The Texas Longhorns are headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in the last 20 tournaments — one of only eight schools to accomplish that feat. Head coach Shaka Smart’s team, the 10th seed in the South Region, will face off against the Nevada Wolf Pack on Friday in Nashville.
Nevada went 27-7 on the year and finished atop the regular-season Mountain West Conference standings under head coach Eric Musselman, who spent two stints as an NBA head coach. In the semifinals of the conference tournament, the Wolf Pack fell by 17 points to the Aztecs.
On paper, Nevada is a formidable opponent for Texas — Musselman’s team ranks No. 24 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency metric. The ‘Horns have a 3-7 record this season against top-25 teams in that measure.
The matchup will pit strength against strength, as Nevada has the No. 10 offense nationally, while Texas counters with one of the top defenses. Musselman’s team finds success by limiting turnovers — it protects the ball as well as anyone in the country — and by hitting three pointers at nearly 40 percent.
In terms of common opponents, Nevada lost to TCU and Texas Tech during non-conference play, teams that Texas split with during the Big 12 conference season before falling to the Red Raiders in Kansas City on Thursday.
For a mid-major team, the Wolf Pack have a remarkable amount of length on the wing and at the guard positions — four of the top six contributors are 6’7. So there isn’t a lot of height inside. Twins Caleb and Cody Martin are both efficient players, though Caleb is a much better three-point shooter, while Jordan Caroline is 6’7, 235 pounds and provides the offensive and defensive rebounding, in addition to getting to the foul line at a high rate.
Six of the top seven contributors are juniors or seniors, so this is also an extremely experienced team, having also made the NCAA Tournament last season.
Given the height of the Wolf Pack, this might be a game where Texas opts to start Dylan Osetkowski, Jericho Sims, and Mo Bamba, whose minutes were limited against Texas Tech, but should be closer to full health after he did not experience any ill effects from his 14 minutes of action on Thursday.
Stay tuned for a more in-depth look at the Wolf Pack in the coming days.