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Murray's Mailbag: What the hell happened after the Utah State game?

Jordan Caroline
Jordan Caroline lost his temper after Nevada's loss at Utah State. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

The Nevada basketball team lost to Utah State on Saturday, but that wasn't the big story coming out of the game. The big story was the post-game incident that included Jordan Caroline punching a fire extinguisher glass case. So let's start there. Thanks, as always, for the inquiries.

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

By now you've seen this video from the aftermath of Nevada's game against Utah State.

Here is what led up to that punch heard 'round the Internet, based on conversations with people who were there.

(a) Utah State upsets Nevada and the Aggie fans storm the court.

(b) Personnel rope off the handshake line (almost decapitating Nevada's Corey Henson; watch the 2-second mark of the video below)

(c) Nevada and Utah State go through the handshake line, with one Aggies assistant refusing to shake the hand of Nevada's Gus Argenal, who also said that same coach was saying "F-you" through the handshake line. Utah State would probably argue this was a response to Eric Musselman not finishing the handshake line by skipping their last two coaches (see below at 10-second mark).

But, also, it appears as if somebody in the Utah State line said something to Musselman in this video, which probably prompted him to peel off early.

(d) No students bumped or hit Wolf Pack players during this period, as some reported early on. In the original video, you can hear Nevada assistants saying, "You let them touch our players," but that is not a response to the court storming. During the end of the game, Caleb Martin got fouled and slid in front of the student section, and Nevada believes the fans were reaching over the barrier and touching him, which is a no-no. They had a cop go over to that area, but he didn't do much. That's what the "You let them touch our players" was referencing.

(e) Since the court was stormed, Nevada was unable to enter its locker room on the ramp on the left of the arena. It instead had to go up the right ramp, which leads to the Utah State locker room, and then walk down the hallway that connected to the Wolf Pack locker room. If the court had not been stormed, Nevada would have been able to enter its locker room through the ramp that goes directly to it, and this almost certainly all would have been avoided.

(f) At this point, everybody is calm, other than Argenal being a little peeved the Utah State staffer didn't shake his hand. Caroline then walked halfway down the hall that connected Nevada and Utah State's locker rooms and was kneeled over, despondent about how he played. He was upset, but certainly not angry, just emotional. He exited the court with his emotions in control. Utah State's players were still on the court celebrating.

(g) This is where we don't know exactly what happened. Somebody said or did something to Caroline that lit a fuse and led to the confrontation and led to Caroline punching the glass case to a fire extinguisher, which led to some splattered blood on a door. Based on conversations, I'm pretty confident no racial slurs were used, but certainly expletive-deleteds were. Since nobody got video, the only people who truly know what was said is limited to four or five people in the hallway that night. Utah State said in part of its statement on the incident: "The unsportsmanlike behavior following the game did not include any of our student-athletes, but rather a couple of staff members, which is unacceptable, and we will handle those issues internally."

(h) Caroline was shuttled back toward the Wolf Pack locker room by assistant coach Brandon Dunson and some teammates. A couple of Nevada assistants then did some verbal sparing with a pair of cops. One of those was grad assistant Rob Zewe, who the AP mis-identified as Musselman in its original story. The story said Musselman had to be restrained by police officers after going on an “expletive-laced tirade” outside his team’s locker room. That was false, and damaging poor reporting.

So, that's what happened, the one unknown variable being what exactly was said to Caroline to provoke his outburst, which was certainly out of character. It's fair to say there was childish behavior from both teams that led to the post-game fireworks, which overshadowed a tremendous game between two really good teams. It's fair to say this was a bad look for Nevada, Utah State and the Mountain West. Hopefully it's fair to say everybody learned from this and will be better because of it.

That's not why Caroline was mad. He's a proud father. And as noted above, he made it all the way back to the hallway in calm fashion before he was triggered.

Kerfuffle is a great work. I imagine Clayton Kerfuffle will disappoint me in the playoffs yet again this season.

