RENO — With fans, administration members, the pep band and cheerleaders looking on, Nevada found out that it would open the NCAA Tournament Thursday in Milwaukee against Iowa State (23-10), the fourth-place finisher and post-season champion from the Big 12.
Nevada is seeded 12th in the Midwest Region and the Cyclones, who have won three of the last four Big 12 post-season tournaments, are No. 5.
Tip-off is 6:57 p.m. from the Bradley Center. The game will be broadcast on TruTV
“It’s been a year-long goal,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “Obviously everybody feels great seeing our name up there. It is great exposure for the university. Now we have to put some work in and find out a way to compete with them. It doesn’t matter what seed we are.”
“Oh man, it’s an unreal feeling,” said senior D.J. Fenner, who was part of the team that won just nine games two years ago. “I’ve had so many friends play in this tournament, and I’ve seen how excited they have gotten, and how excited they got to be part of this.”
Musselman said work commenced very quickly after the selection show ended. He said he knew a little bit about the Cyclones, but hopes to be an expert by tip-off.
“I’ve seen them four or five times (on television),” Musselman told reporters. “I know they have two star quality players (Monte Morris and Deonte Burton). Moore is an excellent guard. Burton is a power forward who can put the ball on the deck and shoot from outside. Solomon Young does a great job on the glass.”
Nevada has a fan outside the program. CBS studio analyst Seth Davis said Nevada could make the Sweet 16.
“I spy another 5-12 upset in the making,” Davis said on CBS moments after the Nevada-Iowa State match-up was announced.
On Nevada’s side is that when it made the Sweet 16 the last time, it went in as a No. 10 seed and upset Michigan State and Gonzaga.
“I think people respect us,” Musselman said. “Iowa State is going to be favored going into the game, and we know that. We are going to have to play near-perfect basketball to keep the game close.”
“I heard that,” Fenner said. “It shows we’re getting a lot of respect. It means a lot.”
It shouldn’t be that surprising. Nevada has won nine in a row and 10 of its last 11. And, the Pack is a grind-it-out team. The players believe tough games against Fresno State and Colorado State will help in NCAA play.
“I think we’re playing very well, and we keep getting better and better,” Fenner said. “No matter who we play, we’re going to leave it all on the court. We have what we need; the pieces are there. We just have to go out and execute.”
“We bring more toughness ,” Cam Oliver said. “It definitely shows we can play a whole 40 minutes; no plays off and no possessions off.”
And, Nevada has a former ISU player on the roster in redshirt point guard Hallice Cook had heart issues, but doctors have ruled him healthy enough to play next season as long as he doesn’t have any setbacks.
“We’ll sit down with Hallice,” Musselman said. “He roomed with Burton, so we’ll see what he has to say about him.”
“As soon as it was announced, I saw Hallice over there talking to Muss for about five minutes,” senior guard Marcus Marshall said. “I’ll talk to him a little bit.”