It hasn’t been the perfect 2023-24 season for Nevada so far, but there’s plenty to like and dislike at the midway point. There are a lot of similarities from last season, but I do believe this year’s team is much stronger and deeper than last.
Nevada’s weak link is themselves. From struggles on the road to playing out of its identity is what has killed them so far, but the first half of Mountain West play has not been a failure.
Let’s take a look at how the Wolf Pack has done over its first nine games against the Mountain West, what the remaining nine look like, and how it can finish out with an NCAA Tournament bid.
Overall Record: 18-5
Mountain West Record: 5-4
Home MW Record: 3-1
Road MW Record: 2-3
Wins: @ Fresno State, Air Force, Colorado State, San Jose State, @ Utah State
Losses: Boise State, @ San Diego State, @ Wyoming, @ New Mexico
What’s Going Right
Nevada’s aggressiveness has been its biggest offensive weapon so far. Its ability to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line has been its strongest link. Against the MW, Nevada’s highest shooting percentage comes from the free-throw line at 67.6 percent.
Still have to give credit to Nevada’s shooting from the field. The Pack have shot just over 45 percent, totaling 224 shots made on the inside. Jarod Lucas, Kenan Blackshear, and Nick Davidson have all been great in that category so far against the MW.
Those three players have collected triple-digit point totals so far, with Lucas leading the Pack with 140. Nevada has taken a few bad losses due to offensive performance, but its overall shooting, especially at home, has been very good.
It isn’t by much, but Nevada’s defense has limited MW opponents to a lower FG% than its own at 44.2 percent. Nevada has done great recently at limiting opponent’s shooting, most recently holding No. 22 ranked Utah State to a 39 shot percentage from the field.
In Nevada’s five wins against the MW, all of them have been double-digit wins. While there’s a credit to the offense, the defense’s ability to keep the score so out of reach has been incredible.
The Wolf Pack has also collected a plethora of blocks and steals in the past nine games. Nevada has recorded 36 blocks and 63 steals, averaging seven steals and four blocks in that span.
What’s Going Wrong
The three-point shot just hasn’t been there for Nevada. It’s gotten better in MW play, especially from Lucas and Tre Coleman. Overall, Nevada has shot 36.9 percent from deep so far.
Both Lucas and Coleman lead that department for Nevada, with Lucas shooting 19 threes and Coleman making 15.
The turnover battle started strong for the Pack and has been an up-and-down statistic for them so far. As a team, Nevada has picked up 85 turnovers, averaging 9.4 a game. Winning the turnover battle has meant wins for Nevada all season, but getting into the double digits has turned into trouble for the Pack. Out of the five games Nevada has recorded double-digit turnovers, three of them have resulted in losses.
When Nevada had lost four of five starting with the Boise State loss, there was too much hero ball going on. Lots of missed shots followed by the inability to get offensive rebounds, which Nevada has only collected 84 offensive rebounds in comparison to 204 defensive rebounds.
Missed shots followed by missed rebounds led to that three-game losing streak and losing four out of five. The past two wins (San Jose St. & Utah St.) have greatly improved, but with heated competition on the horizon, it needs to happen less often.
Just like the offense, there have been big flashes of inconsistencies with the defense, especially on the road. Nevada has taken pretty bad beatings in its MW losses, and it’s been a result of letting opponents get out to early leads.
In the Pack’s three biggest losses to Wyoming, San Diego State, and New Mexico, they let either one or multiple players run away with points. In the Wyoming game, it was a mix of Sam Griffin, Akuel Kot, and Brendan Wenzel scoring double-digit points.
In the New Mexico game, Jaelen House stole the show with a 21-point performance. Teams that shoot well from the three can also be an issue when Nevada’s offense isn’t able to keep up.
In the SDSU game, Jaedon LeDee dominated with 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Nevada also plays at a very slow, low-tempo pace. It’s the slowest in the MW, and while it can be helpful at times, there have been far too many fastbreak points against Nevada’s defense.
It’s another case of just finding consistency. Road games have been tough on both the offense and defense and the defense tends to shut down when put in enemy territory. Even if one player is dominating, silencing the rest can be the difference.
So how well could Nevada end this season? Clinching the MW might be out of reach, but wins against New Mexico and San Diego State coming up could put Nevada right back into that conversation.
We’ve talked about what has gone right and wrong for the Wolf Pack. The ceiling for this team is pretty simple, which is ending the next nine games on an absolute tear and stealing the MW. That would certainly mean a potential MW Championship win and a seeded placement in the NCAA Tournament.
The Floor is almost a repeat of last season. Going cold in the final few games of the season, falling out of the MW tournament, and being part of the first four in for the NCAA Tournament. With how much Nevada’s losses have stung this year and how deep the MW is, going cold like last season could result in Nevada not even seeing March Madness play.
The realistic result will be Nevada finishing off stronger than it did last season, but falling short of its chase for the first seed in the MW. The next two games will determine that, and maybe the homecourt advantage is what Nevada needs.
I see Nevada finishing anywhere from fourth to fifth place in the MW, and still finding themselves in the NCAA Tournament. It’ll be hard to win both of the next two games, not to mention not even facing UNLV yet.
After its huge win against No. 22 ranked Utah State, Nevada gets to come back home but faces another ranked opponent. It’ll host San Diego State at Lawlor, where the Aztecs are currently ranked No. 24 in the nation.
The rest of the Wolf Pack’s schedule after San Diego State goes like this:
2/13: New Mexico
3/1: Fresno State
2/23: San Jose State
2/27: Colorado State
3/5: Boise State
We’ll check back in with an end-of-the-year review, but for now, Go Pack.