Maybe we can get an octagon set up during the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas.

Nobody received punishment from the MW, but the individual teams are allowed to hand out punishments of their own. Neither has indicated they will do so.

Nevada got an X-ray of his hand after driving to Salt Lake City after the game and it came back negative. He also didn't require stitches. He has cuts and bruises so he's questionable for Tuesday's Air Force game, but he should be fine for the San Diego State game Saturday, his senior night.

Punching glass and/or brick walls is not usually advisable, but natural instincts take over sometimes. Caroline came out about as well as possible following the glass punch. That very easily could have ended his season, which would have more or less ended Nevada's season.

Ask the fire extinguisher glass if Nevada is soft.

(Nevada is not soft.)

I have not seen anything like this from him. During his four years at Nevada, Caroline has been a stand-up guy, both on and off the court, and people who know him off the court were surprised he broke the glass and reacted as he did. This is not in his normal character. Obviously, Nevada fans won't remember him for this incident, but many people nationally probably will given this is the first time he's really gone viral. It's a shame people will remember him for an out-of-character display following an emotional game, but that's how the Internet works sometimes. I'll also say, you see and hear a lot of stuff around the locker room after tough losses. I've seen chairs thrown, doors punched, players going chest-to-chest yelling at each other. I have not seen a fire extinguished case punched out, but chaos behind the scenes is par for the course following tough losses.

Musselman said this of Caroline in a pair of tweets: "As someone who’s had the honor to know and coach Jordan Caroline for four years, I can testify to his outstanding character, high moral standards and strong integrity. He’s kind, compassionate, and competitive. Basketball aside, we’re fortunate to have such an upstanding young man as a part of the Wolf Pack family."

There were too many people in that hallway, which is already cramped as is in that arena. I don't think it was a result of Nevada having too much staff there, but the amount of media back there in a supposed cooling-down period was surprising. Utah State could have done a better job there.

Zero impact.

Nevada said it will pay for any property damages. And there's a GoFundMe set up for some reason.

The fire extinguisher glass is responsible.

Caroline has indeed dealt with a strained Achilles for a while and had flu-like symptoms in the Utah State game. Since that 40-point explosion against Colorado State, Caroline has had three good games (Wyoming, Fresno State, UNLV) and three really poor games (New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah State). In those good games, he's averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds on 47.5 percent shooting, including 6-of-17 from three. In those really poor games, he's averaging 9.3 points and 8.7 rebounds on 21.3 percent shooting, including 0-of-13 from three.

I wouldn't pin it all on the injury since he's had good games in this stretch (and didn't practice leading up to the Colorado State game, either). He's taking more threes since that Colorado State game (5.0 per game to 3.7 per game prior); he's getting to the free throw line less (5.0 per game to 6.6 prior); and he's rebounding at a lower rate (8.0 per game compared to 9.8 per game prior). In short, he's been less aggressive getting to the rim and less effective getting second-chance points (1.7 offensive boards per game during this six-game stretch compared to 2.5 offensive boards per game prior). That lack of aggression could be a result of an injury, but a 50-50 showing of good games against bad is not very Caroline like. He's way more consistent than that usually.

But I agree Nevada isn't going very far in the NCAA Tournament without Caroline playing at the consistent level we've seen from him most of the last three seasons. And his recent blip in production could make Utah State's Sam Merrill the MW player of the year.

Sam Merrill, 40 percent

Jordan Caroline, 35 percent

Caleb Martin, 20 percent

Everybody gets drunk and votes for somebody else, 5 percent

I'm not sure why I have to take a punch from either of them, but if I do I'd pick Malik Reed. Reed is exceptionally nice. I don't think he'd hit me with full authority as a result.

Seven is the most I've ever seen (the MW record book does not keep this stat). I wrote about this in last week's Mailbag, but will reiterate here. With the games meaning so much more in March, teams are playing a lot more physical and desperate. As a result, the refs are in a no-win situation. They either let the rough play go and fans complain about it (as they did with the Fresno State game, which the fans moaned about), or they call it as if it was a regular game and foul everybody out. I prefer the refs let them play. I also would prefer if there was no rule where five fouls disqualifies a player. That'd be like an offensive lineman being disqualified if he had three holds in a game. It's a stupid rule.

