Nevada is going to be the best team in college basketball next year. There, I said it.
Does that mean that they’re going to win the National Championship? Not necessarily. The NCAA Tournament is generally a crapshoot that requires an equal amount of luck as it does skill. Sometimes the best teams win, but a lot of times they don’t. That’s not the point.
The point is that Nevada should be the No. 1 team in the preseason polls. That’s not as crazy of a statement as you might think.
Let’s break it down a bit.
To start, they have one of the sharpest coaches in the country. Eric Musselman has burst onto the college basketball scene in recent years, but he’s quickly become one of the game’s best offensive minds. In just three years at Nevada, he’s taken the Wolf Pack from No. 210 in Kenpom’s offensive efficiency rating to No. 7 in the country last year.
He runs an NBA-style offense that he’s continued to develop as the game changes. The Wolf Pack move the ball and utilize modern offensive principals such as post splits, ball reversals and weakside movements. The Wolf Pack share the ball, but Musselman gives his players the freedom to create their own shots, which is something that suited his roster well last year.
The Wolf Pack do just about everything well on offense. They can knock down outside shots, get to the rim and free throw line, and last year took care of the ball better than any team in the country. Their turnover percentage of 13.5 was the top mark in the country. The Wolf Pack can and will be one of the most efficient offenses in the country next year.
But the scheme is nothing without the personnel. The talent-laden roster has been covered ad nauseam, here and other places. You know the names by now. The Martin twins, Jordan Caroline, a plethora of transfers, and 5-star recruit Jordan Brown will make up one of — if not the most — talented rosters in the country.
Other teams have talent, too. What sets Nevada apart is its roster continuity. Of the teams that are projected to be in the top 10 of Bart Torvik’s T-rank, only Gonzaga has a higher percentage of returning possession minutes. They bring back more offensive firepower than Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and every other team that is garnering preseason hype.
Musselman will have one of the deepest rosters in the country, allowing him to mix and match lineups and combinations as he sees fit. You want to go small? Nevada can go small with guys like Jordan Caroline and Tre’Shawn Thurman manning the frontcourt. Do you think trying to beat them with size is the way to go? Guess what, Trey Porter and Jordan Brown think otherwise. Hell, even their guards are big.
Sure, you can say that having too many players is a bad thing. There aren’t enough minutes to go around, and surely some players will feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick. That’s where the family atmosphere that Musselman has created will come into play. The culture at Nevada speaks to what Musselman has built and why the program has risen astronomically since his arrival.
Let’s take a look at some of the other teams in contention for the top spot, while we’re here.
Kansas underwent a significant overhaul and will look much different than they have in recent years. Gone are Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham. In are the Lawson twins and some highly touted freshmen. There’s uncertainty with the Jayhawks.
The same goes for Duke and Kentucky. You know what their deal is. They’re bringing in the cream of the crop as far as far as talent goes. Kentucky actually has more players returning than they usually do. But imagine trusting a team in November that’s full of freshmen. NOT ON THIS BLOG.
And then there’s Virginia. Last year, Virginia became the first 1 seed to ever lose to a 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. And let’s remember that UMBC beat them by 20 (!) points. Putting your faith in a Tony Bennett coached team? ABSOLUTELY NOT ON THIS BLOG.
And then there’s Gonzaga. We’re going to be arguing about this all season long. Nevada or Gonzaga, Nevada or Gonzaga, Nevada or Gonzaga. It will be exhausting. Right now, at this point in time, I think the edge goes to Nevada. The roster is just a little bit deeper and the ceiling a little bit higher.
Nevada has what it takes to deliver under pressure. Surely you haven’t forgotten their absurd comeback against Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament already? The Wolf Pack won’t sneak up on anyone this year. But that’s okay. They don’t need to. They’re going to be the best team in the country. The preseason polls should rank them appropriately, which is at the top.