Joe Santoro: The Mountain West is a mess

From left, Utah State's Rollie Worster (24), Justin Bean (34), Neemias Queta (23) and UNLV's Nicquel Blake (22) vie for a rebound on Jan. 25 in Las Vegas. Much like this play, the Mountain West regular season is a mess, Joe Santoro writes. (Photo: John Locher/AP)

From left, Utah State's Rollie Worster (24), Justin Bean (34), Neemias Queta (23) and UNLV's Nicquel Blake (22) vie for a rebound on Jan. 25 in Las Vegas. Much like this play, the Mountain West regular season is a mess, Joe Santoro writes. (Photo: John Locher/AP)

 The Mountain West men’s basketball regular season has turned into a chaotic, sloppy, jumbled, disheveled and practically meaningless mess.
The month of February has seen six two-game Mountain West series canceled or postponed because of COVID-19. Just two-and-a-half two-game series were canceled before February. So, yes, this pandemic thing is still with us as much as ever.
The Nevada Wolf Pack has had its last two series called off. The regular season was never more meaningful than a three-month exhibition season (and a way to earn some television money) and tune-up for the conference tournament March 10-13 anyway. Now even the conference tournament might be a disordered, bedraggled, hit-or-miss roll of the dice based on the health and rustiness of certain teams and players.
Heading into Thursday night’s schedule there was a three-way tie atop the Mountain West standings with Boise State, Utah State and Colorado State all 11-3 in league play. San Diego State was also tied in the loss column at 9-3.
That leaves the Wolf Pack, which right now only has two remaining league games on the schedule next week at Utah State, on the outside looking in at 9-5. None of this, of course, is fair. But fairness wasn’t the priority when the conference came up with this pandemic schedule.
So none of this chaos should surprise anyone. It’s great for the players and coaches, and those who have to balance the athletic department budget, for these games to be played this year. But as a fan, well, it’s almost impossible to invest any emotions into it. The winning and losing, and mere playing of these games, is so random. It has little meaning.
Wolf Pack sophomore point guard Grant Sherfield is now the leading scorer in the Mountain West at 18.9 points a game, ahead of UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton (18.4) and Boise State’s Derrick Alston (17.4).
Winning the scoring title should go a long way in making Sherfield the Mountain West Player of the Year. Sherfield also leads the conference in assists (6.2 a game) and assist-to-turnover ration (2.6 a game). He is second in steals (1.62) and free throw percentage (.882).
Colorado State’s Isaiah Stevens leads in free throw shooting at .889 but Sherfield has made 105-of-119 free throws compared to Stevens’ 56-of-63. The race for Player of the Year is now over.
Wolf Pack players have a long and rich history of leading their conferences in scoring. So Sherfield wouldn’t exactly be breaking new ground this year. Jalen Harris, after all, led the Mountain West just last year at 21.7 a game. Marcus Marshall led the Mountain West in 2016-17 at 19.8 a game. Kirk Snyder (18.8 in 2003-04) and Nick Fazekas (20.7 in 2004-05 and 21.9 in 2005-06) combined to lead the Western Athletic Conference three years in a row. Jimmy Moore led the Big West in 1993-94 (19.2) while Darryl Owens (22.7 in 1988-89), Dwyane Randall (23.0 in 1985-86) and Ken “Tree” Green (18.4 in 1982-82 and 24.1 in 1982-83) all led the Big Sky Conference. Romie Thomas led the West Coast Conference in 1970-71 (26.1) as did Edgar Jones in 1976-77 (23.7).
Are the Utah Jazz for real? Apparently so. The Jazz, heading into Thursday’s games, were 24-5 and riding a nine-game winning streak. Utah has won 20 of its last 21 games since dropping a pair of games at Brooklyn and New York in early January.
The team is coached by former Duke player and Missouri head coach Quin Snyder and is led by arguably the most underrated player in the NBA in Donovan Mitchell. Jordan Clarkson, who bounced around the NBA with the Lakers, and Cavaliers before finding a home in Utah, is also ignored by most NBA fans as is center Rudy Gobert, guard Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles, Bogan Bogdanovich and Derrick Favors.
But don’t expect to see the Jazz in the Finals. The last thing the NBA wants is for LeBron James to be off making commercials in June rather than playing in the NBA Finals.
The San Francisco 49ers would be making a huge mistake if they think Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard is a better quarterback than Jimmy Garoppolo. Nobody is going to compare Garoppolo to Joe Montana or Steve Young anytime soon, but let’s get serious. Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard? Stop it.
It was just two years ago that Garoppolo helped the 49ers get to within one quarter of winning the Super Bowl. He has completed 67.5 per cent of his passes in the NFL for 51 touchdowns and 26 interceptions and has thrown for 8,042 yards in just 48 games and 32 starts. And don’t forget his 24-8 record as a starter.
It’s doubtful we have seen an NFL off-season with so much potential quarterback movement. Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Matthew Stafford have already been traded. Roughly half the league seems to be in the market for a new quarterback.
The upcoming draft seems to have just three quarterbacks that could possibly start in 2021 (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields), if then.
Tom Brady moves from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and promptly wins a Super Bowl so the copy cat NFL now thinks success can be obtained by simply getting somebody else’s quarterback.
The Tim Tebow publicity tour has thankfully finally ended. Tebow mercifully announced his retirement from baseball this week at the age of 33 after four ridiculous circus-like clown show seasons in the New York Mets’ system.
Tebow ended up hitting .223 over 940 professional at-bats with 18 homers and 107 RBI. His on base percentage was .299. He hit .163 at Triple-A Syracuse in 2019.
Those numbers aren’t all that embarrassing for a guy who was trying to learn the sport at the age of 29 when he started this silly stunt in 2016. Michael Jordan, after all, hit .202 (with a .289 on base percentage) for Double-A Birmingham in 1994 at the age of 31.
Jordan, though, did steal 30 bases that season while Tebow, who made his mark as a running quarterback for the Florida Gators, stole just five bases in four years. He’ll now probably be Tom Brady’s running mate in the 2024 or 2028 presidential election.


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