Here is the dunk being referenced.

You have to call something here. You can't swallow your whistle. That's a ton of contact. I think it's pretty clearly a block as Merrill, who I love, is sliding over as Caleb Martin launches to dunk. Assuming Martin makes the free throw, it'd be a 76-74 game with 33 seconds left and Utah State ball. The Aggies still probably win, but this questionable call ended Nevada's chances.

I would hand out hefty fines for storming the court. I understand wanting to celebrate, but somebody is going to get punched one of these days and then we're going to end up in court. The last thing you want mere seconds after an emotional situation (like a crucial loss) is somebody celebrating in your face. They don't storm the court in pro sports. It's be pretty easy to keep that from happening in college sports, too. And while the MW said the court storming didn't cause the issue, I would argue the fact Nevada had to take the other ramp that led to Utah State's locker room did play a factor in the issue, and that was a result of the court storming. If Nevada goes up its ramp and into its locker room, this probably doesn't happen.

I have found Utah State fans to be harsh but not really crossing the line. I mean, Nevada fans were chanting "F the Rebels" (but the full word for F) during the UNLV game before being shut down by officials in attendance. Every base has some of this in them. I do think a couple of Boise State fans cheering Lindsey Drew tearing his Achilles last season was way past the line, but again, I wouldn't paint the whole Broncos fan base with that brush because of a couple of bad people.

At least half, I'd guess. Nevada shot 24-of-66 (36.4 percent) from the field and still almost won. Credit to Utah State's defense, but your Gonzagas, Dukes, Michigans, North Carolinas, Kentuckys, Tennessees, Texas Techs, Kansases, etc. probably get it done. And Nevada probably wins 60 percent of its games at Utah State over a larger sample size.

They normally play it during the game at Utah State but did not in this instance, probably because there was a Caroline on the other team, so they saved it for after the game ended when Nevada had been ushered to the locker rooms.

Last year's team definitely overachieved. Getting to the Sweet 16 is a massive effort, especially for a team that peaked at No. 20 in the rankings and was unranked more than it was ranked during the season. If this year's team makes it to the Sweet 16, it also is a great result. As I noted in last week's 1,000 Words, only seven “mid-majors” have reached back-to-back Sweet 16s – Tulsa, Gonzaga, Butler, Memphis, Utah, UMass and Xavier – since UNLV, then in the Big West, went to back-to-back Final Fours in 1989-91. Last year's Wolf Pack needed a good bit of fortunate to beat Texas and Cincinnati. This year's team's true level is a Round of 32/Sweet 16 team, so anything beyond that is bonus.

Two words: Kendall Stephens. He's no longer on the team, and he was good for a burst of points in almost every game. Either Stephens or Caleb Martin would go unconscious from three for a period, which gave the Wolf Pack great "spurtability." Stephens graduated and Martin hasn't been as good from three, which means Nevada can't dig out of a big deficits as easily. This is more of a defense-oriented team, so getting behind by double-digits in the second half isn't ideal given some of the Wolf Pack's offensive limitations especially from three.

Absolutely. If Musselman can orchestrate a Final Four run, he's a lot more desirable to a UCLA or USC (if that job opens) or any other Power 5 job than if Nevada is one-and-done, although he'd still be desirable under those circumstances given what he's built at Nevada. The further he goes in the Big Dance, the more an AD of a power-conference school is going to like him. Similar with Caleb Martin: The better he plays and further he takes Nevada in the NCAA Tournament, the better his draft stock will be.

Off the top of my head, without the research that would be required to make a definitive list:

Pac-12: Arizona, UCLA, Washington, Oregon (you could argue USC)

Big 12: Kansas, Iowa State, Texas, Oklahoma

Big Ten: Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State

ACC: Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville, Syracuse, Florida State, Virginia Tech

SEC: Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee, Florida

Many of these jobs aren't opening any time soon.

