Joe Santoro: To those who didn’t pick Pack, cover soccer | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: To those who didn’t pick Pack, cover soccer

Joe Santoro

Joe Santoro

There's no question that the Nevada Wolf Pack is the class of Mountain West men's basketball. The Pack won the conference regular season and tournament titles last year and might dominate even more impressively this year. The Mountain West's media had no choice but to pick the Pack to finish first this year, giving the Pack 19-of-24 first-place votes. The five who didn't vote for the Pack should be forced to cover soccer next year. It took Pack coach Eric Musselman all of two seasons to build the best basketball team in the Mountain West. Don't forget Musselman took over a program that had gone 18-34 in three seasons in the conference. Musselman has built the Gonzaga of the Mountain West.

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It's to Musselman's credit the Pack could lose such productive players as Cameron Oliver, Marcus Marshall, D. J. Fenner, Marqueze Coleman, Tyron Criswell and others over the past two years and not miss a beat. Roster turnover has always caught up to and swallowed the Pack in the past. It even happened to the unforgettable 2004-07 era. By 2010-11 they lost 19 games. Musselman, though, just picks up a new rock every spring and summer and chisels out another great team.

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Lindsey Drew, for some reason, just can't seem to get any respect around the Mountain West. After his first two Wolf Pack seasons Drew didn't get any recognition on the All-Conference teams. He wasn't even Honorable Mention or placed on the Defensive Team, even though he's arguably the best defensive player in the league. Drew wasn't even mentioned on this year's media preseason All -Conference team. You could argue Drew is the best point guard in the Mountain West. He led the conference in assists (4.7 a game) last year and he directed the conference's best offense on the conference's best team. The 6-foot-4 Drew was also ninth in blocked shots last year and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.6). Everything the Pack does on offense and defense goes through or starts with Drew. The conference needs to stop disrespecting one of its best players.

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The Mountain West is almost on life support. It's two most high profile sports (football and men's basketball) might force us to change the name of the conference to Mediocre West. Football is almost invisible on the national landscape (Boise beating San Diego State last weekend didn't help) and basketball seems to be heading on the same path. San Diego State won't likely be as dominant now that coach Steve Fisher is retired, UNLV is coming off one of its worst seasons ever, Colorado State is good but never great, Fresno State and Wyoming are stuck in neutral, Utah State's glory years are stuck in the Western Athletic Conference, New Mexico is going through a coaching change and everyone else struggles to get to .500 in a good year. There will be no excuse for the Pack not to sail through this conference this year.

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What's left for the Wolf Pack football team to accomplish this year? Surprisingly enough for a 1-6 team, there's still a lot to play for. If the Pack win their final five games they will go to a bowl game and there's a good chance they could win the West Division and get to the Mountain West title game. That (a division title) isn't likely to happen — the Pack must beat both Boise State and San Diego State on the road — but anything is possible in the mild, mild Mountain West. A more reasonable goal for the Pack is to win their final three home games (Air Force, San Jose State, UNLV) and wrap up the season by beating UNLV and keeping the Fremont Cannon blue. If that happens, Pack fans should feel good about the future of their football program.

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Something happens to the Wolf Pack football team's offense in the fourth quarter. It wears out, gets tired, evaporates and disappears. The Pack has scored more than seven points in the fourth quarter just once in its seven games this year. And that was a 14-point effort against Division I-AA (FCS) Idaho State. If the Pack had mustered just a field goal last week in the fourth quarter it would be coming off a dramatic victory at Colorado State and a division title would be there for the taking. When this team starts to dominate the fourth quarter that will be the sign we need to see they're ready to win at a place like Boise State or San Diego State.

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Is this the worst NFL season ever? There are absolutely no great teams. Nobody even seems to be good three games in a row. Even the New England Patriots are just 4-2 with three of those victories coming by a touchdown or less. The worst team in the league never gets blown out because nobody is good enough to hand out the punishment. The 49ers are 0-6 but five of the losses are by a field goal or less. Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt, David Johnson and Odell Beckham are out with injuries, Ezekiel Elliot might miss six weeks with a suspension. Half the league is playing with backup quarterbacks. Every other quarterback seems to be playing with one hurt leg or arm. The league is now a collection of mediocre-to-good teams playing a bunch of bad-to-mediocre teams.

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You just know major league baseball and the national media that will bring us the games are hoping and praying for a Los Angeles Dodgers-New York Yankees World Series. We haven't had a Dodgers-Yankees series since 1981. The two storied franchises met 11 times from 1941 to 1981 with the Yankees winning eight times. It's a dream baseball matchup, pitting the east coast against the west coast. It's what we need to forget all of the awful football we've been watching this fall.

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