FODDER: Babbitt takes bite of Fazekas era | NevadaAppeal.com

FODDER: Babbitt takes bite of Fazekas era

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . . Luke Babbitt now owns arguably the greatest individual season in Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball history. Babbitt set two Wolf Pack single-season records (729 points and 189 free throws made) in a 74-70 NIT victory over Wichita State on Wednesday, knocking Nick Fazekas out of the record book twice. Babbitt, who has already been named the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, is setting the standard for future Pack players. If he makes his first five free throws Monday against Rhode Island he will own the Pack record for consecutive free throws made (Todd Okeson has the record at 28 in 2003-04). When you factor in Babbitt’s scoring (22.1), rebounding (9.0), defense (34 steals, 27 blocks), 3-point shooting (.510), free throw shooting (.913) and ability to make his teammates better (67 assists), nobody in a Pack uniform has ever done it better in the same year.

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By Monday night, Babbitt will have played 200 more minutes this year than Fazekas ever played in a single season. So you can make the argument that Fazekas has had a season as great as the one Babbitt is putting together this year. Fazekas, after all, never averaged so much as 32 minutes a game and Babbitt will be over 37 a game by the time this year ends. You can certainly pile up some numbers in 37-plus minutes a game. But Fazekas also shot more frequently (one shot every 2.3 minutes in his career compared to Babbitt’s one every 2.5 this year). So go ahead and call Fazekas’ senior year (he was a mediocre 3-point shooter before then) a tie with Babbitt’s sophomore year. But Babbitt isn’t done yet – hopefully not for another two years.

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The Wolf Pack’s victory on Wednesday at Wichita State is the program’s most important since a NCAA tournament win over Creighton in 2007. The win at Wichita puts the Pack back into the national spotlight. Yes, it’s a dim light right now. For anybody to really notice you in the NIT you have to get to Madison Square Garden. But at least the darkness of the past two years is over. The Pack is back on the national map. This program has been treading water the last two years and appeared to be floating aimlessly at sea once again after Friday’s loss to New Mexico State. But the Pack is back. They finally have taken a step in the right direction.

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David Carter has turned in one of the best single-season coaching performances in Pack history. Trent Johnson’s 2003-04 performance is the all-time best and Mark Fox in 2006-07 was darn good, too. Pat Foster did a wonderful job in 1996-97 as did Sonny Allen in 1984-85. Jim Carey’s teams in the late 1970s were also special. The schedule before that really doesn’t compare to what the Pack faces now. Carter has won 21 games (and counting) with a team that has a paper-thin bench, no true center and has to play in the overwhelming shadow of the Nick Fazekas years. Don’t underestimate how tough it is to be compared to a program’s past greatness. The Pack teams before 2003-04 didn’t have to deal with that type of pressure. If this team wins two more games and gets to Madison Square Garden you’d have to rank it as one of the greatest seasons in Pack history.

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The Wolf Pack officially announced its football schedule this week and, well, it could be a fun fall at Mackay Stadium. Look for the Pack to go no worse than 10-4 in 2010. The Pack opens up with three consecutive home games before heading to BYU and UNLV. It’ll be no worse than 3-2 heading into the WAC schedule. Look for a 7-1 or 8-0 WAC season and then you get the bowl game. It’s not an easy schedule by any means. But this program is poised to take the next step. It’s time. It is tired of losing every big game. It has a chip on their shoulder. Colin Kaepernick will be a senior. If not this year, when?

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It is not out of the realm of possibility to imagine the Wolf Pack playing Boise State on Nov. 26 for a BCS bowl game spot. Stop laughing. Dare to dream, Pack fans. The Pack can beat Cal at home. They’ve beaten BYU before and they beat UNLV every year. They aren’t going to lose to Eastern Washington, Colorado State, San Jose State, Utah State and New Mexico State at home. Trips to Fresno, Idaho, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech won’t scare this team. The only WAC team that is in its head is Boise. And that game is at home. It’s time.