I interviewed former Xavier/Providence/Clemson coach Pete Gillen, now a CBS Sports Network color analyst, the day before the Utah State (he was on the TV call) and he said Nevada could make it to the Elite 8 but doesn't see Nevada as a Final Four team. (I'll post that full interview later this week). Earlier this year, I spoke with Steve Lappas, also working for CBS Sports Network, and he said Nevada could win a national title. So, there are split opinions, which you'd expect when talking about a team that hasn't played Top 25 competition this season. It's hard to judge this team as a result. I'm more in Gillen's camp than Lappas' camp, but we'd have a much better feel if Nevada played a Big 10/Big 12/ACC schedule.

You'd need to define "going far." ESPN's BPI gives Nevada a 67.4 percent chance of getting to the Round of 32; a 31.5 percent chance of getting to the Sweet 16; a 11.1 percent chance of getting to the Elite 8; a 3.6 percent chance of getting to the Final Four; and a 1.2 percent chance of getting to the title game. If the Elite 8 is "going far," it's basically a one in 10 chance.

Nevada could go to the Final Four. It could lose in the first round. It will probably fall somewhere in between. That's how the NCAA Tournament works. I don't think Nevada flinches in front of big crowds (the same group of key players made it to the Sweet 16 last season), but the three road losses in front of three massive crowds is noteworthy.

That's not out of the question now that Utah State has moved into more secure NCAA Tournament at-large territory. I am a little puzzled why Utah State is so "in" right now with just two Quad 1 wins and two Quad 2 wins. The Aggies are 4-5 in Quad 1 and 2 games. They are 7-1 in Quad 3 games and 12-0 in Quad 4 games. Utah State has avoided bad losses, but that's a pretty thin résumé for an at-large team. But if the experts say they're in, I guess they're in. Nevada also is in. So, the best-case scenario for the MW is San Diego State beating Nevada in the MW Tournament semifinal and then beating Utah State in the final. That'd likely give the MW three teams in the Big Dance for the first time since 2015.

If I were Utah State, I'd feel a lot more comfortable if I made the MW Tournament final and lost to Nevada. If Nevada loses another game, you're probably looking at a five seed at best, with the potential of a seven seed.

A four seed seems like the ceiling, although it might be a five.

The committee shies away from the "eye test." It uses the hard numbers, with a little boost for power-conference teams. The numbers aren't great for Nevada, but it will be a favored seed barring a loss to Air Force on Tuesday.

Nevada is playing better teams, and when you do that you tend to lose more games. I don't think the team is spiraling, but it's certainly not peaking, either. The SDSU game in the regular-season finale will tell us a lot about where this team is right now.

After head-to-head result (and Nevada and Utah State split, so that's even), you go to record against the highest-seeded MW team, which would be Fresno State or SDSU, depending how the last week plays out.

Nevada would get the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament because it swept the No. 3 team in the league (Fresno State) while Utah State split with the Bulldogs. Even if SDSU is the No. 3 team, both Nevada and Utah State would have split against the Aztecs, assuming Nevada wins out to tie for that top record, so the record against the league's No. 4 team (Fresno State) would determine the top seed, giving the Pack the edge.

After last season's loss to San Diego State in the MW Tournament, I wrote the loss could benefit the Wolf Pack. I'm not sure I'd agree this year since Nevada still could be a top-four seed if it wins out, which is important for a couple of reasons, location of the first two rounds being part of it. A loss in the MW Tournament could push Nevada down to a seven seed, and at that point just getting out of the first round tends to be 50-50. There's more pressure on the Wolf Pack to win the MW Tournament this season than there was last year, in my opinion.

Nevada's worst-case scenario here is losing to Air Force, San Diego State and then to a team like Air Force again in the MW Tournament. That puts Nevada at 26-6 with no MW titles, but I still think it is securely in at that point.

