There was no sugar-coating it. A first-round NCAA Tournament loss, particularly when the expectations were so much higher, was not what the Wolf Pack expected Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.
West Regional No. 10 seed Florida withstood one of those late second-half rallies Wolf Pack fans have become so accustomed to, to end seventh-seeded Nevada's season, 70-61.
The Pack, behind Cody Martin's game-high 23 points, fought back from an 18-point second-half deficit to draw within two points a couple of times late before faltering.
Nevada finished its season 29-5. The 29 victories tied for the most in program history.
Even with 29 wins, an undefeated home season, a share of the Mountain West Conference regular season championship with Utah State (the third straight season the Pack had won or shared the conference title), and a regular season in which the Pack was ranked all season among the nation's top teams (including a long stretch in which the Pack ranked among the top 10), Coach Eric Musselman and the Pack's players were not satisfied.
"Things weren't going well," Musselman told Nevada Sports Net (NSN). "We struggled and they fought back and got within a possession of the game, and I'm proud to coach these guys. We got a lot of guys in that locker room that are really hurting, a lot of guys that are tough-minded people and they will be successful in life because of their toughness and their competitive nature. I think a lot of these seniors have won a lot of games for our program and given our fans a lot of good times and tonight we came up short.
"So it hurts and stings."
Added Martin to NSN, who had to be given intravenous fluids prior to the game to ward off flu-like symptoms and played the entire 40 minutes: "You know, you wish you had possessions back. You can't get that done. At the end of the day ... I hope we can all say we left it all out there on the line and gave 110 percent. If that isn't the case then that's an issue and it is what is it is. I'm proud of our guys. I'm proud of how they fought. I'm proud of how we fought. I wish we could have started off a little bit better, but like coach said, they just happened to outplay us."
Expectations were sky-high for this year's Wolf Pack. Coming off a Sweet Sixteen run in last year's tournament, returning the core of that team, plus starting five fifth-year seniors, many preseason publications picked the Wolf Pack for a deep run into the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Though the run didn't happen, it's instructive to remember how far the program has come in the four years Eric Musselman has been the coach. Few other four-year periods in University history have been as notable or memorable.
Perhaps that will be the legacy of this year's Wolf Pack team. Their story reached an entire nation, and seemed to transcend the game they played. CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor attended a late-season game and featured the poignant story of Cody and his twin brother Caleb and their remarkable mother Jenny who raised the two young men from poverty. Bleacher Report told the Martins' story in even more tear-jerking fashion. Musselman was a frequent guest on the "Jim Rome Show" on CBS Sports Radio, drawing praise from the sometimes acerbic host for the job he had done in resurrecting the Wolf Pack program. Documentary film crews were embedded with the Wolf Pack throughout the season, and the Wolf Pack players were unperturbed about the constant attention of the bright lights.
Cody Martin, on the phone for an interview during a long bus ride to Logan, Utah, on March 1, said that there were so many aspects of the program that he would remember long after he graduates.
"If I'm sitting there with my kids 10 or 15 years from now, talking about my time at Nevada, I'm probably going to relate to them that it was a time where I had a lot of fun, where we worked very hard to build something that people will remember, and that really, it was a time where we were not taking any day here for granted. I think we've built a lot of relationships with people here that are going to last a lifetime."
Then he paused, and perhaps thinking about his relationship with Coach Musselman - "There was an effort that was being made on both sides. Coach Muss was transparent with Caleb and I and in reality, I really do think that a lot of my own success has a lot to do with Coach Muss' belief in me," he had said earlier in the interview - as well as his mother's influence of always working hard, always trying to make an impact on others, he mentioned something that might be applied to what the Wolf Pack in 2019 did most successfully.
"Over the years, I suppose I've learned it doesn't do anything for me to get frustrated, or upset," he said. "If the shot doesn't fall and isn't falling, you have to figure out a way to impact the game positively in other ways. That's something really important I've learned from my Mom. There was a time when my shot wasn't falling, and she told me, ‘Just impact the game in other ways. Don't give up on impacting the game in other ways.' That's just generally something my Mom has always been big on over the years with us.
