Wolf Pack shooters finally find the range | NevadaAppeal.com

Wolf Pack shooters finally find the range

Sports fodder for a Friday morning… The Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team has undergone an amazing transformation over the last two weeks and three games in the College Basketball Invitational. It’s playing with the confidence and shooting touch of Stephen Curry. It devour opponents in the second half with defense. The team that couldn’t shoot straight in the regular season and Mountain West tournament has been taken over by basketball aliens. Of course, it might also just be a mirage or the result of playing every game at home in a friendly and supportive environment. The Pack won’t actually have to win a road game to win the CBI title next week against Morehead State. It also helps the Pack has only played non-athletic, small, slow teams who can’t play defense in the CBI. All of those things tend to increase one’s shooting percentage. But none of that matters. It’s not who you beat this time of year. It’s just simply you beat them. What matters is the Wolf Pack is going to feel awfully good about itself this off-season no matter what happens next week. It’s the same feeling the Pack had after the 2002-03 season. And we all know what happened in the next four years after that.

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Don’t make the mistake of frowning upon a CBI championship. Yes, it’s not the 68-team NCAA tournament. And, yes, it’s not even the 32-team NIT. The best the CBI champ can say is “We’re number one . . . hundred and one.” But it’s a championship just the same. It’s sort of the middle-of-the-road mid-majors’ version of the national title. The banner will be in the rafters at Lawlor Events Center for all to see for generations to come. It will be the Pack’s first national tournament postseason championship. The day has yet to come when the Wolf Pack can take national tournament titles off the hook and toss them back into the lake.

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There’s a chance for the Mountain West to have two national champs next week. San Diego State, which eliminated the Pack from the conference tournament two weeks ago, is in the semifinals of the NIT. A Mountain West team has never won a national postseason tournament when it was in the Mountain West. Fresno State got to the CBI finals two years ago and lost. Fresno did win the 1983 NIT and UNLV (1990) and Wyoming (1943) both won NCAA titles but the Mountain West wasn’t even a twinkle in the eyes of commissioner Craig Thompson then. It’s a bit ironic in arguably the worst season of Mountain West basketball the conference might finally get its first and second national tournament champion.

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What would a CBI title mean for the Pack? The cliché answer is it builds momentum for next year, teaches the players how to win a postseason tournament and spurs the team onto greatness the following year. But, in reality, it probably doesn’t mean a thing except to lift everyone’s spirit’s during the coming off-season workouts. The last three CBI champs (Loyola Chicago in 2015, Siena in 2014, Santa Clara in 2013) didn’t make a postseason tournament of any kind the following year. Just two of the previous eight CBI champs made it to the NCAA tournament the following year. Just two of the eight runner-ups made it to the NCAAs. There have been 128 teams to go to the CBI before this year since the tournament was born in 2008 and just 26 went to the NCAA tournament the following year. What happens in Reno next week, therefore, will stay in Reno and be long forgotten by the time the 2016-17 season rolls around.

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The CBI, it turns out, was the best thing for this blossoming Wolf Pack program. Nobody would have turned down a Mountain West tournament title and a trip to the NCAAs. But the Pack would have likely gotten its doors blown off in its first NCAA tournament game. The season would be long gone by now. Playing five or six games in the CBI, if nothing else, gives everyone a glimpse of what an Eric Musselman-coached team can do in a tournament setting. The guy is a remarkable college coach. It took him nearly three decades of coaching in every pro league known to man before he finally found his true calling — coaching college kids to be the best they can be. Remember, Pack fans, this was supposed to be the transition year. The fun wasn’t supposed to start until next year. Winning a CBI title is a pretty good transition.

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It might be time for the NFL to do away with kickoffs all together. The league is now putting the ball at the 25-yard line (instead of the 20) on touchbacks in an effort to limit the amount of returns and thus cutting down on injuries. Forget the kickoffs. Put the ball on the 30 or 35 after the other team scores. A long kickoff return is always fun and exciting to watch but the vast majority of returns are as exciting as an intentional walk in baseball. Dump the kickoff. Basketball stopped using a jump ball at center court after every basket. It didn’t ruin the game. Kickoffs rarely even take any time off the clock so anything that speeds up a NFL game with hits 450 television timeouts and play reviews is all well and good.

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LeBron James wants someday to play on the same team with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade. Four buddies whose last names could also be first names. Yeah, good luck with that. That bloated overpaid, over-hyped group right now wouldn’t even make the playoffs, let alone ever win a championship. The Golden State Warriors would average 150 points a game against LeBron and Friends. Yes, they all won a gold medal together at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But that was eight years ago. This is just LeBron once again trying to recruit someone else to take the big, clutch shots since he doesn’t have the stomach for it. LeBron needs to focus on bringing a title to The Land (as he calls Cleveland) instead of fantasizing about forming the NBA’s version of the Traveling Wilburys.

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Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes it’s unfair for players on the losing Super Bowl team to have to talk to the media after the game. The media, after all, are evil, never played the game, are just looking for a sensational story, are biased, clueless and are just in it for the free food in the media room. And who needs the media anyway? After the game fans just go to Twitter to get player quotes. The media just waste everyone’s valuable internet surfing time with all of their meaningless game analysis and description between the quotes. Rivera thinks only the losing Super Bowl head coach should speak to the media because, you know, all of his millionaire players are too upset to speak rationally after losing the game of their lives. The time spent answering silly media questions, after all, can better be served tweeting and posting selfies on Facebook and Instagram.