Murray's Mailbag: Which Mountain West mascot wins a royal rumble?

Mountain West
Mountain West. (Handout)

Today has been crazy and my heads hurts, so let's just get to the questions for the weekly Monday Twitter Mailbag. 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.)

Let's use the Mountain West Tournament format with the top-five teams getting byes. Our seeds are:

1. Wolf (Nevada)

2. Spartan (San Jose State)

3. Lobo (New Mexico)

4. Aztec (San Diego State)

5. Ram (Colorado State)

6. Bronco (Boise State)

7. Bulldog (Fresno State)

8. Rebel (UNLV)

9. Cowboy (Wyoming)

10. Falcon (Air Force)

11. Aggie (Utah State)

First round

No. 8 (Rebel) vs. No. 9 (Cowboy): This is a classic matchup. The cowboy sneaks a rope into the arena and ties down the rebel with minimal effort to advance to the next round.

No. 7 (Bulldog) vs. No. 10 (Falcon): As mentioned in the question, the location is a gladiator-style arena and not an octagon, so the falcon flies away, giving the bulldog the victory.

No. 6 (Bronco) vs. No. 11 (Aggie): I don't know what an Aggie is, but Utah State's mascot is a bull. So we have bronco vs. bull. The bronco bucks the bull's face. Bronco advances.


No. 1 (Wolf) vs. No. 9 (Cowboy): If you've seen the movie The Grey, you know a human can beat a wolf. But this cowboy is no Liam Neeson, who has a particular set of skills to win that matchup. The wolf tears apart the cowboy to advance.

No. 4 (Aztec) vs. No. 5 (Ram): The ram scores the upset after headbutting the Aztec's shield, cracking it in half, before a fatal headbutt to the stomach.

No. 2 (Spartan) vs. No. 7 (Bulldog): The bulldog got a de facto win in the first round when the falcon flew away, but no such luck this time. The bulldog lays down to take a nap and the spartan kennels him to move on.

No. 3 (Lobo) vs. No. 6 (Bronco): The bronco has the reach advantage, but the lobo has the teeth advantage and makes quick work in this quarterfinal matchup.


No. 1 (Wolf) vs. No. 5 (Ram): We've seen this matchup before and while this video does not actually display a bighorn sheep, the outcome was pretty clear. The wolf advances.

No. 2 (Spartan) vs. No. 3 (Lobo): San Jose State accidentally sends in a competitor from a Spartan endurance race rather than a real Spartan who has weapons and protection. Typical SJSU. The result? A quick feast for the Lobo.


No. 1 (Wolf) vs.No. 3 (Lobo): While wolves run in a pack, they will defend their territories in fierce fashion if food is scarce. And food is scarce in the gladiator arena. The wolves fight to the death. Literally. They both die in the battle, leaving the falcon, which flew out of the stadium in its first-round matchup the ultimate champion of our Mountain West mascot royal rumble. Twist ending!

(I put way too much time and effort into that answer, didn't I?)

If we define such a player as somebody who never made an all-conference team or led Nevada in scoring, I'd go:

1. Lindsey Drew (although plenty of people appreciated him)

2. Kyle Shiloh (the most overlooked piece of the Nick Fazekas teams)

3. Garry Hill-Thomas (had an amazing impact considering he was a shooting guard who hit just seven threes in his career)

4. Corey Jackson (there's never been a tougher Wolf Pack basketball player)

5. Tyron Criswell (junkyard dog)

And while he was a star, I don't think people realize how good Marcelus Kemp was, especially on the big stage. He didn't play much in the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 year of 2004, but in his three NCAA Tournament games after that, Kemp averaged 26.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.7 blocks per game while shooting 52.5 percent from the field. He was the ideal No. 2 player on great teams.

I don't see how Nevada will be better next season than it was this year after losing Lindsey Drew, Jazz Johnson and Nisre Zouzoua this offseason. That's a combined 37.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game while shooting 43.6 percent from the field, including 41.2 percent from three (on 188 made threes). The best path would be to become a much better defensive team with the additions of Desmond Cambridge and Warren Washington. Nevada should be better defensively. But it's going to take a step back offensively. Can Nevada make the NCAA Tournament by winning the Mountain West Tournament? Yes. But I don't see Nevada being good enough for at-large consideration in 2020-21.

