It’s hard to imagine what the past 28 days were like for a Nevada fan. On the one hand, the Wolf Pack won a de facto regular season championship game in front of their home crowd on the last day of the season, and ran through the Mountain West tournament for their first title, securing the league’s only bid to the NCAA tournament.
Nevada was a popular upset pick as a 12-seed against Iowa State (including in my bracket) in the Midwest regional. But they never really stood a chance against the Cyclones, leading just once in the contest — when the score was 2-0. They couldn’t make the most of their chance to prove that the Mountain West wasn’t all trash, albeit against a hot Iowa State team that had just cruised through the Big 12 tournament.
While the days following Nevada’s first-round exit were swallowed up with more madness, the coaching carousel already began to turn. Student Union-favorite Tom Crean got canned at Indiana, and the deck began to shuffle. After taking Nevada from rags to riches in just two seasons, and with his NBA coaching experience, there was no question that Eric Musselman deserved to be in the discussion for major conference jobs.
Sure enough, rumors began to swirl that Musselman was the front-runner to replace Cuonzo Martin at Cal. A report even surfaced that made the move sound like a done deal after he interviewed for the job. But Musselman soon reversed course, agreeing to stay with Nevada on March 22, taking a substantial raise, of course.
Surely everything is good, now that the team will keep their coach for the forceable future, while returning much of the talent that helped them to dominate the league this year, right?
Monday night, the Nevada basketball Twitter account posted a video of Sophomore forward Cameron Oliver announcing his decision to enter his name into the NBA draft.
— Nevada Basketball (@NevadaHoops) March 28, 2017
Oliver averaged 16 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 2.6 BPG, while being voted first team all-MW and defensive POY by the media. Oliver says he will not hire an agent, meaning that he could reverse course and remain eligible to return to school before the June 12 draft if he so chooses. That would be fitting, given what Wolf Pack fans have endured this month already.
But DraftExpress has Oliver pegged as an early second round pick, and it would be surprising to see Oliver back away now, given the buzz he has generated all season.
So where does this leave the Pack now?
Even without Oliver and with the loss of guard Marcus Marshall, the Wolfpack will remain as one of the most talented teams in the Mountain West next season. Guard Lindsey Drew and forward Jordan Caroline played significant minutes this season, and both look good enough to replace some of the production lost with Oliver and Marshall.
And then there’s Musselman, who took over a team coming off an 9-win season and turned them around into one that won 49 games in two seasons. One only need watch the 25-point second-half comeback at New Mexico earlier this season to understand how much Musselman gets out of his players. Above all the ups and downs of this March, keeping Musselman is number one reason why Nevada fans should come away from this month with a feeling of optimism.