Joe Santoro: Nevada Wolf Pack hoops still a top 25 team | SierraSun.com

Joe Santoro: Nevada Wolf Pack hoops still a top 25 team

Joe Santoro
Guest Column

The Nevada Wolf Pack’s stay in the national Top 25 college basketball rankings might last only slightly longer than it takes for coach Eric Musselman to take off his shirt after winning a championship.

The Wolf Pack, which found itself in the Top 25 rankings this week for the first time since the 2006-07 season, lost at Texas Tech (82-76) in overtime on Tuesday, Dec. 5. A win over No. 20 TCU on Friday, Dec. 8, in Los Angeles might be needed to keep the Pack in the Top 25. But win or lose, there’s no doubt the Pack is one of the best 25 teams in the country.

The loss to Texas Tech proved that notion as much as any of the Pack’s eight victories this year. Texas Tech, ranked No. 26 in the nation, needed an unfair advantage at the free throw line to beat the Pack. The Red Raiders were 26-of-38 from the line while the Pack was just 14-of-17. That’s what happens on the road against good teams.

But you can be sure the Pack will learn from the loss. Musselman will make sure of it. This Wolf Pack basketball team is no Mountain West mirage. It’s the real deal.

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We will find out even more about the Wolf Pack when the challenge is No. 20 TCU at the Staples Center. TCU, which has won 14 in a row dating back to its five-game sweep to win the NIT a year ago, averages nearly 90 points a game.

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The Horned Frogs are similar to the Pack. Both teams have an impressive ability to share the ball (TCU is 6th in country with 20.2 assists a game, the Pack is 30th at 17.9 a game) and score the ball (both average more than 80 points a game). TCU and the Pack are also two of the best 3-point shooting teams (both shoot more than 40 percent) in the country.

It could be a wild game if both teams adjust to Kobe Bryant’s old rims. There will be a NCAA tournament atmosphere Friday at the Staples Center with two good teams playing on a neutral court. Watching Musselman work the bench and the refs (against a top coach like TCU’s Jamie Dixon) will be fun all by itself. A Wolf Pack victory on Friday could propel Musselman’s men to the greatest season in school history.