Coach David Carter deserves much credit for turning the program around this year. Next year, with the loss of Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt, Carter will need to find some top-notch replacements.
In the WAC Tournament this year Nevada did not play up to snuff almost losing to the eighth seed in the first game and dropping a close one to LA Tech in the second. Particularly disappointing was the performance of Deonte Burton who was in low figures scorewise.
But getting back to the regular season, Burton was an outstanding performer and got WAC Player of the Year. Also Coach Carter was named Coach of the Year. Both deserved the honors. So Nevada is leaving the WAC on a high note. How the Wolf Pack will fare next season when they leave the WAC for the Mountain West Conference remains to be seen. Carter needs a big man in the middle to abet the talented trio of Burton, Storey and Evans. Competition in the MWC is a step up from the WAC and will require a greater effort from the Nevada squad.
Olek Czyz probably summed it up best when he commented on the Pack’s lackluster performance in the WAC tournament, “There is nothing worse than feeling that you come up short of your ultimate goal.” Czyz, who was first recruited by Duke University, came on strong for Nevada particularly in the second half of the season.
It was revealed on Monday of this week that Nevada had missed a berth in the NCAA Tournament by just three spots. In Coach Carter’s words, “We were all disappointed. We had done everything that you would think you’d have to do to make the NCAA Tournament. But we can’t cry over spilled milk. We have to rise up and get ready for a very good team in Oral Roberts and get ready for another great opportunity to play in the NIT.” The NCAA takes the top 68 teams in the country. Oral Roberts finished 69th in the judges’ balloting. Nevada came in at 71.
Oral Roberts will be a worthy opponent for Nevada since its record is slightly better at 27-6 to Nevada’s 26-6. Carter went on to say, “I just think that it’s mind-boggling that you win your conference but you’re not rewarded. We’re still rewarded with the NIT. That’s a very prestigious tournament. It’s been around a long time and there’s a lot of history. We’re grateful. But I just wish they would reconsider how you’re invited to the NCAA Tournament. If the WAC Tournament is that important then why have a conference season?”
Nevada had submitted a bid to host the first round of the NIT, but Oral Roberts’ better record prevailed. This is Nevada’s fifth appearance in the NIT. The team has never advanced past the second round. Its last appearance came in 2009-10, when it beat Wichita State in the first round before losing to Rhode Island.
Commenting on the 2009-10 NIT disappointment Carter said, “At this point I think there’s a hangover. But once we got down to Wichita, I think reality kind of set in and I think it will be the same thing with these guys.”
Coach Carter did a magnificent job in compiling this year’s record. We can only hope the he will do as well in the NIT. Nevada should have a good chance of winning that tournament whereas it would have been extremely difficult to have competed against the giants in the NCAA tournament.
The Golden Eagles, as the Oral Roberts team is called, are well known for their offense so it should have been a high-scoring game.
Coach Carter introduced a faster tempo offense for his squad this year but it sputtered a bit in the WAC Tournament. Hopefully it will find its gears mesh better in the NIT. Burton will have to step up if Nevada is to have a chance.
Despite its outstanding season this year, Nevada continues to see very poor home game attendance. There are probably many reasons for this among them the general economy, the threat that Lawlor will be reseated at a higher rate, and the way the home games are promoted.
Over the years Nevada has consistently moved to tougher conferences. In the halcyon days of yore Nevada was an Independent and played many top teams from the East that were traveling West and conversely played teams from the West traveling East. This gave Nevada a chance to knock off some strong teams and made Reno a national dateline.
During the war years Nevada played many Service teams. Shortly after the war Nevada played many Semi-professional teams and acquitted itself handsomely. Most of those games were played in the new gym which is now the old gym on Virginia Street and home to the women’s volleyball program.
Harry Spencer is a Reno freelance writer.