"Sure, things might be rough and there might challenges, but you can still find ways to work through it, and, if you work hard enough, to find the ways you need to succeed in life."
Here is a look back at the past four years. It's been one heck of a ride, Wolf Pack.
Season One: 'Nobody with the skills, ability and knowledge' like Eric Musselman
March 26, 2015 - Eric Musselman is named the 18th coach in Wolf Pack men's basketball history, replacing David Carter, who was fired after a 9-22 season, 5-13 and in 10th place in the 11-team Mountain West Conference. Musselman, 50, an LSU assistant, had previously served as head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings. During Musselman's introductory press conference in the Silver and Blue Room in Lawlor Events Center, he said, "We have what we need to win here, I can tell you that. All we need is two buckets and 94 feet and we're ready to rock and roll." Added Athletic Director Doug Knuth: "When you look at what this basketball program needs to get us back to the top of the conference or back to postseason play, you talk about recruiting, you talk about player development and you talk about engagement and frankly there is nobody with the skills and nobody with the ability and knowledge to get us there quicker and do it the right way than Eric Musselman." Noting that it was the beginning of a new era, Musselman said the Wolf Pack's first practice would be held later that same day, at 3 p.m., in Lawlor Events.
May 4, 2015 - 6-foot-4 point guard Lindsey Drew, from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, signs a national letter of intent at Nevada. Drew is the second recruit to sign with Nevada under Musselman. A week earlier, Missouri State transfer shooting guard Marcus Marshall signed with Nevada. Later in the spring, Cameron Oliver, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound freshman from Oakland who did not play basketball the year previous after a coaching change at Oregon State, signs with the Wolf Pack.
May 13, 2015 - Musselman signs his third recruit to play for the Wolf Pack after being named the head coach at the end of March. Jordan Caroline, a transfer from Southern Illinois, signs a scholarship agreement to play for Nevada in 2016-17.
Oct. 13, 2015 - Nevada is picked to finish ninth out of 11 teams in the Mountain West in the conference's preseason poll media poll.
Nov. 13, 2015 - Wolf Pack wins their season opener in Musselman's coaching debut, 73-56, against Coastal Carolina in the first round of the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. Junior guard D.J. Fenner scored a team-high 16 points.
Nov. 21, 2015 - Nevada beats longtime rival Pacific, 85-82, in two overtimes in Stockton, Calif. It is the Wolf Pack's first victory at Pacific since 2005. It's Nevada's third win away from home, already surpassing last year's road victory total.
Jan. 2, 2016 - Wolf Pack defeats Wyoming, 72-68, at Lawlor Events Center behind senior Marqueze Coleman's 23 points. Nevada, 9-5 overall, matches its win total from the year before.
Jan. 23, 2016 - Nevada, trailing by as much as nine points in the second half, rallies and edges in-state rival UNLV, 65-63, led by Coleman's 21 points. The game is played in front of 11,341 fans at Lawlor Events Center - the largest crowd at Lawlor since 2007. "I think I liked it," Musselman told reporters after the game about his first experience with the Nevada-UNLV rivalry. "These guys have worked so hard and when we first met we talked about getting the people in Reno and the surrounding area to really respect us. When they come to Lawlor, they're paying their hard-earned money and we want them to feel proud that they're Wolf Pack fans. In think they've accomplished that. This is a great win for these guys."
Feb. 28, 2016 - Nevada, playing in its third overtime game in its past five, beats Colorado State, 87-80, at Lawlor Events Center to improve to 18-10 and 10-6 in the Mountain West, doubling its overall win and conference win totals from the year before. Senior guard Tyron Criswell scored 23 points for the second consecutive game and Cameron Oliver recorded his sixth double-double of the season and Lindsey Drew dished out a career-high eight assists, grabbed a career-high nine rebounds and finished with eight points.
