Can a team be an NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament darling without even playing a tournament game in this year's tournament?
If you're the Nevada Wolf Pack, yes, you can.
The Wolf Pack capped an improbable two-year rise over the weekend, first winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas on Saturday over Colorado State, 79-71, to earn the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007. Then, on Sunday, the Wolf Pack learned they will be a No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region and will play fifth-seeded Iowa State on Thursday at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc.
Reaction to Sunday Night's win
The game will be shown live on truTV and will tip off at approximately 7 p.m. Reno time.
As a No. 12 seed, the Wolf Pack has quickly gained traction as a possible first-round upset winner. Longtime Sports Illustrated writer and CBS Sports college basketball analyst Seth Davis said as much during Sunday's nationally televised selection show, picking the Wolf Pack to go all the way to the Sweet Sixteen.
Not bad for a program that, before Eric Musselman was hired as the 18th coach in program history on March 26, 2015, had bottomed out with a 9-22 record. The Wolf Pack finished with 24 wins in Musselman's first season, winning the College Basketball Invitational at season's end.
This year, Nevada, 28-6, won the Mountain West's regular season title with a 14-4 conference mark, then dispatched Utah State, Fresno State and Colorado State at the Mountain West Conference Tournament to earn the school's first-ever men's basketball Mountain West Tournament crown.
On Sunday, in front of a packed room, the Wolf Pack learned their March Madness fate. The Wolf Pack, a 12 seed, will travel to Milwaukee for its Thursday matchup with Big 12 Tournament champ No. 5 Iowa State (23-10) in the first round of the NCAA Championship, playing in the Midwest Region.
"Obviously, everybody feels good about seeing our name up there," Musselman said. "But now we have to get to work and figure out a way to compete."
The Pack has a balanced attack, with four starters averaging above 14 points per game, led by senior guard Marcus Marshall's 19.8 ppg.
In winning both the Mountain West regular season title and conference tournament, Nevada became just the fourth team in Mountain West history to bring home both trophies in the same season. Nevada is having an historic season, having won the second-most games in program history.
When the Wolf Pack takes on the Cyclones Thursday, it will be exactly 10 years since the Nick Fazekas-led Wolf Pack's first round game in 2007. In 2007, No. 7 Nevada knocked off No. 10 Creighton, 77-71, before losing in the second round to Memphis, 78-62. In 2004, in its most successful NCAA Tournament, Nevada advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Joining the Wolf Pack and Cyclones in the section of the Midwest bracket is No. 4 Purdue and No. 13 Vermont.
FOLLOW THE ACTION
- Watch Live: truTV/March Madness
- Live App
- Joe Crowley Student Union Theatre
On Radio: Wolf Pack Radio Network - 94.5 FM, 630 AM
Westwood One/Sirius (137)/XM (205)
Wolf Pack Blue Thursday
Thursday, March 16, has been delcared Wolf Pack Blue Thursday! Wear Nevada blue with pride and cheer on the Pack to victory!