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Nevada’s hot start places the Wolf Pack in ESPN’s bracketology

UNR appears in the latest ESPN bracketology.

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi posted a fresh bracket Thursday morning, with the Nevada Wolf Pack listed in the 68-team field for the first time in nearly five years. UNR is now 9-2 on the year after a 76-69 victory Wednesday night over UC Irvine.

San Diego State, which has appeared in the NCAA Tournament in six of the last seven seasons, was the undisputed favorite in the Mountain West preseason media day this summer. SDSU has struggled in the first couple months of the year, however, dropping road matchups to Grand Canyon and Loyola Chicago before falling at home to Arizona State. The preseason favorites will now need to win three games at the Thomas & Mack Center in March to clinch an autobid for the NCAA Tournament.

With lukewarm non-conference slates across the Mountain West, Nevada is the only team in the MWC that has mustered much of a tournament resume to this point. The Wolf Pack dropped its only game against a KenPom top 50 opponent (@ Saint Mary’s in the season opener), but Nevada doesn’t have a loss to a team ranked 100 or worse. The addition of sharp-shooting guard Marcus Marshall (37 threes) has been paramount to the Wolf Pack’s early success, taking a UNR team that ranked 342nd in 3-point shooting last season to 56th this year.

Colorado State (8-2) has also impressed in the early going with a victory on the road against #50 Colorado and no 70+ ranked losses, but the Rams’ strength of schedule has taken a serious hit with six games in non-conference play against 300+ ranked or non-Division I teams.

Nevada and Colorado State will both open up league play on December 28 at home. Watch out for these two teams moving forward.