March 10, 2016 - Cameron Oliver scored a career-high 26 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked a shot with 3.5 seconds to play to lead Nevada to a 64-62 victory over New Mexico in the Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals in Las Vegas. It's Nevada's first victory in the MWC Tournament in four trips.
March 17, 2016 - Nevada rallies from a 12-point second-half deficit to defeat Montana, 79-75, in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational at Lawlor Events Center. Fenner tied his career high with 24 points, including a crucial eight points in a row during the Pack's rally, to lead Nevada to its 20th victory of the season. Drew hit a 3-pointer late to put Nevada ahead for good. Nevada paid $40,000 for the right to host a first-round CBI game. 4,524 attended. "What unbelievable energy inside of Lawlor tonight, because we really didn't know what would happen from a crowd standpoint," Musselman said. "We had unbelievable second-half effort."
April 1, 2016 - Nevada wins the CBI championship with an 85-82 overtime victory over Morehead State at Lawlor Events Center. It was the third game in a best-of-three championship series. Nevada lost the opener on March 28 at Morehead, 83-86, then evened the series with a 77-68 win in Reno on March 30. In the championship, tournament MVP Tyron Criswell scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds before 9,043 jubilant fans. In what would become a tradition at Lawlor in the wake of championship moments, Musselman attempted to pull on a championship T-shirt, was pulled by his players onto their shoulders, and seemed to somehow pull part of the shirt off. Undeterred, Musselman began pumping his fists in the air, much to the delight of the Wolf Pack's fans. Musselman, somewhat sheepishly, would later say of his "Muss-Always-Tears-Off-His-T-Shirt-In-Wake-Of-Championship" origin story that, "I was trying to put on a championship T-shirt, but then the guys grabbed me and carried me on their shoulders, and the shirt didn't make it all the way on. My abs showed. I don't know if that's a good thing. But it was so cool what we did this season." Added Oliver: "Coach Musselman has been great. He really changed the culture here. His three words are 'effort,' 'energy,' 'enthusiasm,' and we did that." Nevada finished the 2015-2016 season 24-14.
May 31, 2016 - North Carolina State transfers Caleb and Cody Martin ink scholarship agreements to play for the Wolf Pack. The 6-foot-7 twins will sit out the 2016-2017 season and play for the Pack in 2017-2018. "We are absolutely thrilled that Caleb and Cody have joined our family here at Nevada," Musselman said. "Both Caleb and Cody have proven themselves at the highest level of college basketball in the ACC and, like (transfers) Hallice Cooke (from Iowa State) and Kendall Stephens (from Purdue), are high-character young men from phenomenal families that will further augment the Nevada basketball brand nationally."
Oct. 12, 2016 - Cameron Oliver is named to the Mountain West's preseason men's basketball team by the conference media. The Wolf Pack is picked to finish second in the preseason media poll.
Season Two: 'Jordan was screaming in the huddle to get him the ball'
Nov. 12, 2016 - Nevada loses its season opener, at No. 17 St. Mary's, 81-63. Musselman, a longtime friend of St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett, had joked in the weeks prior to the game that he had been "stupid" to schedule it. Afterward, he said, "We were just not ready. We were not ready to play a team of this caliber opening night on the road. I don't know how many teams in the country are. I don't know if I regret it. I regret the fact that it's the opening game and we're not where we need to be and we're not where they are based on their experience." Jordan Caroline made his Wolf Pack debut while coming off the bench. He scored nine points and had a team-high eight points in 33 minutes.
Dec. 11, 2016 - Marcus Marshall, who scored a game-high 32 points, hit the game winner with 0.2 seconds remaining, giving Nevada an 87-85 win over Washington in Seattle. Nevada improved to 8-2 overall in a matchup that featured Washington's Markelle Fultz, who would be the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
Jan. 4, 2017 - For the first time in nearly two decades, Nevada beats MWC power San Diego State, 72-69, at Lawlor. Caroline and Oliver both put up double-doubles.
