In a year where the Wolf Pack lost all five starters, Nevada went 19-12 with a 12-6 conference record last year in the first year under head coach Steve Alford.
Each Thursday for the next few weeks, we will be reviewing an aspect from this 2019-20 season for the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Today, we’ll be looking at my biggest positive and negative of the 2019-20 season.
Steve Alford exceeded expectations:
I really thought about giving this award to Jalen Harris’ season. He put up one of the best seasons in Nevada history. If Malachi Flynn wasn’t performing as good as Harris with the No. 4 team in the country, Harris would probably have been the conference’s player of the year.
But lets not forget the pressure head coach Steve Alford was put under to begin this year.
Nevada was coming off its fourth consecutive 20-win season, third consecutive regular season Mountain West title and third straight NCAA tournament bid heading into the 2019-20.
Former Nevada head coach Eric Musselman, who was at the helm of that historic four-year run, departed for Arkansas. When Steve Alford took the wheel, at least for his first season, he was placed into a difficult circumstance.
All five starters from the 2018-19 team (Caleb and Cody Martin, Jordan Caroline, Tre’Shawn Thurman and Trey Porter) all graduated. Multiple players — including five-star recruit Jordan Brown, who was entering his sophomore season — transferred to other programs. Just five players from that that team — Jazz Johnson (2018-19 MWC Sixth Man of the Year), Jalen Harris (sit-out transfer), Nisre Zouzoua, Lindsey Drew (missed 2018-19 due to multiple injuries) and K.J. Hymes (redshirted in 2018-19) — were the only returning players.
Given those circumstances, not a lot knew what to expect. I projected an 18-win season for Nevada. TeamRankings.com had Nevada with a projected 16.2 wins. Nevada was projected to be the fourth-best team in the conference, per the conference media. They were an intriguing wildcard heading into the 2019-20 season.
Well the Wolf Pack won 19 games, one win away from their fifth consecutive 20-win season. They were third in the Mountain West at 12-6 and two top-10 scorers in the conference.
It was a successful season for Alford.
Honorable Mention: Jalen Harris’ remarkable season; Lindsey Drew’s career year; etc.
Unfortunate end to the season:
The Mountain West Tournament was one of the few tournaments to conclude before the outbreak of COVID-19.
Nevada entered the tournament with a 3-seed with a first-round bye. After No. 11 Wyoming — the lowest seed in the conference — upset No. 6 Colorado State, 80-74, the Cowboys were slated to face Nevada.
Wyoming — after picking up two total conference wins all throughout the regular seasons — picked up its second in as many nights. Nevada was upset in a 74-71, ending Nevada’s chances at a Mountain West conference tournaments.
The loss to Wyoming likely ended Nevada’s chances at a National Invitation Tournament (NIT) bid. Nevada did put in a bid to host either the NIT or the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), so it was likely to receive a postseason invite. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, the Pack never got the chance to redeem themselves, receiving a bitter ending to a good season.
With that being said, you could argue that it was better for the season to way it did end. If Nevada advanced to the MW tournament semifinals or even championship game, you could argue that the ending of the season would be much more painful knowing they were that much closer to a better postseason tournament (under the circumstance that there would be no NCAA, NIT or CBI tournaments because of COVID-19).
In either scenario, in hindsight, is a bitter way to end the season.
Honorable Mention: Lack of quality wins