It's Zags and Wolf Pack in Round 2

Nevada's Wolf Pack won the WAC and have the WAC Player of the Year. Trent Johnson's five year plan has come into fruition in a big way as Nevada toppled Michigan State in Round 1. Zags Hoops takes a look at this talented team.

THE WOLF PACK SEASON

The Nevada Wolf Pack went 23-8 on the season, and they split the regular season WAC title with UTEP. Nevada won the league's postseason conference championship. The Wolf Pack are led by head coach and Seattle native Trent Johnson, who recently completed his 5th season at the institution. Nevada has won 14 out of 16 games entering the NCAA tournament, so they are certainly on fire. In the pre-conference season, the Wolf Pack managed to go 2-2 versus NCAA tournament teams. They scored wins against Vermont and Kansas at home, and they lost to UConn and Pacific on the road. The UConn game, in particular, showed the nation that the Wolf Pack had the athletes and playmakers to be competitive against most teams. Their 5 league losses were all close games. They finished with a RPI ranking of 29 (according to collegerpi.com).

KEY WOLF PACK STATS

Points Per Game: 75.8
Assists Per Game: 14.4
Blocks Per Game: 4.7
Field Goal %: 46%
3 Point Field Goal %: 34%
3 Pointers Per Game: 4.9
Rebounds Per Game: 38.9
Rebounding Margin: +6.2
Steals Per Game: 6.6
Turnovers Per Game: 13.2
Free Throw %: 72%
Field Goal Percentage Defense: 41.5%
3 Point Field Goal Percentage Defense: 31%

PROJECTED STARTERS

PG = #3 Todd Okeson, 6-0, senior. Okeson this year has been much more focused on being the team's floor general, and consequently, some of his offensive stats have dropped this year. But he is still nailing 3's at a 36% clip, and cannot be left unguarded on the perimeter. A terrific 86% free throw shooter, Okeson is a heady player who makes smart decisions when leading his team.

SG = #1 Kirk Snyder, 6-6, junior. Snyder is one of the most underrated players in the entire nation, and a legit NBA prospect. He is strong, athletic and can score inside and out. He is averaging 18.7 PPG and 5.8 rebounds. The WAC player of the year, Snyder shot 44% from the field and 35% on 3's. Snyder is clutch.

SF = #23 Garry Hill-Thomas, 6-4, senior. Hill-Thomas is a very experienced player who shoots 48% from the field. He is not much of a three point threat. He attacks the rim very well.

PF = #21 Kevin Pinkney, 6-9, junior. Pinkney averages 5.7 rebounds and shoots 49% from the field. He can step out and has good range from about 15 feet on in.

C = #22 Nick Fazekas, 6-11, freshman. Fazekas has been more and more outstanding as the season has moved along. Fazekas has major upside and the ability to go out and shoot the 3. He averaged 12.7 PPG and grabbed 7.6 rebounds per contest. He is turning out to be a huge recruiting steal for Nevada.

THE BENCH

Nevada is a squad that relies on its starters heavily. Key contributors off the bench include big man bruiser Sean Paul, who is a direct contrast to Fazekas. Jermaine Washington is the back-up wing, and redshirt freshman Marcelus Kemp (a Garfield High School in Seattle alum) can get hot from 3 point land.

SOME KEYS TO THE GAME

Snyder went into a major shooting draught during the WAC tournament, and the Wolf Pack showed a lot of grit and determination in winning the postseason conference crown. The NCAA tournament requires that your best players shine, and Snyder must perform well for Nevada like he did near the end of the Michigan State game to win against elite opponents. It appears he thrives in big games. Fazekas must hold his own underneath against stronger bigs.

For Gonzaga, the bigs must put a heavy body on Fazekas in an effort to tire him and get him in foul trouble. Nevada is not very deep with talent. While Snyder is likely going to get his points, Knight and Skinner need to get after him defensively and make him work. Nevada defends the 3 point line well, and Gonzaga's guards must be selective when taking 3's. If the Zags keep pounding the ball down low and keep Snyder from going too crazy, they should come out on top.


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