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Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

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March 8, 2013
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Senior Night should be for seniors


Sports fodder for a Friday morning ... Everything you need to know about the Cary Groth era at the University of Nevada was summed up in a forced, choreographed, inappropriate, uncomfortable moment before the Wolf Pack's final home basketball game Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center. It was supposed to be Senior Night, a touching ceremony to honor seniors Malik Story, Keith Fuetsch and their families. But there was Groth at mid-court along with Story, Fuetch and their loved ones, stealing some of the spotlight. That was supposed to be the seniors' moment. They earned it. Story and Fuetsch and their families should not have been forced to share it with an outgoing athletic director who announced her retirement six months earlier. It was the wrong place and the wrong time to force the crowd to cheer for Groth. Story and Fuetsch deserved better.

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A week or so after the Wolf Pack football team completed its historic 2010 regular season the university had about three dozen or so football players walk out onto the court at a men's basketball game. Yes, it was to help sell tickets for the upcoming bowl game in San Francisco but it also was a great moment for the fans to honor arguably the greatest team in the history of Wolf Pack sports. Those players earned that special moment. While the players were out on the court and being showered with affection by the fans, Groth came over to coach Chris Ault, who was seated in the stands. She begged him to go out onto the court to say a few words to the crowd. Ault, though, refused. "This is for the players, this is for them," Ault said. Groth continued to beg him to go out on the court. Ault continued to refuse. One of the biggest criticisms of Ault was his tremendous ego. (He earned that ego, by the way.) But even Ault knew it wasn't right for him to steal any of the spotlight from his players at that moment.

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The Wolf Pack men's basketball team deserves credit for not quitting on its coach or itself. The Pack played hard and with passion against UNLV and New Mexico in its final two home games and, well, were just beaten by better teams. There's no shamed in losing to a better team. A week or so ago, it had looked like this team had cashed in the season. They sleepwalked through ugly losses to Wyoming, Fresno State and Boise State and looked like an AAU team playing out the summer schedule. But their pride came through against UNLV and New Mexico.

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Will the Wolf Pack basketball team be better in 2013-14? They can't get worse, right? A few things must happen for the Pack to jump into the upper half of the Mountain West. Deonte Burton must make the big leap he didn't make this year. At least three from the group of Cole Huff, Jerry Evans, Jordan Burris, Ali Fall, Kevin Panzer and Devonte Elliott have to improve. Transfer Michael Perez has to step in and give Burton help at the point. Incoming freshman D.J. Fenner must show flashes that he's the two guard of the future and current freshman Marqueze Coleman has to stop playing as if he's the only player on the floor. If all those things happen and Carter can find a big guy who can defend, score and rebound, well, look out. The Pack went from 13 wins in 2010-11 to 28 in 2011-12. It can happen again.

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Part of the Pack's problem this season was the lack of any home court advantage. The crowds were flat and comatose all year long. The place was only two-third full for UNLV and New Mexico, a Top 25 team. There was never any atmosphere at Lawlor Events Center all year. Yes, you can blame it on an underachieving team but if the Pack is ever going to be a consistent Top 25 program its home attendance has to stop being dependent on the team's won-loss record. All you need to know about this season was that one of the biggest cheers all year took place when Bishop Manogue graduate Keith Fuetsch scored in the final minute of the double-digit loss to New Mexico.

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Why should we care about the World Baseball Classic? We shouldn't. The WBC is a bunch of players playing for countries they've only seen in travel brochures playing against a bunch of players who are afraid to pull a muscle before the start of the major league season. The All Star game in July has more drama.

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It's still too early to get overly excited about the Wolf Pack baseball team. But this could be a special season at Peccole Park. First of all, Mountain West baseball is not Mountain West football or basketball. There's only five other teams in the conference. And the Pack is as good as any of them. The whole key to this Pack season are the guys who will be counted on to get the game from starters Bradey Shipley, Tom Jameson and Tyler Wells to closer Michael Fain. If the Pack can find two or three guys in that role who show any kind of consistency, we might be looking at the first NCAA Regional trip in 13 years.



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The Nevada Appeal Updated Mar 8, 2013 02:07AM Published Mar 8, 2013 02:05AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.