Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

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January 10, 2014
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Friday Fodder: Pack fans dreaming of NCAA berth

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .It is time to start dreaming, Nevada Wolf Pack basketball fans. You remember dreams, don’t you? Seeing the Wolf Pack’s name come up on Selection Sunday. Wins in the NCAA Tournament. A spot in the Sweet 16. Top 25 votes. Packed crowds at Lawlor Events Center. All those things used to happen to the Wolf Pack not too long ago. And they might start happening again. The Pack’s 74-71 win at UNLV on Wednesday makes all those dreams legitimate. The Mountain West placed five teams in the NCAA’s big dance last year. As we stand now the Pack is on top of the conference and is clearly one of the best four teams in the league along with San Diego State, New Mexico and Boise State. The Pack has the best player in the conference (Deonte Burton) and one of the best coaches (David Carter). That’s how you turn dreams into reality.

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What would it take for the Pack to get to the NCAA Tournament? Don’t forget that this team already has five dream-killing losses against Pacific, Bakersfield, Morehead State, Omaha and Long Beach. So there is a razor-thin margin of error. It would appear that the Pack needs to win at least 12 of its final 15 regular season games. And then they would likely have to win two Mountain West tournament games and get to the title game. That would put them, at worst, at 22-11 with 17 wins in 20 league games. Admittedly, that is a lot of winning for a team that just emerged from a 16-27 stretch. But anything is possible.

Hey, did you ever think you’d see the Pack football team lose at home to UNLV and the basketball team win in Las Vegas in the same school year? That has happened just once before (2003-04) since both schools began playing each other in football and basketball since 1969. So dream big, Pack fans.

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You can forget about Carter losing his job anytime soon now. Carter has proven once and for all that when he gets even a hint of talent and a roster that actually listens to him, he can win games on a pretty consistent basis.

The Pack now has to worry about losing Carter to another school, especially if the team gets to the NCAA Tournament this year. To go from 12 wins one year to a NCAA Tournament the next, well, Carter might be getting a lot of phone calls this March and April.

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The baseball writers got it right when they elected Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas to the Hall of Fame this week. But they also got it wrong by not electing Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza. Biggio had over 3,000 hits, stole over 400 bases, scored 1,844 runs and had over 1,000 extra base hits. Piazza is arguably the greatest hitting catcher in the history of the sport. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling and Jack Morris are also deserving Hall of Famers.

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The baseball writers are beginning to embarrass themselves now. One guy voted for just Morris. One guy gave his ballot to the readers of a Web site. A total of 16 voters left Maddux off their ballot. Those 16 should be immediately stripped of their vote and be forced to cover soccer and women’s basketball for a living. But the writers are making a joke of the process because they have grown frustrated. The Hall of Fame executives and major league baseball’s hierarchy refuses to give them any sort of guidance when it comes to players who are linked to performance enhancing drug use. That decision should not be left to the voters. They don’t know enough to vote in a guy who had 3,000 hits. How could they be smart enough to judge a player’s character and integrity?

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The Louisville Cardinals should be embarrassed for hiring Bobby Petrino as its football coach. But, then again, we shouldn’t be surprised. Character, integrity, honor, honesty and moral strength are just clichés in college sports now. You can also add family, loyalty and sincerity to that list. The words mean nothing in college sports anymore. It’s all about winning games, getting your school on national television, making money and Petrino, a former Wolf Pack assistant (1994), can certainly do those things and take co-eds on motorcycle rides at the same time. Winning justifies everything in college sports these days.

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OK, yes, I got three of the four NFL playoff games wrong last week. But that’s what I get for picking a Chris Ault (Kansas City Chiefs) and Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals) team in the postseason. So, for what it’s worth, here are this week’s picks: San Francisco 49ers over the Carolina Panthers, the Seattle Seahawks over the New Orleans Saints, the Denver Broncos over the San Diego Chargers and the New England Patriots over the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers and Colin Kaepernick are going to the Super Bowl this year. And next year. The Seahawks destroyed the Saints a month ago. A Chargers’ victory at Denver over Peyton Manning would be one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history. And the Colts’ used up all their luck last week at Kansas City.

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What are the Washington Redskins thinking by hiring Jay “Don’t Call me Jon” Gruden as head coach? Gruden, for all we know, never cheated on his wife, gave his young mistress $20,000 or abandoned his team with three games left in the season (see Petrino resume), but he isn’t even the best coach in his family. This is a guy who did his best work in the Arena League and United Football League. His resume includes the Nashville Kats and Florida Tuskers, two teams that just might have been in your fantasy league this year. Gruden, though, was probably the only coach brave enough to take on diva quarterback Robert Griffin III and owner Daniel Snyder, the two guys who are the real Redskins head coach.


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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jan 10, 2014 12:15AM Published Jan 10, 2014 12:15AM Copyright 2014 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.