Preseason Sweet 16: Nevada Wolf Pack
By Clark Kellogg, Yahoo Sports
November 7, 2005
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Things look good for Nevada this year. Six of the top eight players from last season's WAC regular-season championship team have returned, including three starters.
The most prominent returnee is Nick Fazekas. One of the country's outstanding big men, Fazekas had a terrific sophomore season, averaging 20 points and nine rebounds per game and leading the team in blocked shots. He is also the consensus choice by WAC coaches as the conference's preseason Player of the Year.
Complementing Fazekas is sophomore point guard Ramon Sessions, last season's WAC Freshman of the Year. The other returning starter, Kyle Shiloh, was second on the team in assists and steals. These three players give second-year head coach Mark Fox a strong nucleus to build around.
The Wolf Pack were a very good defensive and rebounding team last season, holding opponents to 39 percent from the field and outrebounding them by eight per game. But with the loss of all-conference forward Kevinn Pinkney, grabbing rebounds might not be so easy this year. Pinkney averaged nine boards per game last season and led the team on the offensive glass. Now that he's gone, Chad Bell and Mo Charlo will be expected to pick up the slack.
Despite the potential rebounding problems, Nevada should again be a solid defensive team. The perimeter players have excellent size, speed and strength, and they will match up well with almost any team they face. Up front, Fazekas and Bell will provide resistance at the rim.
After losing to Illinois in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Nevada has set its sights on a deeper run next March. But if that's going to happen, the Wolf Pack will have to improve on offense and start making the deep shot – they converted just 27 percent from beyond the arc last year. They'll also have to take better care of the ball, having committed more turnovers than they forced last season. Only Fazekas and Pinkney averaged double figures in points, so someone else must emerge as a consistent scorer to make sure Fazekas doesn't have to go it alone.
Advancing in the NCAA tournament is certainly not guaranteed for Nevada. But with some improved efficiency at the offensive end and more confidence from three-point land, the Wolf Pack could find themselves in the Sweet 16. And if they can handle the pressure of greater expectations and notoriety that come with their recent success, 2005-06 could be another good season for Nevada.
Clark Kellogg is Yahoo! Sports' NCAA men's basketball analyst. Send Clark a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Nov 7, 2005 3:38 pm, EST