The easiest way for Nevada to overachieve the expectations I set forth in the previous answer is for its five-player freshman class to make a big impact next season. Among those players is Je'Lani Clark, a combo guard from San Francisco who gives me Deonte Burton vibes (those are high expectations, obviously). But Clark is a great athlete who plays bigger than his size (he's listed at 6-foot-2). He's adept at getting to the rim and has a solid shooting stroke, so he should be able to keep teams honest with his shot. Clark and Tre Coleman have the two highest ceilings among those five freshmen in my estimation. Nevada's early-signing period certainly looks better now than it did when those players signed. Four of them are still unrated on, but Coach Alford made his feelings about recruiting rankings known in November.

Here is a look at Clark's latest mixtape.

The coronavirus makes it much more difficult for Jalen Harris to turn pro this offseason. The NBA draft combine will most likely be canceled and pre-draft workouts with NBA teams will likely be shut down. Harris wasn't on many draft boards, so he was going to have to upgrade his stock in the pre-draft workouts, which now look like they're off the table. So barring a grad transfer, it looks like Harris will be back for his senior season. I'll put the odds of Harris wearing silver and blue next year at 90 percent.

The roster has to be developed from within. The pieces are more or less set for the next two to three years. There aren't many scholarships left in the 2020-22 classes, so Coach Alford and his staff have to develop the players they have in campus. That was his formula at New Mexico. That's what he's trying to do at Nevada. Worth noting Nevada is Coach Alford's fifth Division I stop and he's won a regular-season title with only one of those schools (New Mexico, where he won four such titles). He won conference tournament titles with three of those teams. Coach Alford's teams at New Mexico weren't necessarily star-laden squads, although he developed some NBA players there. It was more about depth, team work, chemistry and daily improvement, which is what he's gunning for at Nevada. It's not splashy, but it works over the long haul.

You could even notice he was injured and missed a full season. He had career highs in points (11.1), rebounds (6.6) and field-goal percentage (49.1) and was above his career averages in assists (4.0), steals (1.4), 3-point accuracy (39.8 percent) and free throw shooting (74.2 percent). He had career highs in PER (19.4) and win shares (3.6). I'm not sure you could have asked for more, although I would have liked to see him a little more aggressive offensively. I think he could have scored 16-plus points per game with efficiency if he pushed the envelope more on offense, but that's not really his DNA. His senior season was his best individual year during his Wolf Pack career. Credit him for rehabbing so well.

It's a very good addition. Grant Sherfield had offers from UCLA, Kansas, Minnesota, Baylor, Wake Forest, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas and others before signing with Wichita State. He logged 25-plus minutes per game as a freshman for a Shockers team that was nationally ranked for a good chunk of the year. He's a good defensive player and a solid offensive one (he averaged 8.1 points per game as a freshman, albeit with bad efficiency). He's a strong talent. Nevada will lose Jalen Harris after next season, so Sherfield will help replace some of his production. It's always good to have two transfers in the pipeline for the following year (Nevada will have one in Sherfield). It's forward thinking to have some transfers redshirting.

It does hamstring Nevada quite a bit moving forward. The Wolf Pack has filled its 13 scholarships and has only one scholarship available in the 2021 class and two available in 2022. That's the downside of taking a sit-out transfer instead of a grad transfer where you'd get the scholarship back for 2021. But Sherfield is talented enough it's worth using up that scholarship. Alford signed Sherfield when he was UCLA's head coach, so if he was good enough for the Bruins, he's good enough for the Wolf Pack. I like the addition a lot and he'll fill a need in the post-Harris era.

The addition of Grant Sherfield should close the door on this possibility, but Josh Hall was actually fine when he started at Missouri State. Here are his splits.

As a starter: 9.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.3 apg while shooting 47.4/31.2/65.4

As a reserve: 3.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.7 apg while shooting 35.1/23.5/56.5

It was always a confidence thing for Hall. He's very good when he's confident. He would have been a solid fit as a grad transfer who could add length, depth and experience on the wing, but the 3-point shooting needs to be better. And Nevada didn't really need scoring next year from the wing. It needed defense and and a glue guy, which Hall could have filled.

