Nevada Basketball, Best Case/Worst Case Pt. 2

In part two of our series on Nevada basketball, we take a look at each player and even the head coach to examine what are the best case and worst case scenarios for the coming season.

The Wolf Pack struggled mightily in the tougher Mountain West Conference last year, a year after winning the WAC regular season championship, mainly due to a lack of front court production. So Carter went out and recruited a bevy of front court players, obviously hoping some of them will complement and already solid backcourt led by senior point guard Deonte Burton and return Nevada to the NCAA tournament.

D.J. Fenner
Last Year in Review
Fenner comes to Nevada from Seattle, Washington were he played at Seattle Prep. Averaging 27.3 points his senior year, Fenner had a knack for scoring from anywhere on the court. He was so impressive, that the Seattle Times named him as the Washington Player of the year. Fenner chose Nevada over some quality west coast teams such as Gonzaga, Washington State, and Oregon.

Best Case Scenario for 2013-2014
One thing the Wolf Pack lacked last year was a scorer off the bench. If Deonte Burton or Malik Story weren't scoring at a ridiculous pace, the game was all but over. This year Fenner, a shooting guard, in the best possible scenario would be that player who could, in off nights for the starters, come in and put up 13 points. He likely wouldn't be able to average 13 a game this year, but could have those types of games, which Nevada missed last year. Coach David Carter and players have commented that Fenner has been extremely impressive in offseason workouts and now practices. Fenner will be the back up to transfer Michael Perez. For Fenner, if he could average about 6 points a game, but have games where he reaches 15 points that would be productive for the 6' 6" freshman.

Worst Case Scenario for 2013-2014
There are two possible scenarios for a failure for DJ Fenner. The first scenario is that his scoring doesn't translate from the high school game to the Division I level and he struggles with his role. Fenner isn't good enough on the offensive end and cant develop into a defense player so doesn't earn minutes in his freshman year. The second scenario is that Fenner shows that he has the talent to play this year and produce but can't find enough minutes in a crowded backcourt. Fenner must sit behind Perez, Coleman, Evans, and Burton during his freshman year and becomes frustrated with the team and the program. I would much rather the second "worst-case" scenario happens because that at least means the kid as talent.

Ali Fall
Last Year in Review
In his junior season, and first with Nevada, Fall was a backup big man who played in 22 games, coming off the bench in each. Fall averaged only 1.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 9.4 minutes a game. Fall showed promise on the offensive end with some solid back to the basket post moves. Too often though Fall was a dead spot for the ball, meaning that once he got it in the post he wasn't looking to pass at all, which resulted in lots of turnovers and terrible shots. Fall also had a hard time staying on the court as he often got in foul trouble during his limited minutes.

Best Case Scenario for 2013-2014
Fall is in line to be the starting center if Coach Carter wants to go with a more traditional lineup. While Fall may not have the best height, only 6' 9", he does have a built body at 250 pounds. In the perfect scenario he can use his big body to keep up with the physical centers in the MWC and becomes the Wolf Pack's dominating rebounder. Furthermore, Fall could and should improve his post moves and develop patience along with them. If Fall can provide an inside presence in both offense and rebounding, power forward A.J. West should cover up his defensive issues, leading to Fall averaging 6 points and 6 rebounds a game.

Worst Case Scenario for 2013-2014
Fall's offense game doesn't improve, he still gets in foul trouble causing him to not see the floor, and he cant rebound at an increased rate. If any of these things happen, not only will this year be a failure, but also his career will have been a waste. Coach Carter has not shown the ability to effectively recruit bigs and if Fall doesn't pan out in his senior year, he will be the next victim of failed bigs. For Fall a year similar to last years output would the worst-case scenario.

Michael Perez
Last Year in Review
Coming to Nevada as a transfer from UTEP, Perez was required to redshirt and sit out all of last year. Prior to that, Perez was a top performer for the Miners during his sophomore year, averaging 11 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and shooting 36.9% from the three-point range. Perez will have two years to play for the Wolf Pack.

Best Case Scenario for 2013-2014
It's this simple for Perez: be a better version of Malik Story in his time at Nevada. Story last year was Nevada's best or second best scorer, could light up the scoreboard with three pointers, and was a team leader. In the best-case scenario, Perez is all that and more. Perez, unlike Story, can get to the rim effectively, shoot threes at a higher percentage, and is a more complete player. When Story wasn't on the court he was a liability, but Perez can affect the game with his passing and defensive knack for steals. So this year if Perez can average 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal a game it will be a major success and an upgrade at the shooting guard position from the productive but unreliable Story.

