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Murray's Mailbag: Which way is Nevada's Jordan Brown leaning?

Jordan Brown
Retaining Jordan Brown remains a priority for Nevada. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

The Nevada basketball team almost has a starting five! That's big news in Northern Nevada as the Wolf Pack tries to reassemble a roster that jumped into the transfer portal following its coaching change from Eric Musselman to Steve Alford. Most of your questions this week pertained to Nevada basketball, but we have a nice potpourri starting around the midpoint of this week's Monday Twitter 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).

Jordan Brown remains in the transfer portal, with some major schools angling to get him on their campus, although I think he'll return to Nevada. He's in a different position than a lot of Wolf Pack players who put their names in the portal. He can get high-major offers, offers from Top 25 teams. But the downside of taking any of those offers is having to sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules, and since Brown played sparingly this season, that'd almost be like sitting out two straight years. A host of Wolf Pack players presumably went to see Brown this weekend and then emerged in the shadowy night next to a figure who looked like Brown. If Brown ends up going somewhere else, this will end up being akin to Danyelle Musselman's "no plans to go anywhere" comment five days before Eric Musselman took the Arkansas job. It would raise false hope.

But Brown is a perfect fit for Steve Alford's offense, which made stars (and future NBA players) out of Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow at New Mexico. Staying at Nevada also would mean Brown gets to play this season rather than redshirt and he'd be a focal point of the offense. Plus, he likes Reno, the campus and the fans and would remain close to home since his parents live in Roseville. The fit is still very good, although it is always hard to turn down blueblood programs. I think the pros out-weigh the cons of staying at Nevada, and I think he'll ultimately makes that choice and stays in silver and blue. But until he takes his name out of the portal and publicly says he's coming back to Nevada, there's still some doubt.

I said on today's NSN Daily that Brown has an 85 percent chance of returning, so I'll stick with that.

Super solid. When this started, I said getting four of Jazz Johnson, Jalen Harris, Eric Parrish, Lindsey Drew and Jordan Brown back would be a "win." So far, three are back with the other two still open. Add K.J. Hymes, who is in, and potentially Shamiel Stevenson and Nisré Zouzoua and Nevada would probably be the favorite to win the Mountain West no matter what Steve Alford does with his remaining scholarships. I see Brown returning. I also see Stevenson coming back. I'd say the same about Zouzoua, which would leave Drew as the most likely to leave on the list of players in the portal. But, as you mentioned, a group including Harris, Parrish and Brown would be a nice nucleus not only for this year but also for the next two seasons since they're all juniors or younger.

Well, Nevada only has four players committed right now, so not much of a starting five. Get back to me in a couple of weeks.

That'd give Nevada a starting five of Lindsey Drew, Jalen Harris, Jazz Johnson, Eric Parrish and Jordan Brown. That's a really solid group. They'd be fringe top 50 in the nation depending on how the bench is filled out. You'd need a solid bench to get into the top-50 mix. But that starting five would be the best in the Mountain West, especially with Utah State's Neemias Queta putting his name in the NBA draft.

Not for me. I had Brown second on my list of most important players to retain and Drew at fourth. So they're both important, but both Jazz Johnson and Jalen Harris can play point guard while Nevada's roster, even if Brown comes back, lacks size. With Brown, the Wolf Pack's frontcourt depth would be a major issue. Plus, Brown has three more years of eligibility left whereas Drew only has one. Both are vital, but Brown is the more important player to retain for next year and in the long term.

1. New Mexico: They support their program even when it's bad.

2. San Diego State: The Aztecs have become San Diego's "team" with the Chargers leaving.

3. UNLV: UNLV's base has whittled down, but Rebels fans are still passionate about hoops.

4. Nevada: Wolf Pack fans have brought it in recent seasons, but it has been pretty lackluster outside of now and 2004-08.

5. Utah State: Aggies fans are similar to Nevada fans. Great when things are going well, but hard to find when they're not winning big.

6. Wyoming: The Cowboys usually have strong support as the only Division I school in the state.

7. Boise State: Boise State is clearly a football school, although Leon Rice has drawn some big crowds over the years.

8. Fresno State: The Bulldogs don't support basketball to the level it should, especially given the quality of teams it puts forth and the arena it plays in.

9. Colorado State: The Rams have never really drawn big in basketball even when it was winning at a high level.

10. Air Force: The Falcons can get decent student crowds, but the overall attendance tends to lag.

11. San Jose State: When it comes to MW lists, you know who will always be last.

If Lindsey Drew, Jazz Johnson and Jalen Harris are all on the roster next season, I'd start Drew at point guard. Harris will play with the ball in his hands at times (ala Caleb Martin to Lindsey Drew's Cody Martin), but Drew is the best true point guard on the team. I don't think it'd be a big issue, and given Drew and Harris' size, you could play all three together and get away with it on defense since Jazz Johnson (5-10) could defend the point guard with Drew (6-4 and long) and Harris (6-5 and long) able to cover the wings. Having too many good ball-handlers is not usually an issue, and while Harris and Johnson might want to be the team's point guard, neither were really point guards at their previous stops (Louisiana Tech and Portland, respectively). Drew gets that gig for me.

At UCLA, he used mostly a seven-player rotation with the bench averaging 57 minutes per game, with a high of 70 bench minutes per game in his first season and a low of 49 bench minutes per game in his second season. Nevada last year got about 58 minutes per game from its bench. So Alford's bench usage over his UCLA tenure was pretty much in line with Eric Musselman's bench usage at Nevada. Alford used his bench more at New Mexico, which I would guess he'll do at Nevada. He had some really high-end players at UCLA and extended their minutes, which shrunk the bench usage.

