Thanks to FIBA, we don’t have to watch poker | NevadaAppeal.com

Thanks to FIBA, we don’t have to watch poker

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

What did the University of Nevada ever do to Sports Illustrated? The weekly magazine ranks the Wolf Pack as the 83rd best college football team in the nation.

S.I. predicts the Wolf Pack will finish 6-6 this year and in a fifth-place tie in the Western Athletic Conference with New Mexico State. The magazine knows all about Boise State and Hawaii, but the other seven WAC teams are ranked in the bottom 55 in the nation. The Hawaii-Boise State game in November, writes Sports Illustrated, will be “Hawaii’s only real test of the season.” UNLV? Sports Illustrated picks the Rebels to finish 2-10 and in last place in the Mountain West Conference. OK, maybe they do know something about college football.

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The Wolf Pack will finish no worse than 7-5 this year and if they can come home from Nebraska with all legs, arms and heads where they are supposed to be, 8-4 is a distinct possibility. WAC coaches, the only guys who know what WAC stands for, pick the Pack to finish third in the conference. Sounds about right.

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Before someone suggests that the thrilling 2003 victory over Southern Utah is the greatest in Pack history – hey, it is the last time the Pack won a season opener – we need to put Saturday’s Wolf Pack-Nebraska game in perspective. If the Pack comes out of Lincoln with a victory (Sports Illustrated might even notice that), it will simply be the greatest victory in Wolf Pack history. Any sport. Any year. The Wolf Pack has never ventured into an environment like what they’ll face this weekend. You think winning at Boise is tough? Well, Nebraska is Boise State on HGH.

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The pressure is all on Nebraska in this game. The Pack doesn’t have to beat Nebraska. Nebraska, on the other hand, definitely has to beat the Wolf Pack. The good folks in Lincoln will never forgive a loss to a team they didn’t even know existed before kickoff. For the Wolf Pack to enjoy a successful afternoon, all they need to do is keep the spread under 30 and make sure none of their players makes an unscheduled visit to a Nebraska hospital. And, oh yeah, one other thing. They need to score to keep their 27-year-old streak (317 games, the longest in the nation) of not getting shut out alive. If Sports Illustrated was aware of that streak, maybe they wouldn’t have picked the Pack 83rd.

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The FIBA America’s tournament has been good for one thing. OK, two things. One, it has given ESPN something other than the World Series of Poker to show late at night. And, more importantly, it has proven that Las Vegas can host actual NBA All-Stars within the city limits and not have a need to call in the National Guard to keep the peace in the nightclubs.

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How receptive do you think David Stern will be to putting a NBA franchise in Las Vegas now that his referees are involved in a gambling scandal? Des Moines and Wichita might soon pass Vegas on the list of possible franchise homes.

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Since we are on the subject of expansion, the NHL (remember the NHL?) is actually thinking of expanding. Amazing. The league that nobody pays attention to is thinking of expanding. And, yes, Las Vegas is on their short list of possible new homes. Las Vegas would be better off with another Arena League team.

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Do you think Nebraska might be looking ahead to its game with USC on Sept. 15? Ya think?

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Boise State did wonders for the entire WAC with its incredible Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma. The entire WAC owes it a Christmas card for the next dozen Decembers. But enough is enough. It’s about time someone outside of the WAC knows that Boise State and Hawaii are not the only two teams in the league, Ian Johnson and Colt Brennan are not the only two players in the league and Chris Petersen is not the only coach in the league. But there’s only one way to get that information out there. Beat Nebraska.

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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is going to be a competitor on this season’s Dancing with the Stars. We can see it now. Cuban will be wearing his Dirk Nowitzki jersey while dancing the waltz and when he’s done he’ll yell at the judges for giving him a low score. We can’t wait to watch.

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They never seem to get any credit, but Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre should be the American and National League Managers of the Year this year. Other than Albert Pujols, the Cardinals are a collection of broken-down, beat-up, former stars whose second best hitter is a former pitcher. They had to endure the death of a player and an alcohol-related incident involving LaRussa. They have no right to be anywhere near the playoff race. But there they are, battling the Cubs and Brewers in the National League Central. And how many times has the national media left Torre’s Yankees for dead this year? The Yankees will not only make the playoffs, they’ll win the World Series.

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Former Wolf Pack volleyball players Suzanne Stonebarger and Michelle More are making quite an impression on the beach volleyball circuit. The two teammates are now known as “Team Gorgeous” and are opening eyes all around the AVP Tour. What should we learn from all this? Well, bikinis on all Wolf Pack volleyball players would certainly boost ticket sales.

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It’s good to see some first base and third base coaches wearing helmets on the field after the tragic death of minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh last month. It’s time all coaches wear helmets. It should be a requirement at all levels of baseball, including high school baseball.

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The NFL needs to suspend Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs for at least one game. Briggs crashed his $300,000 Lamborghini this week at 3 a.m., left the scene of the one-car accident and later called police to report the car stolen. The Bears, though, insist that Briggs didn’t break any rules and they won’t punish him. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, though, can’t allow Briggs to walk away from this mess. A message has to be sent. Michael Con-Vick’s corpse isn’t even cold yet. You would think that all NFL players – all professional athletes, for that matter – would go out of their way to make sure they are model citizens.

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The rebirth of Rick Ankiel’s major league career as a hitter this year should be a message to all young players – don’t be so quick to declare yourself a pitcher or a hitter. If you can pitch, keep pitching. If you can hit, keep hitting. If you can do both, do both. Too many players feel they need to specialize these days. Why limit your options? Here’s hoping Dontrelle Willis pays attention to what Ankiel has done. Willis is a much better hitter than he is a pitcher these days.