Joe Santoro: Do you believe in the Pack’s dream season now? | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: Do you believe in the Pack’s dream season now?

Joe Santoro
Nevada head coach Eric Musselman walks the sideline during the first half Tuesday against Boise State.
Steve Conner/AP | FR171631 AP

If you were searching for a sign from above this will truly become a dream season for the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team, well, you saw it Tuesday night in Boise. Cody Martin, the Wolf Pack’s pass-first point guard, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the circle with 4.5 seconds to play to beat the Boise State Broncos, 72-71. The Broncos looked as stunned as they did back in 2010 when Kyle Brotzman missed chip-shot field goals at the end of regulation and in overtime at Mackay Stadium to give the Pack a 34-31 win. Yes, we know, different sport. But the miracle was the same as was the look on the Broncos’ faces. Martin had missed his last 15 3-point shots and 25 of his last 27. He had not made one in over a month. He had no right to even attempt that shot.

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Jazz Johnson, the Pack’s best 3-point shooter, was open to Martin’s right. Jordan Caroline was open to Martin’s left. Brother Caleb was cutting under the basket to the left corner. Trey Porter was positioning himself under the basket for the rebound that never came. But Cody Martin and his 19 percent 3-point shooting average lofted a 3-pointer with the game on the line about five feet beyond the line. And made it. And you still don’t think this team is going to the Final Four?

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Wolf Pack coach Eric Musselman is on a mission lately to tell everyone just how difficult it’s to win in the Mountain West. Of course, nobody who has ever seen an actual Mountain West game this season believes him. But give Musselman credit. He’s just trying to convince the voters in the two major national polls a one-point win over Boise State on a lucky 3-point shot is actually a good thing and not a reason to drop the Pack two places in the rankings. It’s a bad-to-mediocre conference this year. Half the teams are truly awful. Nobody, not even the Wolf Pack lately, is consistent from game to game.

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Now that Cody is the best 3-point shooter in the Martin family right now, it might be time to start worrying about brother Caleb. Caleb Martin, who shot .454 from the floor and .403 on threes a year ago, is down to .401 overall and .328 on threes this year. Over the last 10 games he’s shooting .363 overall and .290 on threes. Martin has had a strange season. He’s still scoring this year (18.6) at about the same clip as he did a year ago (18.9) but the Pack never knows which Caleb Martin will show up, from game to game or even first half to second half. In the first half of games he’s shooting .336 from the floor and .273 on threes and in the second half he’s .454 overall and .371 on threes. But even that statistic isn’t reliable. He was 6-for-6 on threes in the second half against San Jose State last week and two games later he was 1-of-6 in the second half against Boise State.

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Kyler Murray is the most fascinating player in all of sports right now. The Oklahoma quarterback was a first-round draft pick in baseball by the Oakland A’s last June and this spring could be a first-round pick by the NFL. What makes him even more interesting is nobody knows exactly just how tall he is. The Oklahoma Sooners said this week he’s a shade under 5-foot-11. Universities, though, have been known to lie about heights and weights before. Even the Wolf Pack had Colin Kaepernick at 6-6 during his college career but when Kaepernick got to the San Francisco 49ers he was just 6-4. Maybe we’re making too much out of this height issue. The tallest quarterback in the NFL this year was 6-7 Brock Osweiler. The tallest in NFL history was Dan McGwire at 6-8. So maybe height isn’t everything.

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Murray, who played one series for Texas A&M against the Wolf Pack in 2015 (a 44-27 Pack loss), just might end up as the No. 1 pick this spring. The Arizona Cardinals own the top pick and they just hired Kliff Kingsbury as their new head coach. The 39-year-old Kingsbury used to coach at Texas A&M and Texas Tech and knows Murray well. He also coached Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M in 2012 (ex-Pack head coach Brian Polian was A&M’s special teams coach that year) so he knows a thing or two about coaching unconventional quarterbacks. The Cardinals should draft Murray No. 1, trade Josh Rosen and turn Murray into a pint-sized Patrick Mahomes.

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Can Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday in the AFC Championship game? The game is in Kansas City so, yes, the Chiefs can win. The home-field advantage will also likely be the key factor in the NFC title game between the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. The Saints just don’t lose playoff games at home. Well, that and the fact the Saints’ Drew Brees is a much better quarterback than the Rams’ Jared Goff will ever be. Chiefs 38, Patriots 24 and Saints 28, Rams 20.