Well, Nevada did get a commitment from Wichita State transfer Grant Sherfield today. The Wolf Pack's class was already pretty stocked with players after five signed in the early period. Less information on the Wolf Pack's recruiting leaks out under Coach Alford than Coach Musselman, which might give the impression of less active recruiting, but that's not the case. The Wolf Pack probably recruits more under Alford than Musselman in terms of getting out and seeing players in person. Plus, the Wolf Pack has already had a number of class of 2021 prospects on campus. They're plenty active even if the recruiting isn't as transparent.

It will definitely slow down the recruiting cycle, but at least everybody is playing by the same rules since the NCAA instituted uniform guidelines. It's a good thing Nevada basketball signed five players in November and added one more Monday. It's now full. It'd be tough to get a lot of commits in the late period if you can't have on-campus visits, and I think that policy will be place for a while. That would have made Coach Musselman's formula of waiting until after the season to recruit a lot of transfers more difficult to pull off at Nevada (at Arkansas, he landed four high-level high school prospects early). In terms of football, it will push back the visits and commitments by a couple of months.

Technically, scholarships are renewable by the school every year, so, yes, you could take away scholarships if you'd like, but it's a horrible practice and one that is frowned up and could hurt you in recruiting long term. It's doing the player dirty. But it does happen. UNLV went five over the scholarship limit this offseason, so it is working through the process of getting back down to 13. Nevada went over the limit under Coach Musselman before shedding players. Ehab Amin and Vincent Lee were victims there.

I do not think Nevada should take away scholarships from any players this offseason. Winning is nice, but I'm not a win-at-all-costs kind of guy. Plus, who would Nevada take a scholarship away from. The team's seven returning scholarship players are Jalen Harris, Warren Washington, Desmond Cambridge, Zane Meeks, K.J. Hymes, Robby Robinson and Kane Milling. The first five aren't getting cut and Robinson was a starter last year. You're not cutting him.

I assume you are referencing Coach Musselman coming on NSN Daily last week for a couple of segments. I'm sure part of that was an attempt to try and mend some fences at Nevada. I don't think he's embarrassed by anything. Yes, the departure could have been handled better, but fans are going to be upset whenever their coach leaves for a better-paying job. Coach Musselman is very aware of how he is perceived, so I'm sure he wants as many people in Nevada to remember him and his era fondly. He was always very kind to me and my coverage, although he rubbed some people the wrong way when he was at Nevada.

Zak Basch, his former communications manager and operations director with the Reno Bighorns, put it best when describing Musselman's personality in a story I wrote a few years ago. "It's one of those personalities that's hard to describe, but it comes down to how much you feel like he cares. It's sincere that he cares and you buy into that. You just believe him. You want to believe him and you do believe him. And he treats everybody the same. Everybody is important to him."

So, people bought into Coach Musselman and the potential he could make Nevada his forever job. When he left, they were hurt. I get that feeling even though I kept writing this would be a stepping-stone job for him. I do know he loved and valued his time in Reno. That's not a facade. I do think there's a part of him that misses it and will miss it no matter what job he has. But he was always bound for bigger things. Years will pass and the memories of his era will become fonder for Nevada fans. What he did here was phenomenal.

I like Wyoming's hire of Jeff Linder. He has head-coaching experience (three 20-wins seasons in four years at Northern Colorado), he has Mountain West experience (an assistant coach at Boise State from 2010-16), he has recruited the mountain area (stints at Northern Colorado, Colorado, Boise State and Weber State) and he is good with Xs and Os/development. Everything lines up well. He inherits a roster that has decent young talent, too. As for Air Force, that's such a tough position to hire for. I'm not surprised it is taking a while. The coronavirus certainly doesn't help.

Personal accomplishments as in individual sports? If that's the case, the list is:

1. Sharae Zheng wins two NCAA titles in 2016

2. Nicola Ader wins three All-American honors in outdoor track and field in 2019

3. Nicole Wadden finishes ninth at nationals in the heptathlon

4. Krysta Palmer's senior season

5. Dempster Christenson wins two All-American honors in rifle in 2012

I don't think you're going to see a major drop, although people will certainly have less disposable income in the coming years. This is going to tank the world economy, but there's nothing we can do about that. The best thing we can do is kill the virus first and worry about the economy second. You can't start recovering until the virus is gone, and that's going to require many months of self-isolation. We can't take shortcuts. So, yes, I could see a decrease in sports attendance across the landscape, but I don't foresee double-digit drops at Nevada in 2020-21 because of it.

And I'll take Big Red over Juicy Fruit. But nothing beats Big League Chew. I also miss Fruit Stripe.

