Sports Fodder

Joe Santoro: Nevada Wolf Pack has a retro vibe this year

Coach Sonny Allen led Nevada to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1984. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

Coach Sonny Allen led Nevada to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1984. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

We could be witnessing the most unlikely Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team to go to the NCAA Tournament in nearly 40 years. Nobody expected the 1983-84 Wolf Pack to go to the NCAA tournament. The Wolf Pack before 1984, after all, had never gone to the tournament.
That team started the season 1-5 and then lost eight of 12 from Jan. 7 to Feb. 18. Coach Sonny Allen’s 1983-84 Pack had to win its last three regular season games (against the three worst teams in the conference at home) to bring an uninspiring 14-13 record into the Big Sky Conference tournament. But that Pack team, led by Curtis High, Ed Porter, Tony Sommers, Dannie Jones and Quentin Stephens, won the conference tournament and lost to Washington (64-54) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Pullman, Wash. This year has a 1983-84 feel to it.
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The Wolf Pack will also likely have to win the Mountain West tournament March 10-13 in Las Vegas to go to the NCAA Tournament this year. The Wolf Pack has played a weak schedule and has red-flag losses to Wyoming (twice), Air Force and Grand Canyon. The only victories of note the Pack has so far are over Boise State. Even the win at Nebraska back in November right now means absolutely nothing since the Cornhuskers are 4-11.
The Pack, according to the power rankings, are the fifth best team in the Mountain West behind Colorado State, San Diego State, Utah State and, yes, Boise State (don’t you hate power rankings?). ESPN’s Joe Lunardi right now predicts only San Diego State, Utah State and Boise State will go to the NCAA Tournament out of the Mountain West with Colorado State being among the first four teams left out of the brackets.
The Pack, which has the best player-coach combination in the league with Grant Sherfield and Steve Alford, can prove everyone wrong in Las Vegas next month.
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This college basketball season, which has been played in near-empty gyms with zero atmosphere, has all but dispelled the myth that fans are the biggest reasons behind home court advantages. Teams are still winning their home games at an alarming rate in quiet gyms this year.
The Pack, for example, is 9-2 at home and 4-5 on the road. Just two teams in the Mountain West (Air Force and New Mexico, which lose everywhere) have a losing record at home. Just one team in the ACC, Sun Belt, Big 10, Missouri Valley, West Coast Conference and SEC have losing records at home. Just two in the Big 12 and Pac 12 and none in the Western Athletic Conference have lost more than they’ve won at home. The only thing college basketball teams need from you, apparently, is your money.
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This past year has been extremely difficult for all sports fans. Fans, for the most part, can’t go to the games and have to watch watered down and quieter versions of their favorite sports on their favorite devices. Even the Super Bowl, which featured as many cardboard cutouts as real fans, wasn’t the same.
But this past year has to be harder on Boston fans than anyone else. Boston fans have had to watch their former heroes win titles elsewhere Mookie Betts won a World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski won the Super Bowl for the Tampa Bay Bucs. Boston fans even had to endure watching the Los Angeles Lakers tie their beloved Celtics with their 17th NBA title.
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We will never underestimate the importance of a healthy and competent offensive line in the Super Bowl ever again. Who knew that Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher, who suffered an injury in the AFC title game and missed the Super Bowl, was the real Super Bowl Most Valuable Player?
The Chiefs’ offensive line turned in, without question, the worst performance by any offensive line in Super Bowl history. They made the Tampa Bay Bucs look like the 1985 Chicago Bears. If Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was as immobile as Bucs’ quarterback Tom Brady the Bucs would have had 20 sacks.
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Can we now please stop all of the “Andy Reid is a brilliant play caller” talk? The Kansas City Chiefs coach has always been one of the most overrated so-called offensive geniuses in the NFL. But last year, after Mahomes saved him and beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, Reid was deemed an offensive genius.
Everyone, it seems, forgot the fact that the Chiefs had just one touchdown through three quarters against the Niners and should have lost before Mahomes started making plays on his own. Well, Reid’s amazing play calling produced zero touchdowns against the Bucs. Mahomes couldn’t save Reid this year because he was running for his life on every play and doing it with a big toe that needed surgery.
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All of the Tom Brady haters, it seems, are miffed that Brady won the Super Bowl MVP, citing the fact that he threw for just 201 yards. Brady played a flawless game, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed 21-of-29 passes.
He will sweat more during his Hall of Fame speech than he did against the Chiefs. Who should have been MVP instead of Brady? Nobody on the Bucs’ defense stood out. They all played extremely well. Brady was the only choice.
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The Bucs’ victory felt like the biggest Super Bowl blowout in history. It was, without question, one of the most boring Super Bowls in history. The commercials were forgettable. The halftime show was a snore.
But it isn’t even in the Top 10 of Super Bowl routs. It isn’t even the biggest Bucs’ win in the Super Bowl (sorry, Raider fans). The Chiefs even had more total yards (350-340) and had just four fewer first downs, converted just one fewer third down and had more offensive plays than the Bucs. So why did it feel like the game was over by the middle of the third quarter?

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