Jan. 7, 2017 - Behind Caroline's 45 points, the Wolf Pack stages one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA history, beating New Mexico in overtime, 105-104, at Albuquerque, N.M. The Wolf Pack, who hadn't won in four previous games in New Mexico's infamous "Pit," trailed by 25 points with 11 minutes remaining, 19 with 4:27 left, and 11 with one minute remaining, and nine with 49 seconds remaining. By forcing overtime in the final minute and erasing New Mexico's 11-point lead, the Pack had staged the second-greatest final-minute comeback in NCAA history. The Wolf Pack's shooting down the stretch was mind-boggling. Nevada made all six of its final shots (all 3-pointers) over the final 1:03 in regulation. In overtime, Nevada had to battle back again, trailing 103-98 with 2:52 remaining. An Oliver dunk pulled Nevada within one with 38 seconds left; New Mexico made 1 of 2 free throws to hold a 104-102 lead with eight seconds remaining in overtime. Nevada took a timeout, and as Musselman later related, "Jordan was screaming in the huddle to get him the ball." Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal then described what happened next: "Like he did the entire game, Caroline delivered. The sophomore dribbled the ball to the left wing, rose up for a three and released it. As soon as the ball left his fingertips, Caroline chased after it, as if it was a little bit off. But, the ball rattled through the net with 2.9 seconds left ... the Wolf Pack erupted in euphoria." The 11,352 fans in attendance were left stunned. Said Musselman: "I haven't been a part of the program long, but I'd love to find out if there's ever been a greater game in the history of the program."
Feb. 8, 2017 - Nevada downs rival UNLV, 104-77, at Lawlor Events Center behind D.J. Fenner's 37 points. The victory moved Nevada, 19-5 overall, back into a first-place tie in the Mountain West standings. Energized by player introductions that were called out by the suave, tuxedo-wearing announcer, Michael Buffer of "Let's Get Ready To Rumble" boxing fame, the Wolf Pack's 104 points were the most Nevada had ever scored against its longtime rival. Knuth said Buffer's live appearance marked an important milestone in the Wolf Pack-Rebels rivalry: "The rivalry between Nevada and UNLV has been growing to the point where it is befitting to have Michael Buffer, a voice synonymous with major sporting events in Nevada, to be part of that history."
March 4, 2017 - Nevada, behind Oliver's 29 points and 17 rebounds, wins its first Mountain West Conference regular season men's basketball title with an 85-72 win over Colorado State at Lawlor. To celebrate the championship, Musselman ripped off his shirt and waved it in the air while being showered in confetti. His wife, Danyelle, came up with an appropriate hashtag for Musselman's celebratory championship actions: #nakedmuss
March 11, 2017 - Nevada captures its first Mountain West Conference Tournament championship with a 79-71 victory over Colorado State in Las Vegas. Mountain West Tournament MVP Caroline led the way with 23 points. The victory clinched an NCAA Tournament berth for Nevada for the first time in a decade. Afterward, Musselman shared that he had been subliminally messaging his team the entire season on what they were capable of doing. The security code for the door to the Wolf Pack's team meeting room had been set at 3-12-17 for the entire season. "Because that's the day of Selection Sunday," Musselman said. "And it's been that way for 11 months, basically, where every time they walk in that locker room they had to put that code in ... That was our goal from day one." Nevada finished its regular season 28-6 overall (the second-most victories in program history), and became only the fourth team in Mountain West history to win both the regular-season and conference tournament title in the same season.
March 12, 2017 - During CBS Sports' annual "Selection Sunday" special, it's announced the Wolf Pack would be a No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region and would play fifth-seeded Iowa State at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc.
March 16, 2017 - Fifth-seeded Iowa State beats 12th-seeded Nevada, 84-73, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Nevada fell behind by 13 at halftime and drew to within four points twice in the second half before falling. Oliver, Caroine and Marshall combined for 58 points. The Pack players cried afterward, with senior D.J. Fenner summing things up: "I was becoming overwhelmed because I didn't want this to be over with. "We had such a good season. I wasn't ready for it to end."
March 27, 2017 - Cameron Oliver announces he will forego his final two years of eligibility at Nevada in order to enter the NBA draft.
