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1,000 Words: Nevada basketball is a G League team playing a college schedule

Jordan Caroline
Jordan Caroline and the Wolf Pack have a rare blend of maturity and skill. (Nevada athletics)

Nevada Sports Net columnist Chris Murray is known to be a bit wordy, so we're giving him 1,000 words (but no more than that) to share his thoughts from the week that was in the world of sports.

* WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU dropped a G League team into college basketball for a season? We’re finding out this year, and that team is called Nevada. The Wolf Pack starts five fifth-year seniors, a quintet of 23-year-olds (Tre’Shawn Thurman turns 23 tomorrow and Jordan Caroline does so in January) who are slicing through their competition with relative ease. The thought of Nevada going undefeated this season isn’t unrealistic, and a large part of that comes down to this team’s maturity and experience. If you dropped this year’s Wolf Pack into the G League, they’d win their share of games.

* THE WOLF PACK MIGHT NOT have an NBA player on its roster, which is unheard of for a top-10 team, but it has a bevy of guys who could be productive in the G League right now. The Martins could both make it to the NBA, but ESPN’s latest draft rankings don’t have a Wolf Pack player among the top-90 prospects. You could drop the Martins and Caroline into the G League today and they’d be productive. Thurman and Trey Porter are good enough to play in the league this year. Jazz Johnson’s shooting and Jordan Brown’s potential would put them on teams. This is a G League playing a college schedule with an NBA head coach.

* ONE OF THE BENEFITS of having such a veteran, pro-like team isn’t even the physical advantage. Nevada preps for opponents as well as any team in the nation, and they can do so in large part because they’re dealing with 23-year-olds who can grasp more complex game plans or halftime adjustments than 18-year-olds. Toss in the obvious physical advantages when playing with an older team (Nevada’s roster is full of grown men, not teenagers still growing into their bodies) and the Wolf Pack has a professional feel. You can even look at the team’s coaching staff – 18 members! – at it screams “pro.”

* THE BIG QUESTION is how far can Nevada go in the NCAA Tournament with this setup. Again, I’m not ruling the Martin twins, Caroline or Brown out of a future NBA career, but none are slam dunks, and it’s exceptionally rare to see a team reach the Final Four without two or three of those kinds of players. Even the Wolf Pack’s 2004-07 NCAA Tournament teams had, at minimum, two NBA players on the roster (three of those teams had three NBA players). At some point, you need that caliber of pro to advance in the NCAA Tournament. Nevada is going to crush most of its competition this season. How will it line up against the best the nation offers, against a team like Duke with three top-five picks in the NBA draft?

* I HOPE WE GET TO SEE such a matchup. The NCAA Tournament is so unpredictable, I could see Nevada losing in the Round of 32 or getting to the title game. A lot depends on the draw and the random luck involved with a one-and-done format. The Wolf Pack has plenty of advantages over the competition this season, its age, size, experience, maturity and basketball IQ being rare for the college game, especially in the one-and-done era. It’s enough for me to predict Nevada is going to have a perfect regular season. At most, the Wolf Pack might lose two or three games before postseason play begins. How far will it carry Nevada in March? That’s the intrigue. But this isn’t your normal college basketball team. This is a G League team.

* THE WOLF PACK GOT some certainty on its roster this week when Lindsey Drew underwent the first of two hip surgeries. You never like to see an athlete undergo surgery, especially when he is coming back from a serious surgery (Drew was returning from a torn Achilles). But this is a good thing for Drew and Nevada in the long run. It ensures Drew will redshirt this season and be a member of the 2019-20 squad, which also should include Jalen Harris (a dynamite sit-out transfer), Jazz Johnson, Brown and incoming recruit Eric Parrish (averaging 20.5 ppg, 10 rpg, 7.4 apg at the JuCo level). That’s a nice first five, with five more scholarships to fill in around those guys. Nevada should be Top 25 good against next year.

* THAT IS, OF COURSE, if Eric Musselman is still on the sidelines at Lawlor Events Center next season. I expect Nevada to hammer out an extension before the season ends, but the real key will by the buyout clause (his current deal only has a $1 million buyout). If the UCLA or USC jobs open, it could be hard to keep Musselman in Reno. Wolf Pack fans should root for the Bruins and Trojans to have excellent seasons so both teams keep their coaches and the allure of the City of Angels isn’t dangled in front of Musselman, who was complimentary of L.A. and USC’s student section after Nevada’s recent game there.

* THE HALL OF FAME DID irreparable damage to itself this week when Harold Baines was voted into the 2019 class by the “Today’s Game Era Committee.” Baines was a fine player, a six-time All-Star with 2,866 career hits. He was not a Hall of Famer. Not even close. He never finished in the top eight of an MVP vote despite playing 22 seasons. If you were rarely considered one of the top players in your league (he got MVP votes just four times in his career), you’re not a Hall of Famer. This would be like some committee voting Nick Markakis into the Hall of Fame in 20 years. It cheapens every Hall of Famer.

* LET’S GET ONE THING CLEAR: The Oakland Raiders are not moving to Reno for the 2019 season. Even though ESPN threw out that possibility this week, I simply cannot see it happening. (For the record, both the Wolf Pack and City of Reno said they’ve had no contact with the Raiders over the possibility of this happening). The Raiders should simply move to Sam Boyd Stadium for 2019 before opening Boondoggle Stadium in 2020. There’s no reason to delay the move to Sin City. Make the move and start building your brand. Or maybe the Raiders don’t want to subject their future home with the caliber of football their currently playing, which generously could be described as pitiful.

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.

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