"That's what I came here for, to be on a ranked team and change this program around," forward Jordan Caroline said after Nevada's win over UC Irvine on Saturday. "To actually get there, it's like a childhood dream in a sense. My hope is once we get it, we won't let it go. Everybody is motivated on the team to stay there, not just to get there and be out the next week."
The Wolf Pack has its two most difficult non-conference games of the season looming this week and will likely have to pass both tests to remain in the Top 25.
On Tuesday, Nevada plays at Texas Tech (6-1), which was No. 22 in the rankings last week before losing to Seton Hall. The Red Raiders are first among "other teams receiving votes" in both major Top 25 polls this week.
On Friday, the Wolf Pack plays No. 20 TCU (8-0) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.
"I don't think we can really control the rankings," Nevada coach Eric Musselman said after the UC Irvine win. "We've handled business thus far. Our players have said it would be something that they would like. Having said that, we just have to worry about the next game in front of us, and I think our guys will do that. They've had a business-like approach every game and Texas Tech is really, really good."
Nevada, which is off to its best start in its Division I era, secured 199 points in this week's AP poll. Forty-five of the 65 voters had the Wolf Pack on their ballot, with the team being placed as high as No. 15 by two voters. Nevada slotted one spot behind Purdue (8-2) and one spot ahead of Baylor (5-2).
Two Wolf Pack players have played for ranked teams before, just at other schools. Transfers Kendall Stephens, from Purdue, and Hallice Cooke, from Iowa State, were both on Top 25 teams earlier in their careers.
"Obviously it's just a number and you still have to prove yourself, but being ranked means people respect you, they're thanking you and rewarding you for your efforts," Stephens said last week. "Being on Purdue, a couple of our seasons we were ranked before the season started. Earning your ranking and starting the season off not ranking, it just means that much more, especially for a university like this that doesn't have a lot of success in basketball. We have decent tradition, but lately it hasn't been there. We just want to be consistent and build off last year."The last time Nevada was nationally ranked was the final poll of the 2007 season when the Wolf Pack was No. 15 in the AP poll.
The Wolf Pack is the first Mountain West school to be nationally ranked since Boise State in the final regular-season poll of the 2014-15 season. Four MW teams appeared in the Top 25 that season.