Worst Case Scenario for 2013-2014
If Perez cannot replace Story effectively in any way, the Pack as a team could struggle. Perez is that important to the team's overall success. The worst possible scenario is if Perez becomes a worse version of Story, or doesn't even compare to Story. If Perez cannot replace the scoring void left from the departed senior and especially stretch the floor it would be disappointing. Furthermore, if Perez cant develop into a productive defender who gets steals, the defense may be no better than it was last year, which is inexcusable.

Deonte Burton
Last Year in Review
Burton has had a productive calendar year. To start, he made the best adjustment to the increased talent that the Mountain West provided and averaged 16.3 points, 3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Those numbers were good enough for him to be named to the All-MW third team. He was the team's best and most consistent player, but to often was not aggressive enough in the first half of games. Furthermore he continued to have the "clutch gene," hitting game winning shots in back to back games. After his dynamic year, Burton was one of 29 college basketball players that got an invitation to play for the USA Basketball in the Men's University Games. Although he didn't make the roster, the invite and the experience alone are pretty cool for the school's 10th career leading scorer.

Best Case Scenario for 2013-2014
It's going to be hard to improve on his career in this last year. He has been a three-year, in line to make it four year, starter who will continue to be the best player on the team. In the best-case scenario he will continue to climb in the record books and end his career as the second leading scoring in Nevada basketball history. For Burton to improve he needs to look for his shot more often and earlier in games, because at times he can be dominating. That is what Nevada needs and last year to often he was looking solely to facilitate to less talented players. If Burton can be aggressive his scoring numbers will slightly go up to 18 points per game, and he needs to maintain his 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals numbers.

Worst Case Scenario for 2013-2014
Burton wont be worse as a player. His stats in the worst way possible would be roughly the same with the possibility of a slight decrease. But if Burton can't become a leader and loses his clutch factor late in games, he simply becomes just a very good college player who will be forgotten in a few years. Nevada hasn't been in the NCAA tournament during his tenure and if he can't make it to at least the NIT this year, Burton will soon be forgotten for lack of impact in the win column at Nevada. In his game, the worse possible outcome would be for Burton to not be willing to take over early in games and establish dominance, making Nevada have to come behind in too many games.

Ronnie Stevens Jr.
Last Year in Review
Another transfer looking to fill the void left in the frontcourt, Stevens has spent his last two years at Indian Hills Community College. In his sophomore year he averaged 4.6 point, 2.6 rebounds, and 1 block per game. Most of his time was spent playing against opponents who matched his 6' 8" 230 pound body, but rarely against guys that were bigger than him.

Best Case Scenario for 2013-2014
This junior, similarly to the other JC transfers, will step in right away competing for playing time. Stevens can become a serviceable big who can provide solid interior defense and possibly knock down a hook shot or two a game. Primarily though, his offense comes off offensive rebounds, so hopefully he can become a contributor on the boards. Averaging 3 points and 4 rebounds a game playing roughly 15 minutes a game would be a useful year from Stevens. If he can develop his right hook a bit more, he could see an increase in minutes.

Worst Case Scenario for 2013-2014
During his two years at the JC, Stevens was never a dominating offensive player, but rather bullied his way to offensive rebounds or got set up nicely by his teammates. In the Mountain West Stevens will have a harder time being a bully on the boards because of the increased size in the competition. In the worst-case scenario, Stevens would be unable to rebound effectively on both sides of the court, which takes away his biggest strength. If Stevens fails to rebound or become a good interior defensive player, he might have a hard time finding minutes behind Ali Fall and AJ West.

Lucas Strivins
Last Year in Review
Strivins is another transfer but is separated by the fact that he is a sophomore meaning he has three years to play for the Wolf Pack. Averaging 5.1 points and 4.6 rebounds at Pratt Community College, Strivins is a tall (6'11") but lanky (212 pounds) center that could compete for some playing time this season.

Best Case Scenario for 2013-2014
I'm not completely sold on Strivins as a rotation player that can play a productive eight minutes a game for this upcoming season. The best possible outcome for Strivins is that he proves me wrong. To do that, he will have to become more of an offensive threat than Ronnie Stevens, AJ West, or Ali Fall because all three of those guys hold an edge defensively. In the long term, Strivins should focus on building a better frame for his body and reach 230 by the beginning of next season.

Worst Case Scenario for 2013-2014
Again, I see Strivins as more of a long-term project, so expectations for this upcoming season should remain low. The worst outcome for Strivins is if he doesn't develop into a bigger body, which would put him into a position to start, and finish his career as the 10th or 11th guy on the bench.

Richard Bell
Last Year in Review
Bell played in three games as a sophomore, each time in the final seconds of a blowout game, and only recorded one stat, a steal against Cal Poly. Standing at 6' 9" and 215 pounds, Bell didn't have the ability to handle the physicality of the Mountain West last year.

