Nevada Tuesday was named the popular pick among WAC coaches to unseat perennial conference champion Utah State this season, as the Wolf Pack topped the preseason poll.
Reigning WAC freshman of the year Deonte Burton was selected as preseason player of the year, and the point guard is the headliner for an entire starting lineup that returns this season.
The inexperienced team that was filled with newcomers last season went 13-19 and is now looking strong with former Indiana Hoosier Malik Story leading in scoring and former Duke Blue Devil Olek Czyz also providing a veteran presence. Senior Dario Hunt nearly averaged a double-double.
"Toward the end of last year, I thought we peaked," coach David Carter said. "You have to look forward to moving on to this year. I do think with experience that they gained, it's going to help them in the long run."
Another factor is the team chemistry. According to the Nevada Sagebrush, Burton and three others in the sophomore class -- Jordan Burris, Jordan Finn and Kevin Panzer -- have taken to calling themselves the Fab Four.
"I watched the (ESPN 30 for 30) documentary of the Fab Five over summer … it reminded me a lot of us, and so now we call ourselves the Fab Four," Burton said. "The Fab Five had an awesome record, and we just try to look at that as motivation."
With the Wolf Pack's 13-19 record last season (the first losing season for the team since 2000-01), the team has a lot of ground to gain if it wants to be remembered similar to the Fab Five.
Nevada basketball head coach David Carter found the comparison somewhat humorous.
"Those four are very close on and off the court," Carter said with a giggle. "That's a unique thing and they'll be friends for life. But shoot, compared to the Fab Five -- we're not even close [in terms of performance]."
The starting lineup Nevada returns isn't quite the Fab Five either, but it could very well be the group that carries the Wolf Pack to a WAC championship.
Not everyone is so sure Utah State is in for a rebuilding year, though. The media picked the Aggies to successfully defend their title and Nevada to finish second. Carter appreciated the respect from his fellow coaches, but knows his team still has to prove it.
"That's on paper," he said of being the preseason favorite. "You have to go out and play the games."