Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nevada comes to town Thursday night

Who can forget this from the game last season?

Just who and what is Nevada this season? Well according to some, the Pack is an underperforming group of players who have been sabotaged this season by Coach Mark Fox because, of course, he has some evil master plan.

Now back to reality: it's apparent there are those whose living experience is too barren and whose emotional state soars to the heights and sinks to the depths based solely upon Nevada's winning and losing respectively. This group also suffers from short-term memory loss, stuck in what-have-you-done-for-me-lately self-imposed quagmire minus any acknowledgment of the success Nevada has enjoyed this past decade. They recently went ballistic over this Fox quote in the Reno Gazette-Journal game report last Sunday, inundating the newspaper with negative comments:

After the game, Fox said it was part of the growth process for a team that has been starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a senior. "We just have a very young team and this is part of the process that they have to go through," Fox said. "They can't be rushed. We can't stick steroids and stuff it in our team and make it bigger, faster, stronger, older. That just doesn't happen."

We would love to be able to do this: survey these naysayers in order to determine who has actually contributed financially or in any other genuine manner to the Nevada basketball program. We think there is a correlation between the most outlandish critics and their lack of giving of anything. This despite an apparent devotion to Wolf Pack hoops.

But others -- actually the vast majority -- have been eminently reasonable, comprehending the reality of the situation this season in Reno and relishing the tremendous success the Wolf Pack has enjoyed and will again have soon in the future.

Nevada's WAC Schedule This Season

notice the closeness of just about every game

Jan 03 Idaho 73 - 78 (L)
Jan 08 @ New Mexico State 79 - 71 (W) OT
Jan 10 @ Louisiana Tech 67 - 64 (W)
Jan 15 Boise State 77 - 63 (W)
Jan 17 Fresno State 65 - 60 (W)
Jan 22 Hawai'i 74 - 63 (W)
Jan 29 @ Utah State 61 - 72 (L)
Jan 31 @ Idaho 69 - 65 (W)
Feb 05 Louisiana Tech 75 - 78 (L)
Feb 07 New Mexico State 60 - 62 (L)

The Nevada Starting Five

Dario Hunt 6-8, 230 freshman -- He's the team leader in shotblocks with 52 but is more an in-the-paint power forward than a true center and not much of an option offensively at this point.

Luke Babbitt 6-9, 225 freshman -- The heralded freshman leads the team in scoring (15.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.6) and is shooting 46% from the floor plus 43% on his three-point attempts. He also is tops in three-pointers made on the team with 25. He will pose a problem ibecause he must be guarded when he is stationed in three-point territory as well as when he is in the paint. Open looks for him usually results in points on the scoreboard. Opposing teams need to make him work defensively.

Malik Cooke 6-6, 200 sophomore -- Call him a 'glue guy' with such a description being a salute. Cooke is second on the team in rebounding but first in offensive boards. In fact, his numbers in that category are almost identical -- 68 offensive boards, 78 defensive rebounds so blocking him out will be critical. He is best on the squad with 42 steals. His shooting is progressing but he's still more of a 'garbage guy' in putting points on the board.

Armon Johnson 6-3, 195 sophomore -- Selected by the conference coaches as the expected WAC Player of the Year, Johnson has endured an up-and-down season, possibly due to the adjustment of moving from more of a complementary role to being the #1 option on offense. Teams needed to focus on Marcelus Kemp last season as well as JaVale McGee, who had to be accounted for around the hoop. Johnson is scoring 14.9 ppg. this season but shooting 42% from the floor and 21% on trey attempts. Of late, he has been scoring better.

Lyndale Burleson 6-3, 190 senior -- His primary asset is as a defender -- an All WAC Defensive team member last season -- but his assist-to-turnover ratio is also a very solid 42-19 this go-around. But he's not a creator, more of a getting the ball to the right guy at the right place at the right time. He's shooting 31% from the floor and 27% fron long distance. What's startling though is his actually leading Nevada in three-pointers attempted with 69. That is way too many.

Off The Bench

Brandon Fields 6-4, 185, junior -- Currently at 36% from the floor and 18% from three-point range on the season, he is at 34% and 25% respectively in WAC play. His play has been a major disappointment.

Joey Shaw 6-6, 205, junior -- He transferred in from the junior college ranks after also spending a freshman season at Indiana and carried the rep of being a shooter/scorer. Shaw has enjoyed some good games but hasn't had the impact on the season as a whole that was expected. He is shooting 17% on his trey attempts in league action.

Everyone else on the roster is playing seven minutes a game or less.

As A Team

Nevada's team numbers look fairly solid. There are 30+ more steals and shotblocks than opponents and 30 less turnovers on the year. Within the WAC, most of the numbers tighten. Nevada is out-boarding conference foes by five a game but still dragging in shooting at 42% from the floor and 31% from long distance.

The Wolf Pack roster (alphabetical and by position)

Lyndale Burleson G 6-3 190 senior
Brandon Fields G 6-4 185 junior
London Giles G 6-3 180 freshman
Armon Johnson G 6-3 195 sophomore
Ray Kraemer G 6-4 200 junior

Luke Babbitt F 6-9 225 freshman
Adam Carp F 6-7 200 sophomore
Malik Cooke F 6-6 200 sophomore
Dario Hunt F 6-8 230 freshman
Ahyaro Phillips F 6-8 210 freshman
Richie Phillips F 6-7 220 junior
Joey Shaw F 6-6 205 junior

What Else

One big key is which Wolf Pack team will show up tonight? Will it be the Armon Johnson who shoots and scores well? Will Brandon Fields positively impact the game's outcome? Will Luke Babbitt go off?

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