May 9, 2017 - After turning down the head coaching job at UC-Berkeley, Musselman signs a new five-year contract. During the season, Nevada averaged a school record 8,923 fans at each home game, and had six games over 10,000 fans at Lawlor, including sellouts against UNLV and Colorado State. Said University President Marc Johnson: "Coach Musselman and the student-athletes he has recruited to our University have re-connected the program with our community in a very special way. We are pleased that Coach Musselman will remain our men's basketball coach for many years to come."
Season Three: 'Nothing feels better than this! Nothing! Sweet Sixteen!'
Sept. 15, 2017 - The Ramon Sessions Basketball Performance Center, named in honor of the great point guard from the Wolf Pack's NCAA Tournament teams from the first decade of the 21st century and a member of the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame, is formally dedicated on campus in the former Lombardi Recreation Building. The $3 million facility - made possible through a $1 million donation by Sessions - features two courts, eight baskets, new lights, new floor, new paint, sound system and strength center to give Wolf Pack basketball its own on-campus practice facility. "It's an exciting time to be with the Wolf Pack and I'm just glad to be a part of it," Sessions said during the dedication ceremony.
Oct. 17, 2017 - Nevada is picked to repeat as Mountain West Conference champions in the preseason media poll. Caroline is named to the preseason team. Caleb Martin, a 6-7 transfer from North Carolina State, is named preseason Newcomer of the Year.
Nov. 10, 2017 - The Martin twins, Caleb and Cody, combine for 41 points in Nevada's season-opening 88-64 victory over Idaho.
Dec. 9, 2017 - After rolling to an 8-0 start and rising to No. 22 in the country, Nevada loses its second consecutive game, this time to No. 20 TCU, 84-80, in the Hall of Fame Basketball Classic in Los Angeles. "I still think we're a really, really, really good team," Cody Martin, who scored a team-high 27 points, said.
Jan. 17, 2018 - Nevada beats San Jose State on the road, 71-54, to improve to 17-3 overall and 6-0 in Mountain West play. What is significant is who doesn't play. Cody Martin sits the game out with a calf injury suffered four days before in a home victory over Utah State. Caleb Martin leads the way with 24 points while Kendall Stephens hits five 3-pointers. Cody returns to action during the Wolf Pack's next game against Boise State.
Feb. 7, 2018 - The Wolf Pack lose at home, to UNLV, 86-78, in a game in which Caleb Martin doesn't play. The Mountain West's leading scorer at 19.8 points per game, Caleb is diagnosed with a lisfranc sprain in the mid area of his left foot. He is said to be out indefinitely - it's the type of injury that often takes six to eight weeks to fully heal. "I have no idea," Musselman said when asked about when Martin could return to action for the Wolf Pack. "Not good. I don't know the medical term. It's a ligament in his foot. I'm not talking about it anymore. He's out indefinitely." Musselman added of his team's prospects in the wake of the UNLV loss: "We're in a fight for our lives just to get decent seeding now, and I mean seeding in the Mountain West Tournament."
Feb. 14, 2018 - After missing one game, Caleb Martin returns to the Wolf Pack's lineup and leads Nevada with 21 points in a 77-72 victory at Boise State. Nevada improves to 11-2 in the Mountain West, 22-5 overall. Wearing a boot in the days preceding the game, Martin's return to the lineup helped Nevada increase its hold on the Mountain West lead.
Feb. 28, 2018 - Nevada clinches its second Mountain West regular season title during the week, then beats UNLV in Las Vegas, 101-75, with Caleb and Cody Martin combining for 46 points and Caroline adding 22. "After the first game," Caroline said of the first UNLV loss, "It fueled the fire for us."
March 6, 2018 - Caleb Martin is named Mountain West Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. Cody Martin is named Defensive Player of the Year. Musselman is named Coach of the Year. Caroline joins Caleb Martin on the Mountain West's first team.