Just once in the "major" sports. That was during the recruitment of Edgar Jones, one of two Nevada basketball players who has his number retired. Jones’ journey to Reno was controversial. An investigation into his high-school transcripts put the athletic department on one-year probation. Dick Vitale, then the coach at Detroit, has been fingered for alerting the NCAA to the potential violations, something Vitale denied. From a Sports Illustrated story:

According to a resentful Jones, the NCAA did not start sniffing around until he became a star. The university insisted that according to the transcript sent by Barringer High, Jones had been graduated with a 2.0, or C, average. The NCAA investigators, although denied access to Jones' records by law, insisted that something was rotten in Reno. UNR was put on indefinite probation in September 1976. When the school relented and declared Jones ineligible, the NCAA changed the probation to one year.

But, as the NCAA now knows all too well, Nevada is an ornery state. Attorney Frank Fahrenkopf, a UNR grad and state chairman of the Republican Party, went to bat for Jones. Judge John E. Gabrielli, also a UNR alumnus, handed down an injunction forcing the school to let Jones play, which it did—with pleasure. Later, Nevada-Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian, who is having his own troubles with the NCAA, successfully used similar courtroom tactics. To NCAA sleuths, it will be the equivalent of San Quentin playing Sing Sing when the two Nevada schools meet next week.

Nevada never had to vacant games in that matter. Additionally, an investigation into the department in 2009-10 led to a three-year probation period, but that was over men's golf. From ESPN:

The NCAA placed Nevada's athletic department on probation for three years and fined it $1,500 on Thursday because of an ex-golf coach's major rules violations but concluded there was no proof he gambled on college games and cleared all other sports of wrongdoing. The NCAA investigation that began more than two years ago determined that Rich Merritt, former coach of both the men's and women's teams at various times, bought athletes beer, paid for meals and lodging, and helped cover travel expenses for one to try to qualify for the U.S. Open. He also broke the rules by paying one woman Wolf Pack golfer $25 to complete two "crass acts" on a dare, one "involving the regurgitation of food and the other, spitting," the NCAA said.

So there have been a couple of missteps, but Nevada has been pretty good at steering clear of NCAA violations.

I've thought since they hit campus Toa Taua was a more complete back than Devonte Lee, but Lee ran better than Taua last season, so I hope it is an open competition for the job and not just handed to Taua, who has started the last two seasons. It really shouldn't matter too much who starts because both should get 20-plus touches per game as the only returning scholarship running backs on the roster. Nevada only has three scholarship running backs in total for its 2020 roster, so the Wolf Pack will need both to be productive. I imagine Taua will continue to start, but Coach Norvell has shown he likes to use two backs and will play the best player.

Depends on the age, of course, but we just ordered five new games, so I'll just list those here. They are:

* Twister

* Connect Four

* Guess Who?

* Let's Go Fishin'

* Clue

1. Backgammon (not meant as a one-player game, but works well that way)

2. Solitaire

3. Yahtzee

4. Jenga

5. Scrabble

I also am going to try solo Twister when it arrives.

I stopped playing video games when I was 15, so my games are dated, but:

1. Tecmo Super Bowl

2. MarioKart

3. Bubble Bobble

4. Excitebike

5. Dr. Mario

The Olympics are now postponed, and they shouldn't be held until 2021. Not only would that be the safest path for participants and fans, but the Olympics need to send a message to the world that we need to hunker down for a good, long time. We already see America's federal government waffling on the shutdown a week after it began. The greed is strong. People value money over lives. Postponing the Olympics is the right course of action. Let's all regroup and hold them in July 2021.

Well, teachers don't get paid enough, but that has nothing to do with me staying home lately. My son is five-and-a-half years old and I've probably worked from home for 4 full years in that period. I'm used to balancing working from home while taking care of a child. It can be a difficult juggling act, but I'm thankful I've been able to do both. Right now, it is spring break, so there is no required homework. But we have been working on DreamBox, Epic! Kids and Kids A-Z Reading, which are online portals for learning. I can definitely tell my son's growth as a student over the year, so his teacher has done an excellent job and they definitely deserve more support.

I have not. The only shows in that genre that I watch are The Bachelor (but only so I know the characters for Bachelors in Paradise, which is the crown jewel of that series) and Married at First Sight. I prefer Married at First Sight because The Bachelor has become too manipulated by the producers.