Best Case Scenario for 2013-2014
As a sophomore, Bell must start to make improvements for Nevada to show he truly belongs. This year the best chance for Bell comes as him possibly being a power forward who can stretch the floor in some way. If he can develop some quickness and an outside jumper, he could compete for two-three minutes a game.

Worst Case Scenario for 2013-2014
Bell improves in no way. He doesn't get bigger or stronger. He stays slow. He doesn't become a better shooter. This all culminates to a 12th guy on the bench who doesn't even get a look for minutes from the coaches. This is a real possibility for Bell who could become the latest in a long line of disappointing big men that Coach Carter has brought in.

Coach Carter
Last Year in Review
We will focus on the record and such during the team's preview, but for Coach Carter we will focus on his coaching and recruiting. Last year he brought in a recruiting class lead by Marqueze Coleman, Cole Huff, and Michael Perez. And while Perez couldn't play last year due to transfer rules, Coleman and Huff did show flashes of being very good players for Nevada. During the year Carter struggled to find a consistent rotation, which likely negatively affected the team. Furthermore, it could be argued that Carter lost both control and respect from the team which left to the in season departure of Patrick Nyeko and offseason transfers from Jordan Burris, Kevin Panzer, and Devonte Elliot. But, star Deonte Burton did say a big reason he stayed at Nevada, was his loyalty to coach Carter. This all arguably puts Carter on the hot seat coming into this season.

Best Case Scenario for 2013-2014
Following a disappointing season in the first year in the MWC, Carter is looking to improve the record and chances for a postseason berth for the Wolf Pack. Carter needs his recruiting class from this year to step in and be productive immediately, and in the best-case scenario, this happens. Especially the frontcourt players, such as AJ West and Ronnie Stevens, need to step in and play useful minutes. His new guards, Perez and DJ Fenner, must also be effective to cover up the loss of Malik Story. Carter must also decide whether he will play small lineups, featuring Huff and Coleman, or more traditional lineups. In the perfect scenario, Carter can quickly develop a rotation and lineup that makes everyone happy and produces wins.

Worst Case Scenario for 2013-2014
Carter is a player's coach, but hasn't been very effective (see transfers). If the team can't establish some consistency in a rotation, which starts with Carter, the team may struggle. The worst possible scenario is the power forward and center transfers that Carter recruited are not an improvement from Panzer and Elliot, which causes too much pressure on the guards. Carter has not proven he can effectively recruit big men, which another recruiting class that struggles would be bad news. At the end of a bad year, Nevada and new athletic director Doug Knuth could be on the search for a new head basketball coach.

Team Preview
Last Year in Review
Making the transition from the WAC to the MWC, and the concurring rise in talent, made for a rough year for Nevada Basketball. Early non-conference losses to both UC Irvine and Drake started the year off rough, and Nevada finished 10-6 in a relatively weak non-conference slate. Nevada then hit the heart of their schedule and struggled mightily. They often struggled to score points outside of guards Malik Story and Deonte Burton, and had no inside presence on both ends of the floor. Those issues lead to the Nevada Wolf Pack finishing the year last in the Mountain West Conference with a 3-13 in conference record. In the MWC tournament, Nevada lost to Wyoming to end the unsuccessful year.

Best Cases Scenario for Nevada in 2013-2014
In the nonconference schedule Nevada has a few notable games against UCLA, Missouri, Cal, and Iona. Other than that there isn't much to the schedule so to hope for a 9-4 out of conference record is not unreasonable, but is unlikely. But hey, this is the best case scenario right? For this to really happen, Nevada will need to win every game they should, and lose to who they should. And as we all know, that never happens. In conference, the Mountain West is a loaded with lots of talented players and teams. To expect to go from worst to top three is completely unreasonable. Because this team has some questions in the frontcourt, but a talented backcourt, a fifth place finish, if everything goes perfectly, could happen, finishing behind New Mexico, Boise State, UNLV, and San Diego State. More realistically a 7th place finish behind those same teams and Utah State and Colorado State should be the benchmark. Best possible record: 20-11, which should compete for a tournament spot.

Worst Case Scenario for Nevada in 2013-2014
Lack of chemistry. Lack of interior defense. Lack of interior scoring. All are legitimate issues that the team could face throughout the year. If the Wolf Pack struggles with the nonconference games they are sure to struggle in conference play. The worst possible record in the nonconference would be 7-6 with losses coming to Pacific, UCLA, Missouri, California, Iona, and Long Beach State. In conference if Nevada doesn't figure out their above-mentioned issues quickly they could stumble to another disappointing finish. Their record in the worst-case scenario in conference play would be 7-11, which should be good for about 9th. This would leave Nevada's worst possible record at 14-17, a record similar to last season.


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