Another Mountain West basketball season is in the books.
The Nevada Wolf Pack became the 2017 Mountain West Basketball Tournament Champions after taking down the second-seeded Colorado State Rams by a score of 79-71 on Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Wolf Pack will continue its March Madness journey after earning an automatic bid to compete in the NCAA Tournament. It was the team’s first conference championship since winning the WAC in 2006.
Senior guard Marcus Marshall said head coach Eric Musselman talked to him early on about changing the culture of the basketball team and experiencing wins such as the one on Saturday.
“It means a lot,” Marshall said. “It's crazy to think about, because the first time I ever talked to coach Muss (Musselman), that was all we talked about was making the tournament. He was a man of his word and I respect it.”
Nevada’s D.J. Fenner holds up a piece of the basketball net after the Wolf Pack defeated CSU in the Mountain West Championship on Saturday, March 11, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada defeated CSU 79-71 to win the tourney.
There were not a lot of surprises during the tournament. No. 11 UNLV fell during the first round on Wednesday, while the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, Nevada and Colorado State continued to advance to meet in the championship game.
New Mexico and San Diego State are tied for the top spot in conference history as the two teams have each won four MW titles.
San Diego State was the preseason favorite to finish the season on top, but did not live up to the billing, finishing at .500 (9-9) in conference play..
The Aztecs made it to the semifinals, but were upended 71-63 by Colorado State.
New Mexico bowed out of the competition after losing to 65-60 to the Fresno State Bulldogs in Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
The Bulldogs might have taken down the Lobos, but the Wolf Pack proved to be too much for them, as they fell 83-72 to Nevada on Friday’s semifinals.
Nevada ended the season with an overall record of 28-6 and one of their biggest wins coming against the Lobos, highlighted by an historic second half comeback against UNM Jan.7 in a 105-104 overtime victory.
The Wolf Pack was down by 25 points with 11 minutes to go, but their offense suddenly exploded to push the game into overtime. With 2.7 seconds left in the overtime period and trailing by two, sophomore guard/forward Jordan Caroline hit a three-pointer that allowed his team to walk away with the win.
Caroline finished the night with a total of 45 points—the most points scored by a Nevada player since the 1990-91 season and highest scoring output any opponent has put up in a single game at WisePies Arena aka the Pit.
In Saturday’s final, Caroline was named the tournament MVP after leading his team offensively with 23 points.
Nevada is likely be the only Mountain West team represented in the NCAA Tournament, as most experts believe the conference to be a one-bid league. The Wolf Pack learn their tournament fate when the brackets are revealed on Mar. 12.
Isabel Gonzalez is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She mainly covers men’s soccer and basketball. She can be reached at sports @dailylobo.com or on Twitter @cisabelg.