Nevada should have the most fans, followed by San Diego State, Utah State and New Mexico, which typically has a ton of fans but the Lobos are having a bad season. UNLV would be fifth even though the event is in Las Vegas. I'd take Nevada in a rematch with Utah State if both teams get to the title game.

In the moment, the Nevada basketball loses were more painful (because nobody knew at the time the Wolf Pack football team's loss to Hawaii would eventually kept it from perfection). When the season was over, the Hawaii loss, which kept the Wolf Pack from an undefeated season, was more painful, although that might have bumped Nevada out of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and into something larger, which would have taken away that great memory of playing in San Francisco. That Hawaii loss was probably the worst game of Colin Kaepernick's Nevada career. Four turnovers, including a game-ending interception, and only 189 yards accounted for. Even legends have bad games.

Musselman believes depth is "the most overrated thing" in college basketball, per his statements at last year's NCAA Tournament, and that's exactly how he's deployed his players during his four seasons at Nevada. We can argue that opinion, but his short rotation is a trademark of his college coaching days. This could be tied to Nevada's iso play, too. With so few players getting opportunities to prove themselves over extended minutes, there's probably a lack of trust to some degree in sharing the ball, which leaves Nevada's top players trying to do too many things themselves than you'd prefer to see.

No. I find it hard to believe a team that rallied from 14 down to beat Texas and 22 down to beat Cincinnati in last year's NCAA Tournament struggles with in-game adjustments. This tends to be a Nevada strength. And Utah State didn't do a ton of in-game adjustments defensively. It was almost exclusively man. The offensive charges are a result of Nevada going iso too much and trying to drive from the 3-point line to the hoop. Good teams will get a defender in there when the ball has to be dribbled that distance (see the Merrill play against Martin above). The better the ball movement, the fewer the charges typically.

I've never measured him, but I'll say 5-foot-7.

I don't think anybody thinks Utah State is better than Nevada. The Wolf Pack is ranked in the Top 25; the Aggies are not. Nevada beat Utah State by 23 at home; Utah State beat Nevada by five at home. And we could get a third game at the end of the MW Tournament to prove who is superior.

Nevada would have preferred to win the game and be 1-0 in Quad 1 games rather than lose it and be 1-1 in Quad 1 games. That bump is minimal, and potentially temporary if Utah State can't stay in the top 30 in NET (it is exactly 30 right now).

Caroline still plays a lot of power forward for Nevada, either with Trey Porter at center or Tre'Shawn Thurman at center. He's in a shooting slump, but is hitting 39.7 percent from three. I wouldn't take away the green light. Caroline's position largely depends on matchups. He's just in a little slump. Everybody is allowed a slump. It has nothing to do with position.

It worked his first three seasons at Nevada. The Wolf Pack was its strongest at the end, winning a CBI his first season; winning its last nine games heading into the NCAA Tournament his second season; and getting to the Sweet 16 by overpowering teams in the second half his third season. You can't deny Nevada has been strong late in the season under Musselman. Does that necessarily apply to this year's team? Utah State clearly had a little more burst in its step Saturday. Nevada also looked a step slower at San Diego State and wasn't getting the loose balls it usually retrieves. I'd prefer a little larger rotation, specifically with Jordan Brown getting more minutes, but Musselman's template has worked so far. When you have star players better than the best of the roster, ride them hard. That's how he operates, and for three years it has gotten the most out of the roster.

Jordan Brown is definitely on a short leash, which can't help his confidence and overall play. One of Musselman's strengths is giving his star players the ability to make mistakes and not be worried about getting yanked from the game. That's less true, and just the opposite really, for his bench players. I've argued all season to play Brown extended minutes early in the year so he would be at his best in March (ala Nick Fazekas in 2003-04). That means living with mistakes and inconsistency that comes with freshmen players. That might mean taking an extra loss or two. Instead, Brown got just two minutes (after everybody fouled out) against Utah State. He's not at his strongest in March and is unlikely to see big minutes (if any) in the NCAA Tournament. I still like his future, but the quick hook hasn't helped him develop in games. His inconsistency has made it more difficult for Nevada to give him 20-plus minutes a night, but it's part of the deal when you play freshmen.

