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Murray's Mailbag: Why do Top 25 voters like Nevada more than the NCAA?

Caleb Martin
Caleb Martin and the Wolf Pack are winning big, but will it help come Selection Sunday. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

Last week was busy in Wolf Pack Land as Nevada basketball won its 10th straight game; Nevada baseball opened the season with a win over a Top 25 team; the Wolf Pack announced it will retire the number of Nick Fazekas; and Colin Kaepernick got paid by the NFL to go away. You have questions on all of those topics, plus I work Dr. Mario into the equation in the latest Murray's Monday Mailbag. Thanks, as always, for the questions.

(Note: If you're not seeing the tweets, it's probably because you're not using Google Chrome. Use Google Chrome).

I addressed this to some degree last week, but the difference between the national rankings and the selection committee basically boils down to this:

Rankings are based more on eye test/gut feel/W-L record/latest results (for example, there's no way Kentucky should be ranked ahead of Tennessee right now, but Kentucky just beat Tennessee so the voters gave the Wildcats the nod despite Kentucky having twice as many losses, including two bad ones). Selection committee seeds are based more on résumé/quality wins/computer rankings. I favor the second of those models. It's the best gauge for figuring out a team's true level.

Nevada has that shiny record and started the season in the top 10, so it has stayed there. But the computers have Nevada at 11 in NET; 12 in Sagarin; 15 in BPI; and 17 in KenPom. You're looking at a four seed based on those rankings, and those rankings are lower because of Nevada's relative dearth of quality wins, which is a combination of an under-achieving non-conference slate and a horrible Mountain West.

Nevada has played one Quad 1 game and seven Quad 2 games. Those are the fewest Quad 1 games and fewest combination of Quad 1/2 games of any top-10 team. That is holding Nevada back more than how the Wolf Pack has played, and it's pretty hard to argue against it. If you rooted for Michigan State, which has played 13 Quad 1 games (13!) and five additional Quad 2 games, wouldn't you look at Nevada's schedule and say, "We'd be 25-0 if we played that schedule." Yes, you would. Michigan State has played 13 tougher games than Nevada's single most difficult game.

That said, it is true odds are stacked against mid-major teams. There's no doubt about that. Mid-majors can't rack up Quad 1 games (or even Quad 2 games) in conference action. They have to do their heavy lifting in non-conference play. But what if power-conference teams don't want to play a great mid-major like Nevada? And they certainly don't want to play Nevada at Lawlor Events Center. You can't schedule a team that doesn't want to play you. So, you stack up as many quality non-league games as you can (which Nevada did with USC, Utah, Arizona State, BYU, Loyola Chicago, South Dakota State) and hope for the best. But then when those games don't turn out well, people say you didn't schedule well enough.

Yes, it's a predicament if you're a good mid-major that hasn't risen to the level of Gonzaga, which has the track record and pull to schedule teams like Duke, Tennessee, North Carolina and Washington, as it did this season. Like Michigan State fans, who I cited before, Nevada fans could say, "Well, we'd still be 20-5 if we played a Big Ten schedule," and it might be true. But the selection committee isn't going to make a guess based off that. It's going to seed based on what has actually happen on the court. As I've said in recent weeks, Nevada is an elite team without an elite résumé. You can give the Wolf Pack the benefit of the doubt in the national rankings. You can't when you seed a national tournament. You have to deal with reality.

But the Big Dance has been stacked against mid-majors for decades, and that's not going to change. The NCAA isn't going to mandate power-conference teams have a winning record in league play (which some have suggested) in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Just not going to happen. Right now, ESPN's Bracketology has only three mid-major teams in as an at-large, and they're all from the American Athletic Conference. The mid-majors get a raw deal for sure. I'd rather see a 25-win mid-major in over a 18-win power-conference team if that mid-major did try to schedule up. But favor will always be given to power teams, both in getting a berth and in seeding. They have a major built-in scheduling advantage.