March 11, 2018 - Nevada, 27-7 overall and the Mountain West's regular season champions, earns an at-large selection and is seeded No. 7 in the NCAA Tournament's South Region. The Wolf Pack will play 10th-seeded Texas at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
March 16, 2018 - The Wolf Pack erase a 14-point second half deficit to defeat Texas in overtime, 87-83. Caleb Martin was perfect on his three-pointers in overtime, hitting all three, and finished with 18 points. Kendall Stephens finished a team-high 22 points. Nevada fell behind by four early in overtime, but then Martin drained consecutive threes to give Nevada an 81-77 lead. "What an unbelievable game," Musselman said. "We were comfortable," Caleb said. "It's one of those things where you could tell the other team didn't want to go into overtime with us. You could kind of feel the energy on the floor when we walked back out there. You kind of knew it was kind of in our favor." Next up for the Wolf Pack: No. 2 seed Cincinnati, 31-4 overall.
March 18, 2018: Nevada stuns second-seeded Cincinnati, 75-73, after staging the second greatest comeback in NCAA Tournament history. Josh Hall's floater in the lane off a Cody Martin miss with 9.1 seconds remaining gave Nevada the win and its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2004. The "Cardiac" Pack trailed by as much as 22 points in the second half before outscoring the Bearcats 32-8 down the stretch. Cody Martin led the way for the Pack with a game-high 25 points, seven assists, six rebounds and no turnovers. Cody's aggressive dribble penetration against Cincinnati's tight interior defense, Nevada's ability to maximize possessions by not turning the ball over (only two all game) and the Pack's smothering trapping second-half defense were among the keys. Musselman, something of a cult figure because of his history of animated post-game celebrations, didn't disappoint afterward. He tore off his dress shirt and ran into the Wolf Pack's locker room. Bare-chested, he was soaked in water by his joyous players. Said Musselman: "Nothing feels better than this! Nothing! Sweet 16!"
March 22, 2018 - Nevada, rallying furiously from yet another second-half deficit, falls to No. 11-seeded Loyola-Chicago, 69-68, in the NCAA South Regional semifinal at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Ga. Caleb Martin led Nevada, 29-8, with 21 points, while Caroline added 19 and Cody Martin scored 16 points. Said Loyola coach Porter Moser: "Got to give so much credit to Nevada, they never quit. Those guys keep coming at you, coming at you."
May 26, 2018 - After testing the NBA draft process, Caroline announces he will return for his senior year. In his two seasons at Nevada, the Wolf Pack has gone to two NCAA Tournaments and compiled an overall record 57-15, including a school-record-tying 29 wins in 2017-2018.
May 30, 2018 - Caleb and Cody Martin withdraw their names from NBA draft consideration and announce they will return to Nevada for their senior seasons. Musselman helped the community find out by putting the Martins on speaker phone while he was on stage for an Italian Association event at the Eldorado in downtown Reno. The entire gathering burst into wild applause. Said Musselman: "The way all three of them handled it was incredible. Among fans and internally, there was frustration because of the deadline, but with the Martin twins and Jordan and their families, they did everything right. They took their time, they wanted to make the right decision."
Season Four: 'As a whole we tried to represent Nevada the best we could'
Oct. 16, 2018 - Nevada is picked by the Mountain West media to three-peat as Mountain West Conference champions. Caleb Martin is chosen the league's preseason Player of the Year. Forward Jordan Brown is picked as the league's Freshman of the Year.
Oct. 22, 2018 - Nevada is picked seventh in the preseason Associated Press poll. It's the highest ranking in Wolf Pack basketball history, surpassing Feb. 26, 2007, when the Pack was ranked No. 9 in the country.
Nov. 6, 2018 - Nevada opens the season with an 86-70 victory over BYU. Caroline scored a game-high 25 points, with 21 coming in the second half. Nevada is one of the few teams in the country to have a starting five consisting of five fifth-year seniors. "It's a weird mix, but it's a good mix at the same time," Caroline said. "We're experienced but we haven't been together for the longest time. Our whole team is really close."
