Mountain West notes: Alford says COVID schedule ‘crazy’

Lawlor Events Center on Jan. 1, 2022 as the Nevada men’s basketball team hosted New Mexico. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

Lawlor Events Center on Jan. 1, 2022 as the Nevada men’s basketball team hosted New Mexico. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

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You simply can’t believe the Mountain West men’s basketball schedule this season.
The Mountain West has already seen six non-conference games canceled and nine conference games postponed all in the past month due to health and safety protocols.
“It’s wild right now,” Nevada Wolf Pack coach Steve Alford said after Saturday’s 79-70 win over New Mexico at Lawlor Events Center. “It’s crazy.”
The Wolf Pack, with five cancellations and postponements combined, has been affected the most of any Mountain West team by the health and safety protocols this season. The Wolf Pack’s game against Wyoming this week (Tuesday) at Lawlor Events Center was postponed. The Pack’s next game is at San Diego State this Saturday.
Colorado State and San Jose State each have had three scheduled games affected. All 11 Mountain West teams have had at least one game either canceled or postponed.
“We’re having 40-50 games (in all of college basketball) get cancelled every night,” Alford said. “There was a game in league that got canceled 20 minutes before the tip. That, to me, I don’t understand it.”
The Wolf Pack played just three games in December because of cancellations and postponements. The third game, an 88-61 loss at Kansas, was finalized on the schedule roughly 48 hours before tip-off.
“It’s more wild this year than last year from a scheduling standpoint,” Alford said.
Alford said the unpredictable schedule has affected everyone involved.
“You’re just going to see a lot of players frustrated,” he said. “We only had three games in the month of December. Some teams haven’t played since the 10th or 11th of December.”
The Mountain West has announced that there will be an effort to play every conference game that has been postponed. If a suitable date cannot be found for the two teams involved the game will simply not count in the standings.

ALFORD ACCEPTS MISSED SHOTS AS PART OF THE GAME: Alford said last week that he doesn’t worry all that much about a player’s shooting percentage.
“We take good shots, we miss them, that’s basketball,” said Alford, who was never afraid of missing shots as a player for the Indiana Hoosiers in the 1980s. “Now, Lawrence (against Kansas), we were 1-for-26 on bad shots. That’s where I can’t accept that. I’m not going to tolerate bad shots. Bad shots is being undisciplined. It’s not being fundamentally sound.”
The Wolf Pack was 21-of-56 (38 percent) in its loss at Kansas from the floor. Three days later against New Mexico the Pack was 26-of-61 (43 percent).
“I thought we took good shots (against New Mexico),” said Alford, whose Wolf Pack is shooting .445 from the floor this season. “We were fundamental.”

SHERFIELD’S CAREER BLOSSOMED OUT OF ADVERSITY: Wolf Pack point guard Grant Sherfield, who is averaging 18.8 points, 6.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds this season, found his college career at a crossroads less than two years ago.
Sherfield, then a freshman at Wichita State, was benched for a game in late February 2020 because his coach (Gregg Marshall) didn’t like his body language.
“I want him to do some things a little differently,” Marshall told the Wichita Eagle newspaper in March 2020. “We’re going to work with him. He’s a great kid. I love him in my program. But there’s got to be a couple things he has to adjust, tweak.”
Sherfield missed his only three shots in a 67-64 loss to Cincinnati on Feb. 23, 2020. He then committed a turnover with 16:47 to play in the game and Marshall took him out six seconds later because Sherfield exhibited bad body language. Marshall kept Sherfield on the bench the rest of the game and then benched him the entire next game (a 72-69 win over Temple) four days later.
“The most frustrating part for him was the amount of time outside of practice that he puts in,” Sherfield’s father, Antione, told the Eagle. “He shoots between classes, he shoots every night with one of the (Wichita State) managers. It was real frustrating for him because he wasn’t getting the outcomes he felt he should be getting with all of the work he’s put in.”
Marshall put Sherfield back on the floor two days after the Temple game and Sherfield responded with 14 points and six assists (4-of-5 on threes) in 29 minutes off the bench in a 66-62 win at SMU.”
His career – he transferred to Nevada after the 2019-20 season – has blossomed since his one-game benching. Sherfield, who wears No. 25 at Nevada (he just switched the numbers of his No. 52 while at Wichita State), averaged 18.6 points, 6.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds in his first year at Nevada in 2020-21.
Sherfield was born in Wichita and then moved to the Fort Worth, Texas area in sixth grade and played his first three high school seasons in Texas. He returned to the Wichita area as a high school senior to play at Sunrise Academy. He came to Nevada because Alford originally signed him in the fall of 2018 for the UCLA Bruins. Alford was fired by UCLA in December 2018 and Sherfield was granted his release by UCLA a month later. He then attended Wichita State his freshman year in college before choosing Alford once again in the spring of 2020.
Sherfield used his one-game benching two years ago as motivation.
“Coach Marshall is pushing me to be the best that I can be,” Sherfield told the Eagle in March 2020. “I’m going to keep taking that challenge and keep trying to get better each day.”

COLEMAN’S SHOT EMERGES: Tre Coleman, who averaged 5.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists as a freshman last year, has struggled this season on offense.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore, though, might have found his scoring touch in the Pack’s win over New Mexico on Saturday. He equaled his career high of 13 points, making 4-of-7 shots (2-of-4 threes). His other 13-point game came in his very first game in his Pack career to start the 2020-21 season against North Dakota State.
“We need him,” Alford said of Coleman after the New Mexico game. “We need Tre playing that way.”
Coleman, despite his efforts against New Mexico, is averaging just 3.8 points a game this year and is shooing just 23 percent from the floor and 18 percent (6-of-33) on threes.
Alford, who is from Indiana like Coleman, has been Coleman’s biggest supporter despite the struggles on offense. Coleman, though, started 30 of his first 39 games as a member of the Pack but has come off the bench the last three games.
“(Last year) I don’t think he had a dunk all year,” Alford said. “And then, the first day of 2022 (against New Mexico), he had a dunk. We had a timeout after that and I told everybody to give him a hand and everybody started clapping. We all applauded him.”
Coleman’s dunk gave the Pack a 56-48 lead with 8:33 to play. He then drilled a 3-pointer for a 66-50 lead with six minutes left.
“We got him out there because of his defense,” Alford said. “He’s a very good defender. But we need him to be more aggressive offensively.”


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