No longer is Nevada cruising toward a Mountain West title and the league’s first no-stress at-large bid in the past three years.
The Wolf Pack now have a fight on their hands to try to make the NCAA tournament after losing their best player to injury.
Nevada announced before its 86-78 home loss to UNLV on Wednesday night that Caleb Martin is out indefinitely with a ligament injury in his left foot. Martin suffered the Lisfranc sprain late in his team’s road victory at Colorado State last Saturday.
For those who missed it, this is the play Caleb Martin suffered the Lisfranc sprain on (26 seconds left in a game that was sealed). He scored eight straight to win that game. Nevada missed that finisher’s tough last night. pic.twitter.com/QsCV0FUV8a
— Chris Murray (@MurrayRGJ) February 8, 2018
While Nevada offered no timetable for when Martin could return, other athletes who have suffered similar injuries have been unable to put weight on their foot for up to six to eight weeks. Martin might have to beat that timetable to play again this season as Selection Sunday is less than five weeks away.
The loss of Martin is a crushing blow for a Nevada team that is 20-5 overall and had been alone in first place in the Mountain West before Wednesday night’s loss. The 6-foot-7 former NC State transfer is averaging a conference-leading 19.8 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 46.9 percent from behind the arc.
It will be difficult for Nevada to outplay fellow Mountain West contender Boise State (19-4, 10-2) down the stretch with Martin sidelined. The Wolf Pack still visit the Broncos next Wednesday and also have remaining road games against UNLV, San Diego State and Utah State.
On Wednesday night against UNLV, Nevada essentially went with a six-man rotation with only guard Hallice Cooke playing more than seven minutes off the bench. The Wolf Pack are thin enough that coach Eric Musselman added a walk-on and a football player to his roster in order to make sure that his team had enough healthy bodies for practice.
Projected as an 8 or 9 seed in most mock brackets right now, Nevada can probably afford another loss or two down the stretch without jeopardizing its at-large candidacy. Any more than that though and the Wolf Pack may have to win the Mountain West tournament to secure a second straight NCAA bid.
– – – – – – –