2013-14 Preview: Nevada Wolf Pack

Deonte Burton is Nevada's top returning scorer at 16.3 points per game last season. Steve Conner/Icon SMI

Nevada Wolf Pack

2012-13: 12-19 (3-13 Mountain West)
In-conference offense: 0.96 points per possession (7th)
In-conference defense: 1.10 points allowed per possession (9th)

Nevada seems to be standing at a bit of a crossroads as a program. At the conclusion of last season, three juniors -- who came in together as freshmen under current coach David Carter and won a WAC championship together as sophomores -- transferred for their final season of eligibility rather than play another year for Carter, with whom they clashed in a trying season. That's not usually a good sign going forward.

Projected starting lineup

However, if looked at as an opportunity, removing three average-to-below-average players from a terrible team allowed Carter to retool the roster around one of the MWC's best players, senior Deonte Burton. Like everyone else on the roster, the former WAC Player of the Year had a rough go of it last season. But the foundations of excellence were still there. Per hoop-math.com, the 6-foot-1 Burton took more shots near the rim than from anywhere else on the floor -- the bulk of them off dribble penetration -- and he converted more than 60 percent of those shots while also posting a free throw rate of 60. If his outside shooting returns to pre-MWC levels (36 percent on 3s in his first two seasons versus 30 percent last season), his otherworldly efficiency will return.

But Burton's going to need a lot of help. Among the few returning players, senior wing Jerry Evans is a reasonably efficient player whose face-up game stretches out to the 3-point line; sophomore Marqueze Coleman flashed an ability to penetrate, but he'll need to cut down on turnovers; and Cole Huff stood out as an offensive rebounder as a freshman.

With Huff as the only returning productive forward, Carter focused on remaking the frontcourt in the wake of the postseason exodus, bringing in junior college transfers A.J. West and Chris Brown (who started his career at Oregon State). West is known as a rugged interior defender, and his presence is expected to bolster a defense that gave up 52 percent on 2s in conference play. Backcourt newcomers include UTEP transfer Michael Perez, a solid combo guard, and freshman D.J. Fenner, a long and athletic wing who is exceptional around the basket.

Unfortunately, in a season when Carter probably needs to show the program is moving forward, this supporting cast just doesn't look real strong, and it's probably going to take Burton's most heroic effort yet to drag Nevada out of the bottom half of a tough conference.

Projected 2013-14 conference finish: 8th