The biggest question facing the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team heading into the 2012-13 season was whether or not someone on the roster could replace departed seniors Dario Hunt and Olez Czyz.
Well, going into the 2013-14 season, that same question will still be tormenting the Wolf Pack.
Not many questions were answered by the Wolf Pack in 2012-13. The team lost its final eight games, 11 of its last 12 and 16 of its last 19. It won just three games after Dec. 28 and finished last in its first season in the Mountain West.
The Pack went from 28 wins in 2011-12 to just 12 in 2012-13, equaling the biggest one-season drop in victories in school history. The Pack finished last in its first season in the Mountain West, dropping a whopping 13 of 16 league games and earned the dubious honor of being the team that lost the play-in game of the conference tournament.
There is nowhere to go but up for the Pack.
That’s the hope, at least.
Not all, however, was a disaster in 2012-13.
A pair of freshmen — guard Marqueze Coleman and forward Cole Huff — showed enough to suggest that improvement is on its way. Malik Story closed out his Pack career as the school’s all-time leading 3-point shooter with 253 threes. And Deonte Burton further established himself as one of the top point guards in the west coast.
But the 2012-13 season was clearly a humbling experience for a program that has now finished under .500 in two of the last three years and has not gotten to the NCAA tournament for six consecutive years.
The top five things that went wrong for this Wolf Pack basketball team were . . .
5. Lack of leadership
Forget what happened on the floor in terms of the numbers. All of the problems this year stemmed from the fact that the Wolf Pack never replaced the leadership lost from the absence of Dario Hunt (pictured) and Olek Czyz. Senior Malik Story and junior Deonte Burton were supposed to take over the leadership role from Hunt and Story but the team never seemed to respond to either one of them. More often than not the rest of the team disappeared mentally as Story and Burton exhibited frustration night after night as the losses piled up. It just seemed that nobody could stop the bleeding this year once things started to go wrong. Hunt took over the leadership role as a junior and continued in that role as a senior. He was a quiet leader who led by working harder than everyone else on the floor. Czyz was an emotional player who seemed to get everyone fired up on the court. Nobody truly stepped into those roles in 2012-13, leaving the Pack a confused and frustrated team most nights. The Pack will have a host of possible leaders in 2013-14 since the bulk of the roster will be seniors. But Burton is the key. The next step Burton must make in his development is to become the true leader of the team next year as a senior.
Nobody doubted the Wolf Pack had talent. And that talent would indeed show up on occasion in 2012-13, giving hope that the team would finally head in the right direction. But the problem was that the talent never seemed to show up from one night to the next. Inconsistency was a disease that seem to plague the entire roster. Even leading scorers Malik Story (pictured) and Deonte Burton fell victim to the inconsistency curse this year. Story, for example, would follow up a 30-point performance with a 10 or 8-point performance. Burton once went from 10 assists to zero assists four nights later. And they were certainly not the only ones who had a roller coaster season. Kevin Panzer once went four games in a row without scoring a point. He once had 14 rebounds one game and just two a mere four days later. It was that type of year for just about everyone on the roster.
3. Lack of homecourt advantage
Lawlor Events Center wasn’t exactly the friendly confines for the Wolf Pack in 2012-13. The Pack lost six of eight home Mountain West games. They lost to Drake at home. They had to pull out dramatic victories in the final minute at home against Fullerton, Green Bay and Davis. They struggled to put away teams like Southern Utah, Cal State San Marcos, San Francisco and Yale at home. There simply was a lack of energy in the building up on north Virginia street. The place wasn’t even sold out for UNLV or New Mexico, a Top 25 team. The crowd figures released by the university were very misleading because they supposedly reflected the amount of tickets sold, rather than the actual number of bodies in the seats. In reality, Lawlor was no more than half full on most nights and never more than two-thirds full, even for UNLV and New Mexico. The biggest moment of the year at Lawlor was when the fans did their version of Kaepernicking (see photo) before the Super Bowl. In the Mountain West you have to win your home games because, well, it is almost impossible to win on the road. And to win your home games, it has to feel like a home game. There was no such feeling this season.
2. Kevn Panzer-Devonte Elliott experiment failed
The Wolf Pack simply never replaced Dario Hunt and Olek Czyz. The two seniors last year combined for 24.1 points and 16.2 rebounds, not to mention 87 assists, 92 blocks and 54 steals. Their replacements, Kevin Panzer and Devonte Elliott, combined for 9.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 24 assists, 36 blocks and 19 steals. It’s a bit unfair to compare Hunt and Czyz as seniors with Panzer and Elliott as juniors and in their first year in a prominent role. But the numbers do illustrate why the Pack went from 28-7 to 12-19. Panzer and Elliott each had just one game of 10 or more rebounds. They each did not score a point in five games. The Pack simply could not defend the paint, as witnessed by how Wyoming’s Leonard Washington looked like Charles Barkley for three games against them this year. Jerry Evans, a 6-8 guard who likes to play out on the wing, ended up being the Pack’s leading rebounder. It remains to be seen whether or not Panzer and Elliott get the same opportunity they received in 2012-13.
1. Learning experience for David Carter
David Carter grew up as a head coach in 2012-13. His first year as head coach in 2009-10 he was handed two NBA players — Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson and three seniors — Joey Shaw, Brandon Fields and Ray Kraemer — and the Pack won 21 games and went to the NIT. In Carter’s second year, he was left with a roster full of freshmen and the Pack won 13 games, but they got better and better as the season progressed. His third year those freshman took a huge step, won a lot of close games and the Pack finished 28-7 and were in the NIT again. This season was a train wreck. Those sophomores from a year ago didn’t improve as juniors (except for Deonte Burton) and they seemed ill-prepared for the tougher Mountain West. The Mountain West was an eye-opener for Carter and it looked like Carter was learning on the fly. The Pack simply was not ready to compete in the Mountain West. They weren’t tough enough mentally or physically. Carter changed his lineup seemingly every three or four weeks, something he had never done before except on Senior Night. He got angry with his team in public, something he also never did before. He simply never seemed to get a grasp on this ill-fitted roster and he never got the team headed in the right direction. It was a frustrating year, a learning experience, for everyone in silver and blue — Carter included.