Carter, if he’s still around, needs to find an alpha wolf | NevadaAppeal.com

Carter, if he’s still around, needs to find an alpha wolf

Sports fodder for a Friday morning …The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team misses Deonte Burton more than it could have ever imagined. And we’re not even talking about Burton’s 2,102 career points, 515 assists and 169 steals. Burton’s greatest contribution to the Wolf Pack probably came off the court. “He was such a strong personality,” coach David Carter said. “Even as a freshman he wanted to be a leader.” This Wolf Pack team doesn’t have anything close to a leader. “You can’t make leaders,“ Carter said. You also can’t force someone to be a leader. Carter’s biggest priority this off-season, if he isn’t looking for a new job, has to be finding an alpha wolf.

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Does this mean the Wolf Pack’s season is over? Far from it. The Mountain West is an awful conference without any great teams. Don’t be shocked if the Pack beats UNLV again next week and goes to Fresno State (on Saturday) and Utah State (Feb. 10) and wins after losing to them at Lawlor Events Center. It also would not be a stunner if the Pack beats Colorado State at Lawlor in March after losing to it by 56 last week. This Pack team can still finish around .500 if it matures just a little and stops feeling sorry for itself. Carter needs to gather his team around a computer, get Burton on Skype and have him yell at this team for about an hour. That will give it some confidence.

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We asked for this six weeks ago when the Pack was stuck in what would turn out to be an eight-game losing streak. But we’re going to ask for it one last time. Tyron Criswell and Eric Cooper need to play more. A lot more. Criswell, who averages 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in just under 17 minutes a game, just might be the Pack’s second best player behind A.J. West. He’s physical, tough, fearless and talented. Cooper (4.0 points a game) has been stuck in a shooting slump lately but that’s likely due to the fact he’s trying to do too much in his 16.5 minutes a game. It’s time to bump Cooper and Criswell up to about 25 minutes a game at least. They are likely the two best pure shooters on the team. The Pack needs offense. You do the math.

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West, quietly, is having an outstanding season. He’s averaging 12.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks a game. And he’s doing it in just 26.5 minutes a game. He also deserves a bump in his minutes. Carter is playing a never-ending game of musical chairs with his lineup in order to, he says, find some offense. He should be doing the complete opposite. He needs to let the players find their offense themselves instead of trying to find it for them.

Offense is about rhythm, confidence and comfort zones and, well, it’s hard to find a rhythm, some confidence or a comfort zone when you are sitting on the bench. West, Coleman, Cooper and Criswell — the Pack’s four best offensive players — should be playing about 120 of the 200 possible minutes instead of the 87.3 minutes they are currently playing. If that will happen the Pack will find its offensive problems will vanish.

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Contrary to popular opinion, Bill Belichick isn’t the only football coach — college or pro — who tries to bend the rules. And stop with all those cute Belicheat nicknames. Coaching is about finding an edge. Belichick does it as well as anyone. Also, do you really think the most serious rule violation Belichick committed last week was to let out the air in some footballs? That’s the same as arresting Al Capone for income tax evasion. The New England Patriots aren’t in the Super Bowl because they deflated some footballs. They could have won the AFC title game with a Frisbee or an old sock stuffed with dirty dishrags instead of a football. The Patriots are still playing because Belichick drives opposing coaches crazy. They never know what he’s going to do.

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One coach, though, that won’t be intimidated by Belichick’s mind games and dirty tricks is Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks. Carroll, the former USC coach, knows a thing or two about bending the rules. The Super Bowl will come down to the Seahawks’ pass rush making life difficult for Tom Brady. Brady has been thrown off his game by a physical pass rush in the Super Bowl before. And don’t forget what the Seahawks did to Peyton Manning in last year’s Super Bowl. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski also won’t be able to roam free in the Seahawks secondary. Seahawks 27, Patriots 17.

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Matt Williams is going to be under a ton of pressure this season as the Washington Nationals manager. The Nationals, who signed Max Scherzer this week, obviously expect to win a World Series in 2015 as well as 2016, 2017, 2018 and beyond. When you commit more than $200 million to one pitcher over seven years, well, you better win a World Series or two. Williams has always been a great competitor. He’s the type of guy who will thrive under all that pressure. But, still, he better win. Soon.