Joe Santoro: Will Pack face a challenge in MW?
January 3, 2019
The Nevada Wolf Pack men's basketball team has lost a grand total of five games at Lawlor Events Center since Eric Musselman took over the program in 2015-16. That's five losses in four seasons over a span of 55 games. The Wolf Pack under coach David Carter lost five games at Lawlor in a span of 38 days and just six games from Jan. 10 to Feb. 17, 2015, a little more than a month before Musselman came to town. Musselman has never, ever lost to a non-conference team at Lawlor, winning all 27 games. Carter's last Pack team lost two non-league games in a row at home over seven days in December 2014. Musselman has simply turned Lawlor Events Center into one of the toughest places to play in the entire nation. It might be time to put his name on the court.
Is there a team that can legitimately challenge the Nevada Wolf Pack for the Mountain West men's basketball regular season title this year? Doubtful. The Pack trounced Utah State, 72-49, on Wednesday at Lawlor Events Center in a game that was supposed to be a battle between the top two teams in the conference. Who's the next Great Mountain West Hope to try to knock out the champ? How about San Diego State and Fresno State, the only other teams in the league right now (other than the Pack and Utah State) with an overall record of better than one game over .500? We'll find out Jan. 12 when the Pack plays at Fresno State and Feb. 20 when it travels to San Diego State because, as you know, the Pack never loses at home.
No Mountain West men's basketball team has ever gone undefeated in league play over an entire season. Utah came the closest, going 13-1 in 2004-05. No Mountain West team has ever won three regular season titles in a row without sharing at least one of them. The Wolf Pack, which has won the last two regular season titles all by itself, can be the first team in Mountain West history to go unbeaten in league play and win three outright titles in a row. If those things don't happen it'll be shocking. So, yes, there are a lot of incentives for the Wolf Pack to keep winning over the next two months.
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The Wolf Pack is simply keeping the Mountain West relevant right now. The Pack, currently ranked No. 6 by the Associated Press, is the first Mountain West team ranked in the Top 10 since San Diego State late in the 2013-14 season. The Wolf Pack, which was also ranked last season, is the only Mountain West team to be ranked in the Top 25 at all since Boise State was No. 25 briefly late in the 2014-15 season. The Pack, if it wins the Mountain West tournament, just might be the only Mountain West team invited to the NCAA tournament this year. The Wolf Pack also clearly has the top two (Caleb Martin, Jordan Caroline) players in the league and might have the top three (with Cody Martin). And don't forget the top coach. Tre'Shawn Thurman might be the Defensive Player of the Year and Jazz Johnson could very well be the Newcomer of the Year.
Musselman sure would look good in UCLA baby blue, wouldn't he? The Bruins just fired coach Steve Alford and, well, if they were smart they'd start sniffing around north Virginia Street for a new coach. Musselman in Los Angeles would be a perfect fit. OK, yes, Musselman anywhere is a perfect fit. But L.A. would go crazy. Forget Muss Bus. In L.A. they'd give him Musselman Mountain and carve his face on the side of it. He'd make everyone in Southern California forget that LeBron guy. Daughter Mariah would get her own sitcom and wife Danyelle would get her own talk show. Given all of the above, Musselman would be crazy to ever leave Northern Nevada. He's in basketball heaven. The community adores him and his family. We'd can change Mount Rose to Mount Musselman, if that's what it takes to keep him, right? The home arena is filled every game. And there's no traffic to deal with on the way to the game. Let LeBron have L.A.
College football needs to fix its method of determining a Division I-A national champion. Nobody north of Tennessee or west of Louisiana cares anymore. Alabama and Clemson will meet for the title on Monday for the third time in the last four years. It's like watching the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s. We've only had a four-team playoff for five seasons and Alabama has been in the title game four times. A team from Texas, California and Florida, the three hotbeds of high school football talent, has never been in the title game since we've had a four-team playoff. The time has come for an eight-team playoff with at least one of the teams coming from a non-Power Five Conference.
We might be looking at the best opening round of NFL playoff games in quite some time. The predictions: Eagles over Bears, Cowboys over Seahawks, Texans over Colts and Ravens over Chargers. Nick Foles doesn't lose in the playoffs, the Chargers have a difficult cross-country road trip, the Colts have done it with mirrors this year and, well, the NFL and the national media likes it when the Cowboys are successful.
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