With all five starters back from last season, the Nevada Wolf Pack are in a position to capitalize on a likely down year from Utah State and win the WAC. That would certainly be considered "going out with a bang" as it is their final year as part of the conference before moving to the Mountain West.
Last year was a year of transition for the the Wolf Pack, as they had to replace their top two players. With a few transfers and several freshmen entering the mix, Nevada took their expected bumps, but that should pay great dividends this season.
Head coach David Carter returns the conference's top rebounder and shot blocker in Dario Hunt, who will anchor the interior. Hunt will be joined in the starting frontcourt by Olek Czyz. The former Duke transfer offers more versatility than Hunt due to Czyz's ability to stretch defenses with his outside shooting.
Devonte Elliott and Kevin Panzer each saw decent minutes off the bench last season and will once again assume those roles. Elliott is more in the mold of Hunt in that he is most effective in the paint. Panzer is more similar to Czyz with his ability to shoot the rock. With experienced depth up front, freshman Richard Bell could end up redshirting.
WAC Freshman of the year Deonte Burton is a scoring point guard who can stroke it from the outside but is also dangerous off the bounce. He will need to become a better distributor this season if he wants to become more well-rounded and help his team. The transfer of Derrell Conner means Jordan Finn will handle the backup point guard duties.
There is a lot of size and athleticism on the wing. Indiana transfer Malik Story led the team in scoring in his first year with Nevada. He is an all-around two guard who can score from the inside or outside and also handle the rock. Jerry Evans Jr. (6-8) had a decent redshirt freshman season and will be the fifth option in the starting five. Jordan Burris and Patrick Nyeko offer more size off the bench.
2010-2011 was the first time in a decade that the Wolf Pack finished with a losing record. A full year of experience playing together, and having all of their key pieces back should help Nevada make a significant leap this season, possibly re-establishing their tradition from the mid-2000's when they won five straight WAC regular season titles.
Player to Watch: Dario Hunt, PF
The 6-8 Hunt needs just six blocks to become the school's all-time leader. He brings a nice combination of strength and athleticism to the floor and has started all but eight games during his time at Nevada. If he progresses into his senior season like he did from his sophomore to junior years, Hunt could end up being selected in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/11 vs. Missouri State
11/14 at UNLV
11/25 vs. BYU (Chicago Invitational Challenge)
11/26 vs. Wisconsin/Bradley (Chicago Invitational Challenge)
McDowell is a great pick by the Seahawks. He has tons of talent and upside. McDowell is very fast, naturally strong, and extremely athletic. If Pete Carroll can get the best out of him then Seattle could have a massive steal.