Team Profile: 2006 BracketBuster Recap: Nevada 88, Akron 61

by Special Feature | February 18th, 2006

Lawlor Events Center, Reno, Nev.

ESPN might want to provide the Nevada Wolfpack with some stronger competition in next year’s BracketBuster.

Right from the opening tip, it was clear that the Akron Zips were no match for the Wolfpack in this year’s edition, as Nevada ran away with a 27-point victory.

The win gave Nevada its third straight 20-win season, and goes a long way towards locking up an at-large bid, should the Pack fall in the WAC Tournament. A truer “Bracket-busting” matchup would have paired Nevada against Arizona, California, Washington, or San Diego State, and would have saved the Zips a trip across the country…we can only hope the bigger schools agree to join this event in future years.

The story of this game was field goal percentage. The Wolfpack shot 53% from the field and a blistering 63% from long range, while the Zips could only muster 32% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc. Nick Fazekas led all scorers with 24 and all rebounders with 14. Kyle Shiloh, aided by Fazekas’ stretching of the Zips D, nailed six three-pointers in just eight attempts and finished with a career-high 22 points.

Ramon Sessions, the sophomore guard for the Wolfpack, stepped down from his normal starting role and gave way to freshman Lyndale Burleson. Coach Mark Fox’s strategy worked to perfection, as Sessions dealt 13 dimes and scored eight in 33 minutes off the bench. Mo Charlo added 14 points in 24 minutes in reserve.

Akron just could not get anything going in this game. Junior Romeo Travis could have used his old high school teammate, LeBron James, for some support in this game. Travis led his team in points and rebounds, with 13 and 8 respectively, but no one else on the Zips was in double digits.

Akron Head Coach Keith Dambrot was not pleased with the matchup. “I don’t think they should be in it,” Dambrot said. “You don’t see Gonzaga in it. Didn’t they beat Gonzaga by 21 points in the (2004) NCAA Tournament? It’s a waste of their time. It’s a no-win situation for them.”

That might be true, but few power-conference teams are willing to risk a matchup with Mark Fox’s team. UCLA and Kansas are to be commended for including the Pack on their schedule this year.

With the loss, Akron’s slim at-large hopes for the NCAA Tournament were officially “Busted.” The Zips’ only NCAA hope is to win the MAC’s automatic bid, and to do so, they’ll likely need to get past archrival Kent State not once in the next two weeks, but twice. The Golden Flashes will surely be fired up for the matchup with the Zips after their thrilling come-from-behind win over Butler on Saturday. It’s more likely that we’ll see Akron hosting a first-round NIT game than playing in a first-round NCAA game.

As for Nevada, their stock keeps rising. Now at #31 in the RPI and a projected #10 seed in last week’s Bracketography, look for the Wolfpack to move up to the coin-flip game as an #8 or #9 seed on Selection Sunday.

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