Nov. 27, 2018 - The Wolf Pack avenge their Sweet 16 loss in March to Loyola-Chicago by defeating Loyola, 79-65, in Chicago. The Pack, now ranked No. 5 in the country, was led Caleb Martin (21 points) and Cody Martin (20 points). Loyola's Marques Townes, who was one of the heroes of Loyola's Sweet 16 victory, said, "There's a lot of veterans on that team. They got a couple of transfers and the majority of the starting lineup back. They played like men today. I feel like they out-physicalled us today."
Dec. 7, 2018 - Undefeated Nevada rallies to defeat No. 20 and previously undefeated Arizona State, 72-66, in a game played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Arizona raced out to a 23-8 lead and still down at halftime, Musselman challenged his team to do better. "Coach mentioned at halftime, ‘You finally meet some talent and this is how you react?" Caleb Martin remembered. "It kind of turned some guys up in the locker room." Martin led the rally, scoring 14 of his 17 points in the second half.
Jan. 2, 2019 - Nevada opens Mountain West play with a 72-49 throttling of the team many consider to be the league's second-best team, Utah State, before the second-largest crowd of the season, 11,224, at Lawlor Events Center. Nevada, 14-0 and equaling the best start in school history, held Utah State to 26 percent shooting.
Jan. 5, 2019 - New Mexico stuns Nevada, 85-57, to hand the Wolf Pack their first loss of the season in Albuquerque, N.M. The Wolf Pack shot just 33 percent from the field, barely made 50 percent of their free throws and committed 14 turnovers. "The one thing we've prided ourselves on was really competing until the end," Musselman said. "We didn't play hard tonight. We splintered and we came apart ... Just a terrible game for all of us."
Jan. 15, 2019 - Cody Martin's three-pointer with 4.5 seconds remaining lifted Nevada to a 72-71 win at Boise State. Martin hadn't hit a three-pointer in a month. The Wolf Pack won with forward Trey Porter and Caleb Martin in foul trouble. Nevada improved to 17-1 overall, 4-1 in the Mountain West.
Feb. 9, 2019, 9 a.m. - Musselman appears on CBS' bracket preview show. The 22-1 Wolf Pack is announced as one of the 16 teams to be featured in the brackets, and is given a No. 4 seed in the South Region, along with Tennessee, North Carolina and Purdue. "We're so happy to be part of today," Musselman tells the show's hosts, "but we know there's five weeks of basketball to play."
Feb. 9, 2019, 3 p.m. - Nevada avenges its earlier stumble at New Mexico with a 91-62 drilling of the Lobos at Lawlor Events Center. A raucous, lively crowd of 11,197, inspired by Musselman, who earlier in the week said he'd be surprised if the crowd wasn't the loudest the Pack had played in front of all season, was ready from the start, lustily booing the Lobos as they ran onto the floor for warmups. They then saw the Wolf Pack sprint to 25-4 lead and a 51-26 halftime advantage. No. 6 Nevada improved to 23-1 and 10-1 in the Mountain West. Caleb Martin and Porter both scored 20 points, and Caroline added 13 points and 13 rebounds to record his 15th double-double of the season and the 42nd of his career - a Mountain West career record. Porter said one of the keys to the game was Musselman's insistence that the Wolf Pack not forget the Jan. 5 loss in Albuquerque. The 85-57 loss' score was posted on the scoreboard at practice all week. "That we got smacked," Porter said. "That's basically the message he was trying to send. That's one of the worst losses I've had in my career. All-around it just felt bad and seeing it up there was a spark for a lot of guys. We can't let that happen against us. We're too old and too veteran."
March 2, 2019 - In a game that would eventually mean that Nevada and Utah State would tie for the conference championship, the Aggies beat the Wolf Pack, 81-76, in a tense battle in Logan, Utah. Caleb and Cody Martin and Tre'Shawn combine for 60 of the Wolf Pack's points, but the Pack doesn't have an answer for Utah State guard Sam Merrill, who scores a game-high 29 points. The Aggies' fans storm the court after the victory. In the hallway leading to the Wolf Pack's locker room, a video shows that in frustration Jordan Caroline punches a fire extinguisher and has to be restrained by his teammates. There are reports that a Utah State coach said something objectionable, which upset Caroline. The Mountain West Conference leaves punishment of Caroline and Utah State's staff up to the individual institutions. Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth, in a tweet, writes: "The hallway video shows an emotional young man responding to a highly charged game environment and a difficult loss. Our staff stepped in to support this young man."