If Nevada gets to the Elite 8, everybody will praise the short rotation. If it gets bumped in the Round of 32, everybody will blame the short rotation. The truth is Nevada probably leans on its stars a little too much, but not to the point of it being a reason the Wolf Pack has lost two of its last four games. It just hasn't played well in those games.

The cop was a little too aggressive pushing Nevada assistant Todd Okeson for my liking, so I'll go with him.

Nevada is 17-8 in neutral-court games under Eric Musselman. The West Region would be most beneficial for Nevada with the first two games in San Jose or Salt Lake. Outside of that, it's all a wash.

It is a minor hit but not a big blow. And just give me a regular Oreo.

Better seeding would probably help a little, but it is more or less irrelevant.

There were six original American Gladiators. Those six ranked best to worst are: 1. Gemini, 2. Nitro, 3. Lace, 4. Zap, 5. Malibu, 6. Sunny. Fun fact: Before his Gladiator career, Gemini was on Card Sharks and Press Your Luck. No whammy!

American League

East: Yankees

Central: Indians

West: Astros

Wild cards: Red Sox, Rays

National League

East: Phillies

Central: Cardinals

West: Dodgers

Wild cards: Nationals, Cubs

The Dodgers' clubhouse must include truth sermon. First, Manny Macahdo admits he doesn't like to hustle and now Yasiel Puig announces he didn't work hard.

I do think the Dodgers tried to cleanse its locker room of potential clubhouse cancers (Puig, Matt Kemp, Manny Machado), although it could have added one with Russell Martin. Basically moving from Puig to A.J. Pollock is an even trade for this season. I wouldn't call it a big acquisition.

Everybody has the Dodgers winning the NL West this season, so they get plenty of respect. They're the NL favorite to get to the World Series again. It would be nice if they won it this time.

Much like Punxsutawney Phil, the sun has gone back to its hole for six more weeks. But it will return in May and then everybody will complain it's too hot come June.

I would just ask Shorty to save me.

Reno has been out of Jumbo Jacks since December as a result. The average free throw percent in college basketball is 70.5 percent. Opponents are shooting free throws at a 66.5 percent clip at Lawlor Events Center this season (129-of-194). Jumbo Jacks impact free throw percentage.

Nevada is shooting 72 percent from the free throw line this season, so it's above the national average. Anything can happen in one game of free throw shooting. It's not that big of an issue. Against Utah State, Nevada's stars had bad games; its transition defense was poor; it didn't move the ball well; and it was playing an NCAA Tournament-caliber team on the road before a soldout crowd. Nevada lost by five to a good team on the road. It happens.

Yes, the Barracuda will be in Reno past 2019.

No, Tiger Woods does not win the 2019 Masters.

No, I do not putt with the flagstick in.

Peace & Love to you, too.

We've been doing Chutes and Ladders of late. We also enjoy Sorry and Yahtzee, with the 4-year-old being the all-time roller. For a little more advanced stuff, Ticket to Ride.

We'd like to turn the NSN Daily TV show into a daily podcast. Our shows are 43 minutes after the commercials are taken out, so that's a goal for the future, a nice 43-minute podcast every day.

People read more after wins than losses, although punching a fire extinguisher case definitely gooses the numbers.

This week's Mailbag inquiry did get the most responses ever by a wide margin. Who knew punching fire extinguisher glass would elicit so much energy from the fans. I try to answer all the questions, but shut it down around 4 p.m. to start editing.

They chant, "N-E-V-A-D-A We Are Nevada!" I, however, am not Nevada. I am a human being made up almost exclusively of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. Time for this particular bag of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus to call it a day and head home. I hope you (and your particular set of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus) has a good remainder of your evening.

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