Despite winning both the regular-season and conference tournament championships in the Mountain West last season, Nevada head coach Eric Musselman felt his team was overrated when the Wolf Pack were predicted to win the conference in October.
Allen Edwards isn’t buying it.
“He’s always (got) talented (teams), and he’s obviously a great basketball mind,” Wyoming’s second-year head coach said of Musselman. “So at the end of the day, even if you didn’t know who was on his team, because you really don’t know until media day, ... you’re saying, ‘Yeah, they’re going to be in the mix, if not one of the teams that are there at the end.’
“So no, I think that’s fair in a sense of them being picked where they were.”
Wyoming gets to see firsthand Wednesday when the Cowboys and Wolf Pack tip off at 8:30 p.m. Mountain Time in Reno, Nevada (CBS Sports Network).
As has become his M.O., Musselman’s team is succeeding with the help of transfers this season. Nevada’s 13 wins lead the Mountain West, and the Wolf Pack picked up a significant non-conference win over Rhode Island. They have gotten a boost this season from North Carolina State transfers Caleb Martin and Cody Martin and Purdue transfer Kendall Stephens.
“I’m sitting here thinking about it, he kind of does it like (John) Calipari, but in a different way,” Edwards said, referring to the Kentucky head coach. “Transfers, fifth-year guys, sprinkled in with your traditional four-year guys. But to continually take a new group and get them to buy in year in and year out is pretty impressive.”
Caleb Martin has averaged 19.0 points per game this season with 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists, while his twin has put up 13.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
“Obviously they’re twins, but they’re two different type of players,” Edwards said. “... I think one-on-one-wise, (Caleb Martin) might be the best one-on-one player that I’ve seen in the league.”
That’s not to mention Jordan Caroline, who earned Mountain West tournament MVP honors last season, and Lindsey Drew, a three-year starter at point guard.
With so many weapons to prepare for, Edwards said the approach to preparation is a little different.
“This game comes back to personnel base,” he said. “A lot of times, you’re going to say principles within your structure of your defense (is key). But I think with these guys, it has to be more personnel based. Everybody on the team has to understand what each guy on their team’s strength and weaknesses are and we have to adjust to that and help each other out.
“And then at the end of the day, ... just taking it personal. One on one. Like, you guard your guy. Don’t worry about the help. You guard your guy, it makes everything else easier.”
“We’ve just been focusing on a couple different guys and certain things they do,” said Wyoming senior Hayden Dalton, who is coming off a career-high 36-point performance. “Even taking that down onto the practice court, just how we want to guard them defensively, each individual guy. And then watching them on film as well.”
Nevada (13-3) began its conference slate with wins over Fresno State and New Mexico. The Cowboys (10-4) opened Mountain West play with a surprisingly convincing win over San Diego State, predicted to finish second in the conference. Wyoming then had a bye over the weekend.
The Cowboys’ next home game is against Boise State, the No. 3 team in the preseason poll. But first, in their first road game since Dec. 6, the Pokes get a shot at the team predicted to finish first.
“I think Nevada is a team that you need extra time to prepare for, because of their skill set, talent level and how they want to play,” Edwards said. “But at the end of the day, even with the first three (games), I told our guys, they gave them all three of (them).
“I don’t know if that was by design or they tried to get rid of us early, but I thought it was a great opportunity for our guys to really see where we’re at.”
Mack to travel
Edwards said a decision is coming soon on freshman guard Anthony Mack, who has not played this season because of a concussion. Mack, who has been able to do more in practice, will travel to the Nevada game and could warm up, Edwards said. The effect that has on his injury could determine whether he will redshirt this season.