Joe Santoro: Pack in land of 10,000 fans | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: Pack in land of 10,000 fans

Joe Santoro

This is already the greatest men's basketball season in Nevada Wolf Pack history at the ticket counter. The Wolf Pack attracted a crowd of 10,931 on Wednesday night at Lawlor Events Center for a 100-60 victory over Colorado State. It's the ninth crowd of 10,000 or more in the first 10 home dates of the year. The most 10,000-plus crowds the Pack had in one season before this year was six two years ago in 2016-17. Coach Eric Musselman's Wolf Pack have now played in front of 20 crowds of 10,000 or more since he took over the program before the 2015-16 season. Musselman, if you didn't already know it, is the most popular Pack coach in history by far. By comparison, Trent Johnson's Pack had four crowds of 10,000 or more from 1999-04, Mark Fox had 10 five-digit crowds from 2004-09 and David Carter's Pack played before two crowds of 10,000 or more from 2009-15.

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Does anybody outside of Los Angeles or Boston truly care about this year's Super Bowl? This matchup on Feb. 3 between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams just might be the least anticipated in the history of the Super Bowl. The Rams, first of all, shouldn't even be in the game thanks to a disgraceful no-call on what should have been pass interference on the Rams late in the game. And nobody outside of Boston wants to watch the Patriots win another Super Bowl. But it's football. It's the Super Bowl. There's nothing else to do in early February. And America loves any reason to sit on a couch, drink beer and eat pizza and chicken wings. But this NFL season can't end fast enough.

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The one thing this Super Bowl does is end the discussion about who's the greatest quarterback and the greatest coach in NFL history. Win or lose on Feb. 3, those honors go to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. So stop asking the question. Stop debating it. It's tiresome and meaningless. This is their ninth Super Bowl. They've already won five. It doesn't matter which players Brady has around him. And it doesn't matter which assistant coaches Belichick has at his disposal. They now own the Super Bowl. Take Vince Lombardi's name off the trophy and put a hoodie on it or a deflated football. That's the Brady-chick trophy from now on. There has been nothing like Brady or Belichick in the history of the NFL. Not for this long. The best. Accept it and move on.

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Why do we love the NFL so much? The officials are awful. There are too many penalties called and too many not called. The rules seem to change every 10 minutes. The games last forever. You can't tackle anybody without fear of a penalty. It's just a game of pitch and catch. And even if the ball is caught you hold your breath for 10 seconds and wait to see if a flag has been thrown. Or not thrown. It's a tedious, frustrating sport, filled with penalties, timeouts and endless television commercials. But, boy, do we love our pizza, beer and chips, betting lines and fantasy football.

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Alabama and Clemson, it seems, are playing in college football's title game every year. Golden State wins the NBA title almost every year. The Patriots are always on our television screen in January and early February with confetti falling on their heads. Since 1997, when Arizona won, all of the college basketball NCAA tournament champs have either been from the south or east except Kansas in 2008. And if we have to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers lose another World Series this fall, well, it might be time to watch PBS 24 hours a day. We need some variety in our sports championships.

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Is the Wolf Pack men's basketball team getting enough respect around the country. It could be a little better but the Pack is getting the love it deserves. The Pack is ranked No. 7 in both major rankings. Jay Bilas of ESPN calls them the 10th best team in the nation. ESPN's Joe Lunardi says the Pack will be a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. That all sounds about right for a team that is 19-1 and plays in a mediocre-at-best Mountain West. If the Pack keeps wining (it will) and if it wins its conference tournament, don't be surprised to see the Pack ranked in the top three and holding a No. 1 or 2 seed come tournament time. It's hard to ignore a one or two-loss team in March, no matter who they've played.

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Give Musselman credit for putting together a schedule that almost guaranteed a Top 25 ranking, let alone a Top 10 ranking, for the Pack all season long. The Pack has 19 wins but 15 of those wins have come against teams with at least seven losses already. The team with the best record the Pack has beaten is Fresno State at 14-4. The best team located east of the Mississippi River (the type of victory that catches the eye of the Top 25 voters) the Pack has beaten is Akron and the Zips are just 11-8. Then why is the Pack ranked so high? Houston, after all, is also 19-1 and the Cougars are ranked just at No. 17 after playing a schedule similar to the Pack's schedule. It's all because of last year's Sweet 16 team and how the Pack captured the nation with little Mariah and Musselman bursting in the locker room dropping F-bombs, the unique Martin twins and the ridiculous comeback against Cincinnati. The media-friendly Musselman and his veteran, likeable team resonates with Top 25 voters and all of the cable TV networks around the country. Yes, Northern Nevada, you're not the only ones who have fallen in love with this team.

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The Wolf Pack football team, on the other hand, seems to get zero respect around the country. Malik Reed, who played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl last week in the Rose Bowl (he had three tackles), is the only senior off the 8-5 Pack who will play in an all-star game this month. There will be no Pack players, for example, in this weekend's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. And there wasn't any in the East-West Shrine Game last week in St. Petersburg, Fla. This was a Pack team filled with productive and talented seniors, players like Reed, Asauni Rufus, Sean Krepsz, Ty Gangi, Korey Rush, Wes Farnsworth and Dameon Baber. They all should have been rewarded and invited to play somewhere over the past few weeks.