Nick Fazekas has already proven himself to be one of the nation's elite players. His postseason performance could determine whether he receives greater national recognition.
Fazekas and 10th-ranked Nevada look to continue their domination of league opponents on Thursday when they face Idaho in the Western Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinals in Las Cruces, N.M.Fazekas was named WAC Player of the Year for the third straight season and, along with Texas' Kevin Durant, is one of only two players in the nation averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Despite those accomplishments, his name is usually mentioned behind Durant and Wisconsin's Alando Tucker among candidates for national player of the year.Leading Nevada (27-3) on a long postseason run would be the best way for the 6-foot-11 Fazekas to gain the national recognition that has eluded him during a stellar collegiate career."It's an honor to be named WAC player of the year for a third consecutive year," said Fazekas, who joins Utah's Keith Van Horn as the only three-time winners of the award. "I've always cared about wins more than individual honors, but it is great to be recognized by the league coaches."Nevada completed an outstanding regular season Saturday with a 69-65 victory over visiting New Mexico State.Junior Marcellus Kemp scored 21 of his 32 points in the second half, including four straight free throws after a technical foul. Fazekas added 22 points and nine rebounds for the Wolf Pack, who claimed their fourth straight WAC regular-season title, with 25 or more wins in each of those years.Nevada's Mark Fox also became the first coach to win WAC coach of the year honors three straight years."It's an honor to be recognized by my peers, but I have been fortunate to coach great players and work with a great coaching staff," Fox said. "Being named coach of the year is a credit to our players and coaches."Fox and the Wolf Pack will try to win their second consecutive WAC tournament title and third in the past four years. They are 9-4 in the tournament since joining the league in 2000-01.A matchup with Idaho (4-26) doesn't figure to present much of a problem for Nevada, which has won both meetings this season by a combined 42 points. The Wolf Pack have won six straight against the Vandals since an 82-74 overtime loss on Jan. 27, 2000.Nevada beat Idaho 68-55 in the opening round of the WAC tournament last season.Fazekas is 5-0 against Idaho in his career, averaging 20.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and shooting 68.5 percent (37-for-54) from the field.The Wolf Pack, though, are far from a one-man team. Kemp averages 18.2 points and junior guard Ramon Sessions adds 12.8 and a team-high 4.6 assists.Idaho earned a meeting with top-seeded Nevada after Keoni Watson hit a baseline jumper with 1.3 seconds left in a 50-49 opening-round victory Tuesday over San Jose State.Watson scored all 18 of his points in the second half for the Vandals, who snapped the longest active losing streak in the nation at 12.Should Nevada avoid the upset, it would face either Utah State or Hawaii in the semifinals Friday.