Joe Santoro: Should Muss stay with Nevada? | NevadaAppeal.com

Joe Santoro: Should Muss stay with Nevada?

Joe Santoro

The Nevada Wolf Pack men's basketball program will honor seven seniors (Cody and Caleb Martin, Jordan Caroline, Tre'Shawn Thurman, Corey Henson, David Cunningham and Trey Porter) on Saturday who will be playing their final game at Lawlor. But in the back of everyone's mind is whether or not we'll also be watching coach Eric Musselman's final game at Lawlor. If Musselman is ever going to leave Nevada on his own volition, this might be his best chance. Musselman could stay at Nevada forever, where he can do no wrong and win Mountain West titles and go to the NCAA tournament practically every year. See Mark Few at Gonzaga. But is that enough for the hyperactive Musselman? He's now 54 years old. That's pushing ancient in this day and age when coaches are seemingly hired before they're able to shave or vote. Also, those seven seniors aren't coming back. If Musselman does return to Nevada next year, he might be here for a while. That might scare him or it might be exactly what he wants at this stage of his career.

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It could very well be a historic night at Lawlor Events Center on Saturday. A Nevada Wolf Pack victory over San Diego State would give the Wolf Pack its third consecutive Mountain West regular season championship. Only BYU (2007-09) and San Diego State (2014-16) have won three in a row in Mountain West history. A Pack victory will also complete just the second undefeated home season (along with 2003-04) in school history since the school moved into Lawlor Events Center in 1983-84. A Wolf Pack victory would also be its 28th of the season, leaving it just one victory shy of the school record (29 last year and in 2006-07).

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The Wolf Pack is also guaranteed to officially set another record on Saturday. The Pack is averaging 10,852 fans for each game at Lawlor this season. The school record is 9,048, set last year. The Wolf Pack will set a new average home attendance this year even if not one single fan shows up on Saturday (the average attendance would be 10,128). That, of course, isn't going to happen. There's a chance, as a matter of fact, that the Wolf Pack will on Saturday break its attendance record for a game at Lawlor of 11,841, set against UNLV in Feb. 8, 2017. This year's team already owns the eighth largest attendance of 11,289 (against UNLV on Feb. 27). Eight of the 14 home games this year attracted 11,000 or more fans. A crowd of at least 11,364 on Saturday will move the Wolf Pack into second place in the Mountain West in average attendance this year (San Diego State is currently second at 10,885 while New Mexico is first at 11,107).

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Hardly anyone can tell Cody and Caleb Martin apart. They look alike. They talk alike. They style their hair the same way. They have the same body types. It wouldn't be surprising if they switched jerseys in postgame press conferences just to mess with everybody. They run and move around on the court the same way. Even Musselman has admitted he couldn't tell them apart the first six months they joined the program. "I always had to sneak a peak at their practice jersey to see their number," Musselman has said. But the one difference that did seem to separate the Marvelous Martins was their style of play. Caleb was the scorer. The shooter. Cody was the pass-first point guard. The defensive specialist. Well, not anymore. Caleb is still the higher scorer (19.4 a game to Cody's 11.6) but that's only because Caleb has shot the ball nearly 200 more times this year. Cody has higher field goal, free throw and 3-point shooting percentages and has almost twice as many assists. The two also have about the same amount of turnovers, blocks and steals while Caleb has slightly more rebounds (about one a game more). Throw out the scouting reports. They have also become the same player on the court.

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Jordan Caroline has just had a week he would like to forget. It's quite possibly the worst week he's had since he arrived in Northern Nevada, on and off the court. The Wolf Pack senior has gone just 6-for-27 combined for 17 points in the Pack's last two games against Utah State and Air Force. And it's no secret what he did to a fire extinguisher case after the game against Utah State. Musselman and his wife Danyelle, for some reason, felt the need to go on social media after the Utah State game to remind everyone about how much they love Caroline's character and work ethic and how he has strong morals and a kind heart. Expect Caroline to put on a show on Saturday night. You can be sure the events of the past week are not the type of lasting impressions he wants to leave with Northern Nevada.

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The Wolf Pack will have revenge on its mind on Saturday. It was San Diego State, after all, that beat the Pack in San Diego 65-57 on Feb. 20. But most of the Pack's revenge right now is being saved for Utah State, which beat the Pack just last Saturday. You can be sure the Pack is craving a rematch with Utah State in Las Vegas next week at the Mountain West tournament. No matter what happens on Saturday the Aggies and Wolf Pack will be seeded first and second in the Mountain West tournament and could meet in the title game. If that title game does take place the pressure will be on Wolf Pack fans to get their silver and blue behinds in Las Vegas because, well, you know Utah State fans will be there. And when the Pack beats Utah State in the tournament title game, what better chance for Pack fans will there be to show Utah State fans how to storm the court the right way.

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The Mountain West, it seems, will likely get two teams into this year's NCAA tournament with a slight chance at three. OK, almost no chance at three. A month ago it seemed like a lock only the Wolf Pack would make it. But Utah State has gotten hot and right now the Aggies deserve to go. The Wolf Pack could lose Saturday and then lose in its first Mountain West tournament game and still get to the NCAA tournament. And Utah State also might not have to win the Mountain West tournament to get to the NCAA tournament. The Aggies, though, would do themselves a favor by at least getting to the Mountain West title game before losing to some team other than the Wolf Pack. The NCAA selection committee isn't going to send three Mountain West teams to the NCAA tournament without a ton of upsets all across the country next week in conference tournaments.