Keep an eye on Nevada, Xavier

Updated: December 9, 2006, 9:58 PM ET
By Jay Bilas | ESPN.com
• Nevada is among the very best mid-majors in the country this season, and should spend most of the season ranked. The Wolf Pack are coached by Mark Fox, who is one of the brightest young coaches out there, and he has another NCAA Tournament team. When Fox was a graduate student at Kansas, he used to sit through Roy Williams' practices to learn more about the game. He was later an assistant at Washington under Lynn Nance and at Kansas State under Tom Asbury, and he learned the game well. Fox has the most underpublicized All-American in the country in Nick Fazekas, who is putting up great numbers and performances. For the second season in a row, Fazekas has the best pair of hands of any big man in America. Fazekas is averaging 22 points and close to 14 rebounds (which leads the nation) while shooting 61 percent from the floor and over 81 percent from the line. Fazekas still looks like he is on a diet, but he is an outstanding player who could wind up being National Player of the Year.
Nick Fazekas
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesNick Fazekas has been a double-double for three years in Nevada.

Fox also has a fine point guard in Ramon Sessions, who is an excellent passer with a great floor game. Sessions has really improved his shot, and is very reliable from the free-throw line. Marcelus Kemp is a great athlete who can attack the rim and really run in transition, and Kyle Shiloh is one of the best on-ball defenders in the West, if not the nation. Nevada's most improved player has to be Denis Ikovlev, the Ukrainian senior. Ikovlev did not play much last season, but can hit open shots and seems to be playing more instinctively and with a free mind, not thinking his way through every situation. I also really like JaVale McGee. He has a lot of raw talent, is bouncy and athletic, and has a chance to be very good in Fox's system. I think that Nevada could be a Sweet 16 team or better with the right draw.

• An undervalued team thus far this season is Xavier out of the Atlantic 10. Last season, the Musketeers were a point guard away from being really good, and this season, Sean Miller has former Oklahoma point guard Drew Lavender, who is a really solid floor leader. Lavender handles the ball and gets it into an operating area, and has been really coachable.

Jay Bilas

College Basketball analyst