Joe Santoro: Major Nevada Wolf Pack teams had winning seasons | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: Major Nevada Wolf Pack teams had winning seasons

Joe Santoro
Lawlor Events Center is packed for a game this past season, that's what winning does.
Tom R. Smedes/AP | FR171463 AP

The Nevada Wolf Pack might be finally figuring out the Mountain West. The school’s three most high profile sports (football, men’s basketball, baseball) combined for 67 victories and lost just 36 times this past school year. The .650 winning percentage is the highest at Nevada for football, men’s basketball and baseball since the school joined the Mountain West in 2012-13. The three sports combined to win one more game (68) in 2015-16 but also lost eight more (for a .607 success rate). This past season is also just the second (2015-16 is the other) in the seven years the Pack has been in the Mountain West football, men’s basketball and baseball all turned in winning seasons the same year. Men’s basketball finished 29-5, football was 8-5 and baseball finished 30-26 this year. Football won a bowl game, men’s basketball was ranked in the Top 20 all season long and qualified for the NCAA tournament and the baseball team won a game in the conference tournament. Winning consistently in the Mountain West has been a long and bumpy ride for football, men’s basketball and baseball. The three sports combined to win just 44 games in Nevada’s first year in the Mountain West in 2012-13.

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Nevada players Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline still aren’t being mentioned as possible selections in the June 20 NBA two-round draft in the dozen or so NBA mock drafts all over the internet. But Sports Illustrated (SI.com) does list Caroline and Cody Martin among the Top 100 players available in the draft. Caroline is ranked No. 66 followed by Cody Martin at No. 67. Cody seems to have made the biggest jump in the rankings, climbing from No. 91 in Sports Illustrated’s rankings of a month or so ago. Caroline fell two spots from No. 64.

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It will be more difficult to drain a 3-pointer in college basketball in the 2019-20 season. The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved moving the 3-point line back more than a foot to 22-feet, 1.75 inches. The line had been at 20-feet, 9-inches since the 2008-09 season. It’s about time. College basketball in recent years has simply turned into a silly 3-point shooting contest. It’s made for some wild comebacks but it has all but taken athleticism and strategy out of the game. The deeper 3-point line will also open up the lane for more dribble-drive plays and force teams to play actual defense instead of simply standing inside the 3-point circle and watching opponents loft shots over their head.

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There have been some amazing things going on at Greater Nevada Field this season with the Reno Aces. The team is still struggling on the field overall and at the gate but you never know what you might see on any given night at the downtown Reno ballpark. Three games already this season stand out. The Aces scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth, culminating with a grand slam by Andrew Aplin, to beat Fresno, 14-13, on April 27. Less than a month later on May 20, the Aces hit 10 home runs (four by Yasmany Tomas) and scored 25 runs in a 25-8 win over Tacoma. And just this past Tuesday the Aces rallied from four down in the bottom of the ninth, scoring five runs on four home runs (the last two by Wyatt Mathisen and Matt Szczur with two outs) to beat Nashville, 12-11.

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The thin attendance numbers, though, at Greater Nevada Field are becoming a concern. Just 6,003 showed up for the first two games of the homestand this week on Tuesday and Wednesday against Nashville despite summer-like weather. The Aces’ average attendance of 3,915 is the second lowest in the PCL, ahead of just New Orleans (2,732). Attendance has been on a downward trend since the team averaged more than 6,000 fans a game for its first three seasons (2009-11). Last year the average was just more than 5,000. Better days should be ahead, though, as the weather continues to warm up and the school year winds down. The Aces still draw reasonably well on the weekends and 21 dates remain on either a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. There’s also the July 4 game that normally is a sellout. Getting the average attendance up and over 5,000 shouldn’t be a problem.

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Greater Nevada Field is just in its 11th season but one way to boost attendance dramatically in the minor leagues is to build a new facility. That’s not going to happen in Reno anytime soon since it’s still one of northern Nevada’s greatest miracles the ballpark was built in the first place. This was a region, after all, that couldn’t even support and keep Class A baseball in the early 1990s. Las Vegas is enjoying a tremendous attendance spike this year with its new ballpark. The city got a new ballpark and a new major league affiliation (the Oakland A’s) and is averaging 9,515 fans a game this year, the best in the PCL. A year ago Las Vegas averaged just 4,746 at outdated Cashman Field. The last PCL team to average at least 9,500 fans a game was Sacramento in 2008 (9,725). That, too, was with the A’s, a team that can’t seem to draw fans at the major league level but packs them in at Triple-A.

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Don’t give up on the Golden State Warriors just yet. Yes, the Warriors are down 2-1 in the NBA Finals but Klay Thompson is due back for Game 4 and he might be joined by returning hero Kevin Durant. If Thompson can play his normal 30-plus minutes a game the Warriors should even the series Friday night and go on to win their third consecutive title. Thompson just might be the Warriors best all-around player at both ends of the floor. There’s a reason why Toronto scored 123 points on Wednesday with Thompson on the bench. If Durant comes back on Friday and can be reasonably productive (say 25 minutes, 18 points a game) the rest of the series, the Warriors win three in a row.

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If coach Steve Kerr can somehow pull this title off, given all of the Warriors’ injuries this postseason, he should go straight to the Hall of Fame. This is Kerr’s fifth NBA Finals in a row. The only other coach to take part in at least five in a row is Boston’s Red Auerbach, who went to 10 in a row from 1957-66. Kerr has already won four NBA titles. A title this year will make him just the fourth coach in NBA history to win at least three championships in a row along with Auerbach, John Kundla and Phil Jackson. Coaching the Warriors involves more than just saying “Great shot, Steph” and “Settle down, Draymond.” Kerr has had to piece together a new lineup every game in this Finals.