At least they play a national tournament in basketball where Nevada will get the chance to show its ability unlike the format in football, where no Group of 5 team will ever get in a four-team College Football Playoff. Nevada will have the chance to show it is the best team in the nation or show that it was overrated. Nevada will get to dictate how it is looked upon when the season is over. That's the great thing about March.

If Nevada wins out, it will be 33-1 overall with a regular-season MW title, a MW Tournament title and probably be third or fourth in the Top 25 having spent the entire season in the Top 25. It will be around 2-0 in Quad 1 games and 11-0 in Quad 2 games. That's enough to get a three seed in the NCAA Tournament. BracketMatrix has Nevada on the fringe of a three seed right now, and other top teams are going to lose to each other in the conference tournaments. Nevada can't really do much to add to its quality win situation, but 33-1 should be enough for a three seed. If you look at Barttorvik's list of comps for Nevada's 2018-19 résumé the average seed is a 3.6. I don't see a 33-1 Nevada getting worse than a three.

It stands for:

Three -- Three straight MW regular-season titles

Three -- Three wins in a row at the MW Tournament to win the conference crown

Three -- Reach the third weekend of the NCAA Tournament (aka the Final Four)

San Diego State has won six of its last seven, although those wins have come over San Jose State (awful), Air Force (bad), UNLV (bad), Colorado State (bad), Boise State (bad) and Utah State (an actual good team). And that stretch includes a loss to New Mexico (bad). I agree SDSU is playing its best basketball of the season, and a big reason for that is the Aztecs' defense has gone from awful to pretty good in its recent stretch. SDSU is a little like New Mexico in that it has great athleticism, length and potential, so when the team is on, it is dangerous. SDSU has been "on" more often than New Mexico this season and is really good at home (12-2 this season; never lost to Nevada at Viejas), so I'd agree it is a tough test.

Here are my rankings of Nevada's remaining regular-season games, from toughest to easiest.

1. at San Diego State

2. at Utah State (the Aggies are better than SDSU, but Nevada's athleticism is too much for them)

3. vs. Fresno State

4. vs San Diego State

5. at Air Force

6. vs. UNLV

Second behind Duke. Nevada would still be dealing with its lack of quality wins, but an undefeated record stands out to voters. But it's not worth thinking about considering Nevada got blown out in the game. It was non-competitive. If Nevada lost on a last-second bucket or by two or three points, then, yes, you could lament it. But the Wolf Pack wasn't even close in that game, and KenPom has Nevada as the 37th luckiest in the nation, so it's a lot closer to a two-loss team than a zero-loss team, per those metrics. If Nevada had lost at Boise State (it won on that last-second three by Cody Martin), it would be around 15th in the nation. So it swings both ways. Nevada fans should be happy with sixth nationally, where it is now.

No. Given Nevada's precarious situation with its NCAA Tournament seed, the Wolf Pack can't mess around and risk losing another game prior to the NCAA Tournament. That being said, Musselman has backed off the minutes for the big three over the last two games, which we could see a lot more of in blowout situations over the next month. There's no reason to extend the minutes of Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline (each of whom are averaging at least 33 minutes a night) other than letting them get their numbers for post-season award consideration (and Musselman did say he wants to let them do that). I think you'll see more minutes for Corey Henson, Nisré Zouzoua and Jordan Brown when games allow for it, but you won't see that until a game is securely in hand.

This is my 11th season covering Nevada basketball. My two-deep depth chart during my time covering the team would be.

PG: Deonte Burton/Lindsey Drew

SG: Caleb Martin/Kendall Stephens

SF: Jordan Caroline/Cody Martin

PF: Luke Babbitt/Dario Hunt

C: Cameron Oliver/Trey Porter

Sixth Man: Armon Johnson (first guard)/Olek Czyz (first big)

Apologies to D.J. Fenner, Marqueze Coleman, Tyron Criswell, Jerry Evans Jr. Cole Huff, Malik Story and, of course, Kevin Panzer.

