Joe Santoro: Can Nevada Wolf Pack return to form?

Photo: University of Nevada
The Nevada men’s basketball team, shown against UNLV in Reno on Jan. 31, is scheduled to return to the court this weekend after a two-week, COVID-19-related break.

Photo: University of Nevada The Nevada men’s basketball team, shown against UNLV in Reno on Jan. 31, is scheduled to return to the court this weekend after a two-week, COVID-19-related break.

The Mountain West men’s basketball season, it appears, will come down to a five-way cage match between the Nevada Wolf Pack, Boise State Broncos, San Diego State Aztecs, Colorado State Rams and Utah State Aggies.
Two of those five will likely go to the NCAA tournament next month in Indianapolis and maybe even a third.
Where does this all leave the Wolf Pack? The Pack, 14-7 overall and 9-5 in league play, is currently at the bottom of the above mentioned Group of Five and will likely have to win the conference tournament in Las Vegas March 10-13 to go to the NCAA tournament. But that, like all things in a pandemic season, can change in hurry.
Two games at Utah State this weekend will likely set the tone for the Pack’s postseason chances. The last time we saw the Pack (Feb. 7), it was playing its best basketball of the season, having swept consecutive two-game series against Boise State and UNLV. Since then, though, the Pack has battled rust, boredom, inactivity and COVID-19, so it’s anyone’s guess how this strange season will turn out.
There is one thing, though, we do know right now. There is not a team in the Mountain West the Wolf Pack cannot beat, especially on a neutral court in Las Vegas without fans in the stands.
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The Mountain West tournament has rarely been kind to the Wolf Pack. There was the senseless, shocking, unforgivable loss to the No. 11-seed Wyoming Cowboys just last March. In 2019 and 2018, the No 1-seeded Pack lost in the semifinals both years to San Diego State. The Pack won the tournament in 2017, likely because they didn’t have to play San Diego State. The Aztecs, after all, also beat them in the semifinals in 2016. The Pack didn’t even win one game over its first three Mountain West tournaments (2013-15). Maybe this year, playing in a bubble without fans, will be different. Maybe not. Weird things, though, happen in a bubble.
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The Wolf Pack baseball team, which has not been invited to a NCAA Regional since 2000, has started the season 3-1 after four games at Cal Poly. The season now, though, really gets interesting. And difficult. We could be looking at one of the toughest schedules in school history.
The Wolf Pack, which plays three games at UNLV this weekend, will play two games against Arizona State (March 2 in Arizona and May 11 in Reno), one game at UCLA on May 18, two games at Texas April 13-14 and three games at USC March 12-14. Arizona State, USC, and UCLA are college baseball royalty. It’s big step up from Cal Poly.
And don’t forget the 37-game Mountain West schedule against San Diego State, Fresno State, New Mexico, UNLV, San Jose State and Air Force. This is the type of schedule that can get a team into the regionals or make a coach think about other career opportunities. The Pack, though, has already exceeded its win total of last year when it went 2-12 before the pandemic shut down the season so it’s all gravy from here on out.
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Tom Brady has one year remaining on his Tampa Bay Buccaneers contract at $25 million. It’s likely, though, that we will hear about the Bucs extending the 43-year-old Brady’s deal one more year (through 2022) since he has already said he wants to play at least until he is 45.
Brady, though, might not accept $25 million for the 2022 season. Quarterbacks like Dak Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger, Patrick Mahomes Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, as well as Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Kirk Cousins, all will make $30 million or more next year. What is Brady worth, even at 45 years old? How about $45-50 million? The Bucs need to rip up his contract and give him something along the lines of $80 million over the next two seasons.
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There is not a player in the NBA more valuable than Stephen Curry. But hardly anyone outside the Bay Area, it seems, even remembers he’s in the league.
The Golden State Warriors are 17-15 right now and currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. That is already more victories than the Warriors had a year ago when they went 15-50 with Curry missing all but the first five games of the season because of an injury.
Curry has scored 62 and 57 points in a game already this year. His 37 points led the Warriors to a 114-106 win at Madison Square Garden over the New York Knicks on Tuesday. He’s averaging 30.2 points, 6.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals a game this year.
There is a lot of competition for MVP this year. But how many of those players (LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, etc.) would be 17-15 right now with Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre, Eric Paschall, James Wiseman and Draymond Green as their supporting cast?
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The Reno Aces have already announced their 142-game season this year in a revamped Triple-A that will run from April 8 through Sept. 21. The Aces will play six-game series every week against one opponent with Wednesday as the travel day.
Six games is a lot of games in a row against one team. We could see crazy NBA-like scores this season, especially in the last two or three games of the series, as hitters see the same starting pitchers twice and tired bullpen arms multiple times in the same series.
But after last year, when minor league baseball didn’t exist because of COVID-19, we’d take a 142-game series against the Tacoma Rainiers. Just give us back our baseball.

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