By Kevin Sweeney
The Mountain West has looked like a one-bid league for much of this season, but Nevada made their case to be an at-large contender with a win over Washington and potential #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz Sunday night in Seattle. It was a wildly entertaining game that was tight throughout, but a buzzer-beating runner by graduate guard Marcus Marshall gave the Wolf Pack an 87-85 victory. It’s the fourth straight loss for the Huskies, who have struggled to find a supporting cast for Fultz. Here are my thoughts on what is a huge win for the Wolf Pack and another frustrating defeat for the Huskies:
1. Marcus Marshall is a Star– Coming into the season, one of the biggest questions for Nevada was Marshall, a transfer from Missouri State. He was tasked with replacing Marqueze Coleman, who had been a great player in his four years in Reno. Tonight, Marshall proved that he is more than up to the task of leading this Wolf Pack team. He posted 32 points and dominated the game at times in the second half, despite playing nearly the entire contest. He scored 9 of his team’s final 11 points of the game, including the aforementioned runner. Marshall might be the best player not just on Nevada, but in the entire Mountain West.
2. The Wolf Pack are the most complete team in the Mountain West– With San Diego State’s recent struggles, I was starting to believe that the Nevada was the best team in the MWC. I’m sold on that now. They are well-coached, as Eric Musselman has done a fantastic job in his short time in Reno. Even without Elijah Foster, who has been suspended indefinitely, there is plenty of talent on the roster, and the team simply does things that winning teams do. They fought back from early struggles to take control of the game early in the second half, and did not fold when Washington made their run to tie the game after the Wolf Pack had taken an 11 point lead. And, they played much of the second half without star forward Cameron Oliver, who fought foul trouble. Nevada has an excellent chance of being 11-2 going into conference play, which would put them in excellent position for an at-large NCAA Tournament berth.
3. Washington should not panic– While it has certainly be a frustrating start to the season for the Huskies, tonight was definitely a step in the right direction. The Huskies finally had a true supporting cast step up around the freshman sensation Fultz, with David Crisp posting 21 points, Matisse Thybulle contributing 12, and Carlos Johnson adding 13 points off the bench. This is an inexperienced but talented Huskies team, and one that should be very dangerous in Pac-12 play once all the pieces get put together. The schedule lightens up for the Huskies in the coming weeks, which should provide them with some valuable experience and confidence going into conference play.