March 9, 2019 - The Wolf Pack needs two wins to secure a share of the Mountain West Conference regular season title, first beating Air Force on the road and then celebrating Senior Night at Lawlor Events Center with an 81-53 rout of San Diego State. The Pack becomes just the third team in Mountain West Conference history to win three straight regular season conference titles. The Wolf Pack honored its seven seniors prior to the game, with the 12th-largest crowd in Lawlor Events Center history looking on. With a little over two minutes left in the game, Musselman subbed out the Pack's "Big Three" seniors - Jordan Caroline and Cody and Caleb Martin - at the same time. The three players buried their coach in a huge hug in front of the Wolf Pack's bench. "I just told them I loved them and thanked them for taking me and my family on this ride," Musselman told Nevada Sports Net.
March 15, 2019 - San Diego State beats Nevada for the second time this season, 65-56, in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Wolf Pack plays without Caroline, who had been nursing an achilles injury over the past month. "I think our record speaks for itself, the body of work in non-conference, conference play," Musselman said. "Unfortunately, we weren't fully healthy tonight."
March 17, 2019 - During a gathering at the Silver Legacy, which featured the Wolf Pack players and coaches sitting up on stage before a standing-room-only crowd, Nevada is announced as a No. 7 seed in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament. The 29-4 Wolf Pack will meet 19-15 No. 10 seed Florida of the Southeastern Conference in a first-round game at Des Moines, Iowa. It's the third straight season the Wolf Pack has earned an NCAA Tournament berth.
March 21, 2019 - Nevada falls to Florida, 70-61, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Nevada falls behind by 18 in the second half, rallies to close within two a couple of times, but goes cold down the stretch. Cody Martin, who scores a game-high 23 points, tells Nevada Sports Net after the game that, "I hope on our way out people understand and think that we represented our community and Nevada the best that we could and not only on the court but off the court, having character guys, being good kids, you know, putting other people first besides ourselves. I hope people understand how much work we put in and how much we sacrificed to get to this point, and there is a lot of people that helped us get to this point. Unfortunately we didn't get as far as we wanted to and at the end of the day I'm not satisfied with how it ended. But I'm really glad we got to go this far with this group of guys. I had a lot of fun throughout the season. Couldn't ask for a better team. Couldn't ask for a better coaching staff. They gave me everything. I just want them to know that as a team and as a whole we tried to represent Nevada the best we could." Musselman praises his team's effort. And, perhaps in a nod to March 26, 2015, when he held a practice on the day of his press conference announcing his hiring, he mentions that, "It's hard to make this tournament. It's hard to make this tournament back-to-back years as an at-large, and we've done that. Now I've got to get with (junior guard) Jazz (Johnson) and some of the sit-out guys and look forward to next year. I look forward to coaching those guys and start working with them and working on depth charts tonight for next year."
(Editor's note: The information in this timeline is a compilation of news, recaps and box scores of Wolf Pack men's basketball games since March 2015, when Eric Musselman was named men's basketball coach. The quotes have been taken from news reports, feature stories and interviews, including from the Wolf Pack Athletics website, the Associated Press, Reno Gazette-Journal, Nevada Sports Net, the Daily Sparks Tribune, the Nevada Appeal, Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times, ESPN.com, and the Chicago Tribune. In particular, this compilation owes a debt to the reporting and writing of Reynolds School of Journalism graduate Chris Murray, during his time as the Wolf Pack men's basketball beat writer and columnist for the Reno Gazette-Journal and now as a columnist for Nevada Sports Net. His compendium of reporting is a valuable historical resource for any Wolf Pack basketball fan wishing to understand the evolution, growth, success and national reach of the program under Coach Musselman.)