I'd take Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline by a nose. There's just more defense on that side of the ball than Kirk Snyder and Nick Fazekas have to offer. But it'd be a great matchup. Caroline would have his hands full defending Fazekas given the height difference and Fazekas' savvy scoring ability.

Let's break it down tournament style. Here are my top 16 Wolf Pack pairings (seeded) I'd like to see include. One rule: They had to play together for at least one year to be paired up.

No. 1 Johnny High and Edgar Jones

No. 2 Ramon Sessions and Nick Fazekas

No. 3 Kirk Snyder and Kevinn Pinkney

No. 4 Marcelus Kemp and JaVale McGee

No. 5 Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt

No. 6 Cody Martin and Caleb Martin

No. 7 Jordan Caroline and Cameron Oliver

No. 8 Deonte Burton and Dario Hunt

No. 9 Billy Allen and Ken "Tree" Green

No. 10 James "BB" Fontenet and Sam Mosley

No. 11 Eathan O'Bryant and Farron "Meat" Hand

No. 12 Darryl Owens and David Wood

No. 13 Pete Padgett and Marvin Buckley

No. 14 Kevin Soares and Ric Herrin

No. 15 Terrance Green and Corey Jackson

No. 16 Curtis High and Dwayne Randall

I don't know. But if the five-star recruit was impressed by the atmosphere of a half-full Thomas & Mack Center, I imagine he'd be really impressed with a full Lawlor Events Center.

Also of note: Walker's teammate at Phoenix's Hillcrest Prep (Dischon Thomas, a one-time Nevada commit who the Wolf Pack parted ways with in August) committed over the weekend to Colorado State, so Nevada should see plenty of Thomas over the next four seasons. Will he face Walker playing for the Wolf Pack? It could happen.

This is what Greg is referring to in case you missed it.

Caroline might be the center on that team. But it's Caroline, so we'll give him a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) because that's what he always does.

There was a preseason MW baseball poll, and I wrote about it here.

Nevada placed second behind San Diego State. The Wolf Pack received two of the seven first-place votes. The MW hasn't gotten two teams to an NCAA Regional since 2014, so this has been a one-bid conference for the last four seasons, including a pretty notable snub of a 41-15 Wolf Pack team in 2015 (Nevada was the first Pac-12, MW, WCC or Big West team to hit 40 wins and not get a Regional berth since 2002).

With that as the backdrop, the MW's NCAA Regional berth will come down to who wins the conference tournament. The first order of business is finishing in the top four of the league standings since the tournament only includes those four teams. From there, it's anybody's guess. SDSU has been great in the MW Tournament, winning it five of the last six events. So, the Aztecs are the favorites even though the tournament will be held at Peccole Park. Home-field advantage helps, but Nevada was 21-3 at home in 2015 and clearly the best team in the conference and went 0-2 in the tournament at Peccole before being snubbed.

Postseason baseball is unpredictable, and Nevada has been really bad in conference tournaments. The Wolf Pack is 23-32 in 16 conference tournaments and has never won one of them. It could be bad luck or a curse, but something goes wrong in conference tournaments for Nevada. I'll give SDSU a 35 percent chance of winning, Nevada a 25 percent chance of winning and a 40 percent chance to the rest of the field. The Wolf Pack has some holes to fill in the lineup and in the bullpen, but the starting pitching should be strong.

Owen Sharts for sure. Deadspin even wrote a story on his name. The Wolf Pack freshman dealt in his college debut, giving up only three hits over seven scoreless innings. If he becomes a first-round draft pick, I can't wait for the puns from the national media. Here was our interview with Sharts after his first college game.


Player preference. They have definitely practiced floaters over the years. In addition to Jazz Johnson, Josh Hall was a master of the floater during his Wolf Pack career. (Anybody remember this one?) Cody Martin has been known to toss up a floater. In your picture below, that's Jordan Caroline with the ball in floater territory, but his game is more built on going through a body to get to the rim. You need a soft touch for the floater to be effective. It's not an easy shot. But a couple of Wolf Pack players have developed it over the years. It's a necessity for Johnson given his size.

