Ugly win for Carter’s crew in Sin City | NevadaAppeal.com

Ugly win for Carter’s crew in Sin City

Sports fodder for a Friday morning… Is there any doubt now the Nevada Wolf Pack is the best men’s college basketball team in the state of Nevada? Of course, the only people who know that or will admit it reside north of Tonopah. But you can’t argue the facts. The Pack, which stunned UNLV, 64-62, on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, has now won three games in a row against UNLV. That’s not luck, it’s a trend. And it isn’t an accident. The Wolf Pack is coached better than the Rebels, its players play harder and with more passion, the UNLV-Wolf Pack rivalry is important to them and they play like a college basketball team and not an AAU team.

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David Carter’s career as the Wolf Pack head coach was (or should have been) on life support coming into this season. The Pack had endured a losing season in three of its last four years despite being led by one of the greatest players (Deonte Burton) in school history. Carter’s first five Pack teams never went to the NCAA Tournament and never won a conference postseason tournament. The program was, to put it mildly, merely treading water and almost always finished the year with more excuses than victories. And then they went and lost eight of their first 10 games this year. Over the last three weeks, though, Carter has done a tremendous job. It’s arguably the best three-week stretch of his Pack coaching career. His Wolf Pack has won four games in a row and went to Las Vegas and shocked UNLV. If Cary Groth was still athletic director, Carter would have gotten a five-year contract extension on Thursday morning. And he would have deserved it.

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What took place on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, though, has more to do with the Rebels than it does with the Pack. The Wolf Pack played its normal game. Just one starter scored more than eight points, guards D.J. Fenner and Marqueze Coleman were a combined 2-of-17 from the floor, the team missed 9-of-14 3-pointers and shot just 35 percent from the floor. The Pack won because, well, Carter out-coached UNLV coach Dave Rice once again. Rice recruits. Carter coaches. Rice babysits overrated recruits. Carter motivates his players. That’s why the Pack has won three in a row against UNLV.

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The Wolf Pack goes as A.J. West goes. West is, without a doubt, the Pack’s top talent. The 6-foot-9 junior had 15 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks against UNLV. He’s one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the nation. If it wasn’t for West cleaning up the Pack’s mess and converting off the offensive boards, the Pack would shoot about 30 percent most nights and struggle to score 55 points. West gives the Pack an attitude and swagger and a belief they can beat anyone.

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The most important thing to come out of the UNLV win, though, is the continued maturation of guards Eric Cooper and Tyron Criswell. Cooper, a freshman, has the potential to be the best sixth man in the Mountain West. He scored 12 points off the bench against UNLV, including a clutch 3-pointer with a minute to go. He’s probably the Pack’s best pure scorer. He might be the Pack’s only pure shooter. Criswell, a junior, hit two important free throws with 1:36 to go and also nailed a 3-pointer with under four minutes to play that started the Pack comeback. Cooper and Criswell are the key to making this a special Pack season.

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We could see 100 points scored in Monday night’s Oregon-Ohio State national championship game. The game could last five hours. If it goes to overtime we could have 150 points and the game could last six hours. Yes, college football has turned into a never-ending track meet. It’s basically AAU basketball in shoulder pads. Oregon 58, Ohio State 45.

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There’s no doubt the four-team college football playoff system has been a rousing success, to nobody’s surprise. Without the four-team playoff, we would have gotten Alabama against Florida State in the national title game and nobody west of New Orleans or north of Atlanta would have cared about the game. The four-team playoff gave us a dream matchup that could go down in history as one of the greatest games in college football history.

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The NFL picks this week are New England over Baltimore, Seattle over Carolina, Denver over Indianapolis and Dallas over Green Bay. New England’s defense is underrated, Seattle is the best team in the NFL right now, Dallas has the officials on its side and the Colts just aren’t good. It looks like we are headed to a Seattle-Denver Super Bowl rematch. Peyton Manning is already getting happy feet.