors will want to play.
How does Nevada respond?
Despite all the wins, accolades, and recognition that Nevada rightfully deserved this season, the program is at a valley rather than a peak right now. The expectations were incredibly high heading into the season, and for quite a while, they looked to be met by the Wolf Pack. Instead, Nevada was bounced in the first round by a No. 10 seed, something few (even those skeptical of the Wolf Pack) anticipated heading into the year. How this program responds is vitally important. Either they find a way to rebound and construct another 20+ win season and NCAA Tournament bid next year or they fall back into the shuffle of the rest of the Mountain West.
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.