A zero percent chance?

I guess I shouldn't do zero, so let's go 0.01 percent chance. Why would an NFL team sign him now as opposed to last season or the year before that? I don't see how him getting a payout changes things. If anything, teams would have had more incentive to sign him before the payout to try and prove there was no collusion. What's the benefit now, other than to improve your team? And most teams have decided against doing that and would rather sign Josh Johnson, Mark Sanchez, Nathan Peterman, EJ Manuel, Matt Schaub, Matt Barkley, T.J. Yates, Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith, et al.

The last two years have been heavy on quarterback injuries, and Kaepernick hasn't even gotten an NFL workout. Kaepernick isn't playing in the NFL again. It could be a good thing. It could keep him from getting CTE.

1. No.

2. Yes. So obviously yes the NFL just gave him (a reported) $60 million to $80 million to avoid arguing in court why he didn't merit a job.

Mike Freeman reported it was

"Do You Know the Way to San Jose" is played on a loop during the entire trip.

(And I didn't know until today that song was sung by the woman from the Psychic Friends Network.)

(I also didn't know until today that Warwick and Whitney Houston are cousins. So much important knowledge being learned today.)

I can only name four UNR presidents off the top of my head: Joe Crowley, John Lilley, Milt Glick and Marc Johnson. So I'm probably not the guy to ask. And there have been 16 UNR presidents all-time, so that's only one-quarter of them. But I'll give you four names just because you asked.

* Joe Crowley: The president all UNR presidents are measured by

* LeRoy D. Brown: First president in the school's history; a veteran of the Civil War

* Walter Ernest Clark: The second-longest tenured president in school history behind Crowley; the School of Education, Engineering Experimental Station, Memorial Library and Mackay Science Hall were established during his tenure and the north portion of campus was also purchased during this time (basically UNR's Louisiana Purchase)

* Marc Johnson: The growth during his tenure has been unprecedented, and his hiring of Doug Knuth led to Nevada eventually landing Eric Musselman

Unfortunately, I've spent the last 15 minutes researching Color Me Badd. (Quick question: Why two Ds in Badd? Was there already a band named Color Me Bad with one D?).

Anyway, that is Mark Calderon, who last summer was involved in a mid-concert shoving match with band-mate Bryan Abrams, who was cuffed over the incident. Color Me Badd is playing Jergel's Rhythm Grille in Warrendale, Penn., on Friday (capacity of 500 fans, which should be more than enough). Colorado State doesn't play until Saturday in Fort Collins, which gives Nico Carvacho-Calderon plenty of time to perform on stage Friday and then on the basketball court Saturday. Given the relatively low demand for Color Me Badd shows, they've made the schedule work.

I do wonder how many times the band plays "I Wanna Sex You Up" during a show. A dozen at minimum, I assume. Go watch that video. Color Me Badd is basically a George Michael lookalike, a Kenny G lookalike, a Milli Vanilli lookalike and a Nico Carvacho lookalike. The '90s were amazing.

Nevada reported 8,771 season tickets last season. Given the lackluster home schedule (Purdue, Weber State, Hawaii, San Jose State, UNLV, New Mexico), I don't see it going up despite the 8-5 record. I'll guess 8,500. Fans have to save in order to pay for those basketball tickets.

I've been informed Stadium will no longer run Running with the Pack on YouTube and will just run it over the air instead. In addition to the first-run telecasts on Nevada Sports Net, we are running marathons of the series from first episode to the most recent every Sunday on NSN, so you can catch the show on our channel.

(Update: You can watch the episodes here).

I've been informed Stadium corrected that after the first run and the re-airs on NSN will reflect the correct portion of the episode.

Craig Stadler, Kirk Triplett, Patty Sheehan. I'll take the shredded meat, but I do go both ways there.