I haven't traveled with football for two years, so I don't want to give out MW rankings because my info would be dated. As for your second questions:

1) BYU (Brazilian steakhouse)

2) Louisiana Tech (southern barbecue)

3) Air Force (no idea what the food was but they had a hot chocolate machine and it was cold)


2B Trea Turner

LF Christian Yelich

CF Mike Trout

RF Mookie Betts

3B Nolan Arenado

1B Cody Bellinger

C JT Realmuto

SS Corey Seager

Pitching staff

SP Walker Buehler

SP Gerrit Cole

SP Jacob deGrom

SP Shane Bieber

SP Max Scherzer

RP Josh Hader

RP Kirby Yates

RP Taylor Rogers

Tim Tebow can be the water boy and Alex Bregman and George Springer can be in charge of garbage disposal.

1. SP Josiah Gray: The Dodgers traded Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig to the Reds for Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray, two players who turned into top-100 prospects. What a steal. Downs was used to acquire Mookie Betts and Gray is a potential mid-rotation starter. Kemp and Puig didn't even make it through one year with the Reds and Wood is back on the Dodgers. That was a fleecing.

2. C Diego Cartaya: The Dodgers have had a number of top catching prospects. Will Smith made a big impact last year, Connor Wong was used as trade bait for Betts, Keibert Ruiz is a top-100 prospect and then there is Cartaya, who is only 18 but has All-Star potential. Ruiz is much closer to the big leagues, but I'd bet on Cartaya being the better player.

3. OF Luis Rodriguez: The Dodgers signed Rodriguez as a 16-year-old Venezuelan prospect to a club-record $2,667,500 signing bonus. There's a long path from 17-year-old prospect (his current age) to being big-leaguer, but Rodriguez has a huge ceiling.

4. 3B Kody Hoese: A first-round pick last year, Hoese hit just five homers in his first two college seasons at Tulane before smacking 23 as a junior when he was the American Athletic Conference player of the year. He had a strong effort in the minors last year post-draft. He has 30-homer potential in the big leagues.

5. C Keibert Ruiz: A top-40 prospect last year, Ruiz slipped in prospect rankings this season, but he's still a 21-year-old who has reached Triple-A and has plus-defense and the ability to make a lot of contact. He's a career. 299 hitter while being a couple of years young for his level.

I am not a sumo expert, but I do have Google, and the Internet tells me that the sticks (sagari ) are to mark what part of the belt is illegal to grab onto.

I hate San Diego State so much I voted Brian Dutcher my AP coach of the year and put Malachi Flynn on my first-team All-American ballot.

I tried to do this Friday and ended up waiting in the parking lot for more than an hour even after calling the restaurant three times from the parking lot. No good deed goes unpunished, I guess. So I will not recommend that place, which will remain unnamed. But I have been getting a lot of emails from The Grill At Quail Corners (since I am a rewards member). They're still producing a lot of good food, so maybe give them a try for pickup.

Interesting hypothetical. I imagine people would be more obedient to the wishes of the scientists and disease experts. These days, everybody has their cultivated social media feeds and biased networks they follow that will tell them what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. It was appalling seeing kids spring breaking on the beaches in Florida while we were being told to self-isolate. Maybe that would have happened 25 years ago, too. It hasn't helped that our leaders were calling the coronavirus a hoax or downplaying its impact a few weeks ago. The Internet should help us stay inside and self-isolate given we have Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime at our disposal. It's not that hard to listen to the experts and stay in your home. Anybody doing the opposite is just greedy and dumb.

God bless Dr. Anthony Fauci. We need facts in times like these, and Dr. Fauci is the most reliable national source of facts currently. The press conference should be 100 percent Fauci.

"Is that a banging sound coming out of the Astros' dugout?"

No. The longest version I've found online is this 8-minute, 34-second one.

I'm good. I don't need The Marijuana. As for classic movie/sports games, if I could only watch one I'll take Inglorious Bastards and Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Should the university add Tahoe to its name? No. It struggles enough with what it calls itself. And I'm a little tired of Reno trying to ride Tahoe's coattails. The proximity to Tahoe is probably the best thing about Reno, but it's 45 minutes away. They're not the same thing. But if you need a win in your quarantine, just watch the movie "Outbreak." At least we're not at that level of pandemic. Stay safe, and see y'all next week!

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