EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third of an 11-part series previewing the University of New Mexico’s 10 Mountain West Conference opponents, and its nonleague schedule breakdown. The order of MWC teams will publish daily in reverse order of the preseason medial poll. To see list of all previews, CLICK HERE.
The 2012-13 campaign for the Nevada Wolf Pack was an eye-opener, to say the least.
The team that returned its two star guards (Deonte Burton and Malik Story) from a 28-win, WAC championship season in 2011-12, had a rude awakening a season ago in the Mountain West Conference, finishing the season 12-19 overall and 3-13 in league play.
A painful season came to a merciful end when the Wolf Pack, playing as the No. 9 seed in a nine-team MWC Tournament, lost to injury-depleted Wyoming in the tournament’s play-in game.
“It’s just a totally different level of play,” fourth year coach David Carter said. “You watch it on television, … but until you actually play them up close and personal and see it, it’s a little different.”
The biggest of those differences was in depth. Whereas two stud scorers such as Burton and Story could take care of the offense in the WAC, that wasn’t enough to win night in and night out in the MWC.
“I thought in the WAC, you take away (a team’s) first, second, third leading scorer, you had a chance to win,” Carter said. “In this conference, you have to take away the leading scorers and guys coming off the bench. It’s just more depth to every team in the conference.”
Never was that more evident than in the Wolf Pack’s Feb. 2 loss to the University of New Mexico in the Pit. While Nevada was happy it held the Lobos starters to 43 points, it allowed UNM’s bench to outscore the Wolf Pack bench 32-6 in a 75-62 Lobos victory.
“You learn a lot from losing,” Carter said.
While the Wolf Pack loses Story and his team-high 16.7 points per game, as well as three key players who transferred out of the program in the offseason (Kevin Panzer, Devonte Elliott and Jordan Burris), Nevada thinks it is more prepared to handle the rigors of a tough MWC this go-round.
Burton, a preseason All-MWC selection by the media, returns after flirting with testing the NBA waters, and UTEP transfer Michael Perez (6-foot-3, 190-pounds), who practiced with the team but sat out 2012-13 due to NCAA transfer rules, is the fill-in at the other guard spot to replace Story. But it is depth, especially in the post, that Carter and the Nevada coaching staff says should be the difference this season.
If that depth pans out as Carter hopes, and Perez manages to somewhat fill the void of Story, then Carter thinks the program is in good hands with Burton running the show at point guard.
“With the recruiting, the guys we brought in, with some of the returning guys, I’m hoping he doesn’t feel like he has to try to put the team on his back every single night,” Carter said. “If he does that, we’re going to be in trouble.”
Nevada Wolf Pack
Head coach: David Carter, 74-58 at Nevada and overall (fourth season)
Starters returning: 2
2012-13 record: 12-19 (3-13 MWC)
Preseason media poll: 9th of 11 teams