Wolf Pack to face Longhorns Friday | RecordCourier.com

Wolf Pack to face Longhorns Friday

by Darrell Moody
The Wolf Pack’s Jordan Caroline stretches for a basket Friday in the semifinal game of the Mountain West Conference Championships at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Steve Ranson/LVN |

Nevada is going dancing for the second straight year.

The Wolf Pack, 27-7, received a No. 7 seeding as an at-large team and will play Texas, 19-14, of the Big 12, also an at-large team, Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

“It’s a little different than last year when we won the automatic berth,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “There are a lot of quality teams not in the tournament. It’s hard for a mid-major to get an at-large bid. I’m really proud of the team. The committee gave us a lot of respect with a seventh seed. I’m excited. We thought we were in, but you never know until your name is called.”

Nevada played several teams that made the tournament — San Diego State, Radford, Texas Tech, Rhode Island and Davidson. Nevada beat Davidson (81-68) and Rhode Island (88-81) at home, beat Radford on a neutral court (77-62), went 1-2 against San Diego State, and lost to Texas Tech (82-76 in overtime) on the road.

“I think Anthony Ruta (assistant coach) deserves an unbelievable amount of credit,” Musselman said. “He’s a young assistant coach, and it was the first time doing the schedule. He took over the schedule, and it was a mess. He did an incredible job.

“We are standing here because of our schedule. We made a decision to play on the road. Some programs are sitting at home because they didn’t want to play on the road. We didn’t want to build a schedule to get 20 wins that looks good on the resume. We were trying to figure out way A to make the tournament. We were going to get in based on who we played. We’re not scared to play people. I’m proud of the guys. Watching Rhode Island and Davidson today knowing we beat them both and watching Texas Tech knowing we had a chance to beat them. We talked about road games and scheduling up. I’m so thankful we were rewarded for that. It was well earned.”

The TBS broadcast went through the teams alphabetically, and no doubt some of the players thought they hadn’t made it when North Carolina State was mentioned before Nevada.

When Nevada was finally announced, players exploded and started high-fiving each other and hugging each other.

“I was nervous,” forward Jordan Caroline said. “It was a relief to see us up there.”

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Caleb Martin said. “It’s hard to explain. You are on the national stage and all eyes are on you. It’s a good seeding, it’s a good bracket. It’s just going to be fun. Seeing last year brought back old memories.”

Caleb and Cody Martin played on North Carolina State’s Sweet 16 team as freshmen.

Musselman said he hadn’t watched much film on Texas, but he and his staff went right to work after the press conference garnering information on the Longhorns, who went 8-10 in conference play.

The Longhorns have four double-figure scorers — 6-9 Dylan Ostekowski (13.6 points, 7.1 rebounds), 6-11 freshman Mohamed Bamba (12.9, 10.4), 6-4 Kerwin Roach II (11.9, 3.7) and 6-4 Andrew Jones (13.5, 2.4).

“They are really, really good,” Cody Martin said. “They have a draft prospect. They are really a good team. I caught a couple of games.”

The Longhorns are the third Big 12 team Nevada will face. The Pack lost in overtime to Texas Tech in Lubbock, and lost a neutral-court decision to TCU (84-80) in Los Angeles.