Before Friday night’s showdown against Nevada, our friend Robert Deiters over at Mountain West Connection was kind enough to answer some questions, previewing the Beavers’ upcoming opponent.
1. Coming off last season’s CBI Tournament Championship, Nevada is expected to be the team to challenge San Diego State in the Mountain West. What is it about this year’s edition of the Wolfpack that could dethrone the Aztecs atop the conference?
This year’s edition of the Nevada Wolf Pack that could dethrone the Aztecs this season is getting offensive rebounds, shooting well in the second half, and players like Cameron Oliver, Elijah Foster, Marcus Marshall, and Jordan Caroline. Oliver is arguably the best dunker on the team and can get to the rim quickly. Foster is going to his have best season by far and will most likely get double-doubles all season long. Marcus Marshall can be a deadly three pointer shooter and can move quickly around the court to get open.
2. Head coach Eric Musselman has transformed the culture and status of the Nevada program pretty rapidly during his short stay in Reno. Can you describe the Wolfpack’s style of play and what has made Musselman’s influence on the program so successful thus far?
Eric Musselmans style of play is high tempo both offensively and defensively. He knows how to get his players into great shape and being confident in game time situations. The influence Musselmans impact on the basketball program was a big difference and more exciting for the students at Nevada. The atmosphere is different and more fun being around all the students that cheer them on. The attendance is already rising and continue to evolve over this season. Nevada Basketball is becoming the most popular sport here on campus.
3. Nevada started the season with an ambitious road trip to Saint Mary’s, that ended in an 81-63 loss. While not a bad loss by any means, the defeat now leaves road trips to Oregon State and Washington as the only potential resume-building games on their schedule, outside of Mountain West play. The Mountain West has struggled to be a multi-bid league for the NCAA Tournament on an annual basis. If the Wolfpack don’t get the conference’s automatic bid, is there still hope for Nevada to potentially be that team even with their mostly lackluster non-conference slate?
I believe Nevada can still be that team even with their mostly lackluster non-conference slate. Nevada winning CIT proved themselves as a big competitor in the Mountain West against tough teams like UNLV and SDSU. Nevada has the talent this season to win the the MW tournament and to go on to a bigger tournament like the NCAA March Madness tournament.
4. Musselman has turned Nevada into a bit of a red-hot transfer destination, adding guys like Caleb Martin (NC State), Cody Martin (NC State), Hallice Cookie (Iowa State) and Kendall Stephens (Purdue) all to the mix this summer, all of whom will be eligible for the 2017-2018 season. On this year’ roster, Nevada has two key players from other schools in Marcus Marshall (Missouri State) and Jordan Caroline (Southern Illinois). What influence are these two new faces expected to have for the Wolfpack?
I think these new faces for Nevada definitely bring a presence and influence into the starting line up. Marcus Marshall isn't afraid to take too many shots like against LMU when he shot 4-10 from three point land. Jordan Carlene is a physical and tough player that has shown leadership skills already on and off the court.
5. Forward Cameron Oliver and Elijah Foster have combined to become a rough and tumble interior combo for the Wolfpack. On Friday night, they’ll get their chance to line up against the Beavers’ own inside duo of Tres Tinkle and Drew Eubanks. What are both the strengths and weakness of the Nevada front-court that could become a difference maker in this game?
The strengths for Cameron Oliver is his athleticism and driving to the hoop to score. As I said before, he is one of the best dunkers on the team and is not afraid to show it during game time. The weakness he has is his foul trouble like in the LMU game, when he got two fouls in the first three minutes of the game. Elijah Foster has shown so far this season he is dominant on both sides of the court. He puts up double digit scoring for Nevada and fights for offensive rebounds. His defensive side is getting the blocks like against St. Mary's when he got five blocks in one game. The only weakness I see in his game is turnovers and will need to limit those to defeat Oregon State.
6. Finally, could you give a prediction (or a brief explanation) of how you think Fridays night’s game might go?
I think this game can be very close and come down to the last shot or Oregon State can take this game away in the first half. Nevada is more of a explosive team in the 2nd half of games, but will need to change that if they want to win this game. The turnovers for Nevada need to be limited and be smarter with their passes. The last game Nevada played, the team had eight turnovers in both the first and second half.