No, it is not. The 1990-91 UNLV team is the best team to play at Lawlor, followed by the 2008-09 North Carolina team. Both won national titles. The 1987-88 North Carolina team that had six NBA players and reached the Elite 8 is the third-best team to play at Lawlor. And then this year's Nevada team is fourth. This is the Wolf Pack's best team ever.

1. I don't think you're going to see a flood of numbers retired after this. This is only the sixth time in any sport it has happened, and Nevada has been getting some public pressure to do so, even from Fazekas himself in a Q&A I did with him when he went into the Hall of Fame in 2017. I don't see another Wolf Pack basketball number being retired for at least five years.

2. If you're talking just men's basketball, my top five is: 1. Ramon Sessions, 2. JaVale McGee, 3. Jordan Caroline, 4. Luke Babbitt, 5. Caleb Martin. The tough part of the equation is how much you factor NBA success into the honor. If you're doing that, Sessions and McGee are at the top where I have them. If you're talking only college accolades, that helps Caroline and Deonte Burton. None of my top five spent all four seasons at Nevada, which makes it tough. I would, however, like to see Kirk Snyder go into the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame. I understand he had post-career issues, but he should have been the first member of that 2003-04 team to go into the Hall of Fame. He was the team's best player. Two have already gone in before him from that squad.

(Also, here was my Week in 1,000 Words that took a look at the Nevada athletes across all sports who deserve a retired number).

To continue my list past five, I'd go: 6. Deonte Burton, 7. Kirk Snyder, 8. Marcelus Kemp, 9. Johnny High, 10. Pete Padgett.

I believe the plan is to re-organize how things are hung rather than taking down banners. But Nevada has two CBI First Round banners it could take down if needed.

I asked Musselman about Fazekas (he used the first pick of the G League draft on him when he was Reno's coach), and here's what Musselman said.

“I’m real happy. I sent him an email throwing the idea at him and asking if he had a break. He’s probably the most unique player I’ve ever coached because he’s not fast, he’s not athletic, but he has the softest touch, he understands offensive angles better than anybody I’ve been around. Not a very good defender. But a really smart player, an incredible person and I only had him for a brief time with the Bighorns but everywhere you go since the announcements been made, he’s as popular as any player who has ever played here. It just adds to the night that this is going to be. It’s going to be a crazy, wild, cool environment.”

I don't think Fazekas' defense was the biggest issue, although it was an issue. It was two-fold: (1) Fazekas had a ton of foot injuries early in his pro career that significantly limited him and (2) the NBA was moving away from traditional centers and to a more open, 3-point-oriented league that required players being able to defend multiple positions. That's why Millsap has done so well in the NBA. He fit the modern NBA a lot better than Fazekas did because he could defend multiple positions and stretch his game to the 3-point line.

A question from a former roommate here, who three years ago won one of those media timeout free-throw contests between two random fans. Our friend here made one free throw in 60 seconds but somehow did not lose. The other guy also hit only one free throw, which meant sudden-death overtime. It took another 30 seconds for either participant to make a free throw, which our friend sank. So we're talking two made free throws (out of 30 or so attempts), which I believe makes this the worst performance any Nevada No. 22 has ever had on a basketball court is Las Vegas (or any other city, for that matter). But it did net him two free tickets to some Vegas show (I think it might have been to O-Town to see Liquid Dreams).

It is amazing Mike Krzyzewski is 72 years old. That's the same age as actor Ed O’Neill, for example. Coach K looks a lot younger than Al Bundy, and it is largely due to the hair, which he claims has never been dyed. And I don't believe him.

Pretty simple: The NCAA Tournament selection committee picks Nevada to play in San Jose for its first two games and puts the Wolf Pack in the West Region. The first part is more or less guaranteed. The second one is not.

1. An AAF team will never come to Reno. If it did, it'd be called the Reno Craps.

2. It's hard to know how good Nevada is given its schedule. I think it's OK to be a little leery of calling it a Final Four team. But Nevada will get the chance to prove everybody wrong.

3. I can see Nevada winning a national title if everything breaks right. I also could see it losing on the first weekend of the tournament. One-and-done situations are crazy. Ask Virginia.

