The Nevada men’s basketball team is going dancing for the third straight year.
After a historic season that saw the Wolf Pack go 29-4 overall and win a share of the regular season Mountain West Conference title, Nevada is headed to Des Moines as the No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament to take on the No. 10 seed Florida Gators from the SEC. That game is set for 3:50 p.m. Thursday afternoon. The winner will take on either No. 2 Michigan or No. 15 Montana Saturday for the right to play in the Sweet 16 in Anaheim next week.
It’s the third time in the last four appearances in the Big Dance that the Pack has drawn the seventh seed. They advanced to the Sweet 16 last season as the seven after drawing a No. 12 in 2017 and No. 7 in 2007.
Nevada is 6-8 overall in the tourney.
A large crowd gathered at the Silver Legacy to learn Nevada’s fate on Sunday afternoon where they were one of the last four teams to hear their name called. The Pack was projected as high a a four seed just a month ago, but losses at San Diego State and Utah State late in the season dropped them down a bit.
“We’re just glad our name was called and glad we’re in the tournament,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman told Stadium on Selection Sunday. “We’re playing against a really talented team that’s really well coached in Florida.”
The final AP Top 25 of the regular season was released Monday and the Pack stayed in the top 20 all season after coming in at No. 20. An early exit in the semifinal of the Mountain West Conference Tournament Friday to San Diego State dropped them six spots from No. 14.
Friday’s loss was the second to the Aztecs this season after Nevada beat them by 28 six days earlier in Reno. Nevada was without Jordan Caroline Friday night who was dealing with a nagging injury, but is expected to suit up against the Gators on Thursday.
“He should be fully healthy and ready for Florida,” Musselman said.
After losing Caroline before tip, Nevada found itself in more trouble Friday when Caleb Martin picked up two quick fouls in the first 70 seconds of the game and was a non-factor in the first half. Despite the losses, Nevada played them tough and only trailed by five at the half.
The Wolf Pack went down by 12 early in the second half but rallied and eventually took the lead with 10 minutes to go in the contest. Nevada couldn’t sustain the momentum it finally got, however, and went scoreless for over seven minutes down the stretch and eventually lost 65-56.
The Pack came back and beat Boise State in the quarterfinals of the MWC tourney on Thursday. Utah State knocked off Fresno on Friday and beat the Aztecs in the finals on Saturday to win the conference tournament.
The Aggies were the only other team in the conference to make the Big Dance and received an eight seed. They will play No. 9 Washington Friday.