That’s it for Wolf Pack’s Cinderella story
The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team is not going to sneak up on anybody next season. The Wolf Pack is not going to be a Cinderella story. The Pack is not going to be the Biggest Little Basketball Team in the World next season. The Pack is not going to be the heartwarming Loyola-Chicago type of story for the 2019 NCAA tournament. That’s because the Wolf Pack is one of the big boys. The Pack is now the big bad wolf and not Little Red Riding Hood. The Wolf Pack is ranked in the Top 12 of practically every 2018-19 college basketball rankings. NBC Sports ranks the Pack eighth. ESPN and CBS Sports has the Pack 10th in the nation. Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report has the Pack as the 11th best team in the country. That is what winning two NCAA tournament games can do for a program. It can dump a truck load of national expectations on you. The Pack needs to get used to that gigantic bull’s eye on the back of its uniforms. It’s not going away anytime soon.
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All of the attention, respect and expectations placed on the Pack are warranted and justified. The Wolf Pack should win 30 or more games next year. The Pack should win the Mountain West regular season title and, if motivated, the conference tournament title. We should be watching the Pack play for a spot in the Elite Eight and maybe even the Final Four next March. The Pack loses just one significant player (Kendall Stephens) off of last year’s 29-win team and will add roughly a half dozen new players who could all contribute. Coach Steve Kerr allowed the Golden State Warriors’ players to coach themselves for one game this season and we wouldn’t be shocked if Eric Musselman turns over the bulk of the boring Mountain West schedule to seniors Cody and Caleb Martin, Jordan Caroline and Lindsey Drew while he (Musselman) goes out on recruiting trips or national television and radio interviews.
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Nothing, however, is ever easy for Wolf Pack fans. Pack fans were served a jolt of anxiety this week when, as expected, Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline all announced on social media that they would test the NBA draft waters. Don’t worry, Pack fans. This means nothing. Declaring for the NBA draft is just something every college basketball player who can chew gum and dribble at the same time does almost every April. College basketball players used to go to Florida or some island beach after the NCAA tournament. Now they get ready for the NBA draft combine. Going to the NBA draft combine and going through private workouts with NBA teams is just a fancy way for a player to get feedback and improve his game. Think of it as a free basketball clinic.
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Wolf Pack football is also going to get some national attention on April 26-28 during the NFL draft. Former Wolf Pack offensive tackle Austin Corbett is projected all over the internet as a possible second-round pick. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Corbett (he’ll add 10-20 pounds and play at 315-325 in the NFL) is one of the best stories in this draft. He’ll likely play guard in the NFL, just like his former Nevada teammate Joel Bitonio, now with Cleveland. A walk-on out of Reed High, Corbett worked his tail off in the classroom and on the football field as a member of the Wolf Pack and now seems headed to a long NFL career.