The only thing new Dodgers game-plan coach Chris Gimenez has to worry about picking up is his World Series ring after the Dodgers win the championship this season.

I'm not sure I'd want to dunk on Zion Williamson and get him angry. He might do a Hulk Smash on you as retribution.

Arena-Auditorium's listed capacity is 11,612. Wyoming announced an attendance of 5,287 for the Nevada game, which is 45.5 percent of capacity. Wyoming has good fans, but this is what happens when you go 6-19. The Cowboys' student section was classy by chanting the name of Nevada walk-on David Cunningham late in the game before he got subbed in.

I'll be in Minneapolis, but I can't promise I won't be in the Prince museum instead.

Honestly, I think chips on shoulders are overrated in individual games. I think chips on shoulders are more of a big deal for personal, life-long motivations.

I'll have to put more research into this one, but I'm going to assume it depends on whether Drum Kit Guy can attend the game or if he's out of town or studying for a test or something.

I didn't even know what Apex was until this question. And I'm 36 years old, so I've never played Fortnite. A more appropriate question for somebody my age would have been: Tetris or Dr. Mario? And the answer is clearly Dr. Mario. I'll also argue Dr. Mario had the best original soundtrack of any video game. The jam that starts at the 32-second below is the greatest song ever written. (You can't see it, but my 4-year-old son and I are dancing to this song as I write this).

My walk-up song is definitely the Dr. Mario theme referenced above. That song is hot fire. By the way, it's called "Chill," and I have another video of it below for your consumption.

I don't think people appreciate the fact that while Mario was a doctor he still took time out of his schedule to do plumbing work for his neighborhood. What an amazing guy.

And if my theme song is Chill from Dr. Mario, I'm making everybody on the Nevada basketball team and the NSN team walk out to the Bubble Bobble theme song, which you can hear below. If Nevada wants to get its student section worked into a lather, it should play this song during the second-half media timeout instead of Sweet Caroline.


Interesting you ask this because I live by Red Hawk Golf Course and whenever it snows people drive into the neighborhood so they can sled down hole No. 8 on the Hills Course. This winter, the course put up signs around that area saying "No Sledding." Yet, people still bring their kids onto the course and sled all over it, to the point where the kids are nearly hitting the sign that says "No Sledding" when they get to the bottom of the run. The parents saw the sign. They obviously don't care. So, I'm walking my dog yesterday and see this going on and think: "Should I call Red Hawk and let them know?" I don't want to be a narc, but let's respect the sign please. After I swung around to finish my walk, I saw the Red Hawk security car kicking those people off the hill. Vindication, even though I wasn't the one who put the call in.

But to answer you question, the McQueen hill is the best in Reno/Sparks. Spooner Summit is the best if you want some dog-eat-dog sledding. And Boreal is the best if you want to pay a nice chunk of money for the convenience of a standing escalator to get you to the top of the hill.

This is eerie because I was actually thinking about this Sunday night and didn't see your question until Monday morning.

I took our St. Bernard on a walk yesterday around 4 p.m. and let her off leash in the hills around our house so she could run freely in her natural habitat of snow. St. Bernard's were bred for rescue missions on the Great St. Bernard Pass on the Italian-Swiss border where they would locate and rescue travelers buried by drifts and avalanches. They're know as the gentle giants of the Swiss Alps. (Fun fact: They didn't carry brandy in their barrels, though. That's a myth.) Barry, the famous St. Bernard, apparently saved more than 40 people during his career.

The point here being watching my dog run around and enjoy the conditions she was born for was awesome. It brought me such joy. I also don't really get too cold in the snow. And like a St. Bernard, I love being outdoors, am well-behaved, love children, can be stubborn, care about others and can sulk when being left out of the fun (St. Bernard's are pretty emotionally needed.) I decided while walking my dog back from our playtime yesterday that my spirit animal is a St. Bernard. And then you ask this question. Quite the miracle, my friend. Quite the miracle.

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