Yes. Alford's 2012-13 New Mexico team played David Carter's Wolf Pack twice and won both games. The first one was a 75-62 win in The Pit and the second one a 75-62 win at Lawlor. Same score. New Mexico was ranked 20th in the nation in the first game and 12th in the nation in the second game. Nevada went 12-19 that season, so you might have expected the margins to be larger than they were. Alford also played against Nevada in 2013-14 during his first season at UCLA. The Bruins, ranked 19th in the nation, won that game, 105-84. That was understandably more lopsided. So, Alford is 3-0 against Nevada.

No. San Jose State might be bad, but it's still a Division I program with Division I players. Nevada isn't beating any Division I program three-on-five. They're not even doing that in a four-on-five situation if you added K.J. Hymes, who has committed since you sent this tweet.

Over the next four seasons:

* Nevada: 94 wins, three MW titles, two NCAA Tournaments

* UNLV: 75 wins, one MW title, one NCAA Tournament

* Arkansas: 83 wins, zero SEC titles, two NCAA Tournaments

* UCLA: 92 wins, two Pac-12 titles, two NCAA Tournaments

No official announcements, but Brandon Chambers, the Wolf Pack's director of operations last season, will be on Alford's staff in some role and has played a part in keeping the roster together. Kory Barnett, who worked for Alford at UCLA, also will be on the staff in some role and has been in Reno since the new coach's introductory presser. There's a nucleus in place for the staff even if it isn't fully finished.

I think Jalen Harris with an assist from Jazz Johnson.

I haven't talked to him yet, but I think it is mostly coming from Jalen Harris, who has taken the lead to try and put this thing back together. It is interesting he wrote on his tweet announcing he was returning that the program is about the people (aka fans) and is bigger than one player, one coach, etc. Maybe the players didn't like that their coach was in the spotlight so much last season?

One of the shadows was me. I can confirm that. And I'll take a PayDay slightly over a Butterfinger. That one is close. I like them both.

It's a really good sign Nevada's committed players are being proactive in trying to get the currently uncommitted players back in the fold. It shows the love they have espoused for each other during this process was real and not just a good soundbite. On the other hand, you'd like to have seen all of these players already re-commit by now if you're a Wolf Pack fan.

The standard for "good" has fallen for San Jose State, I guess. Spartans baseball is 18-22 overall and 12-9 in the MW this season. The team is ranked 149th in the RPI. Only New Mexico is worse among MW teams. But SJSU baseball is better than SJSU football and SJSU basketball. I'll give them that. The standard is just really low. A reminder of my favorite SJSU stat: Since moving to the MW in 2013, SJSU hasn't posted a winning record in football, men's basketball, women's basketball or baseball in a season yet.

1. Head-to-head result

2. Best record against best team in conference; if tied, best record against second-best team, etc.

3. Draw from the commissioner

This could come into play in the MW baseball standings as Nevada and UNLV are tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the MW and split the season series 3-3.

I'll give Nevada a 20 percent chance of beating Oregon State in one of their two games.

I'll give Nevada two out of three at Air Force, which is a really tough place to play.

And Nevada would probably place 11th out of 12 Pac-12 schools (Colorado doesn't have a team). Nevada's RPI would rank 11th in the Pac-12 right now ahead of only Washington State, which Nevada took two out of three against earlier this season. Jay Johnson's Arizona is getting knocked around in the Pac-12 this season (18-19 overall, 6-12 in the Pac-12). The Pac-12 is good at baseball.

I don't know if I want to reveal names who want to be private. Just because they make donations doesn't mean I get to mention them in public. But Matt White at Basin Street Properties and Rick Reviglio at Western Nevada Supply are two big names who are public with their support. Four of the local casinos chipped in big money to supplement Musselman's contract, and presumably have done that same with Alford. Same with Dolan Auto Group and Strengthen the Pack. In all, there were more than three dozens boosters who helped give Musselman a raise up to $1 million. It has definitely been a community-wide push.

I am in favor of this, so I won't give a reason against it. My rule would be any foul above five (in college) or six (in the NBA) gives the other team one free throw and possession of the ball. Disqualifying star players is stupid. It doesn't happen in other sports.

I believe Coach Alford will have a Twitter handle and it will largely be run by Nevada's social media staff.

14.5 days. It is a little odd seeing #OperationPackBack tweets coming from the players rather than the coach, but we must remember Alford and Musselman are very different in the kind of social media promotion they practice.

Probably illegal, but you can read the NCAA bylaws on crowd-sourcing here.

Yes. Even if all of these portal players come back, Nevada will have at least four scholarships to hand out to new recruits. I don't have any specific names to pass along just yet, but there's a certain high school big man who took an unofficial visit to Nevada under Musselman who could be on campus soon.

I wouldn't hold your breath there.

There is no need for a firm timeline. As noted above, Alford already has four scholarships to play with. It's going to be hard to fill the 13 scholarships with quality players as is. No reason to rush a decision when you have so many free spots.

It does. Nevada is now investing in its program like a high-level Mountain West program. Its basketball budget in the most recent fiscal year was $4.746 million, more than double what it was when I wrote about the "champagne taste on a beer budget" line. Nevada now ranks fourth among MW teams in basketball budget behind San Diego State, UNLV and Colorado State, whose number is inflated because it is still paying off fired coach Larry Eustachy. Wolf Pack fans are now supporting basketball at a high level and the program is being funded at a higher level, so the expectations should rise along with that. Champagne taste on a champagne budget now.

Nevada ranked 73rd in the nation (out of 353 Division I teams) in assist percentage, so the Wolf Pack was better at moving the ball than many fans want to believe. It is worth pointing out Nevada was 28th in that category the year before and 30th the season prior to that, so last year did see a fall in assists (i.e. sharing the ball). Part of that is because Nevada didn't shoot the three well last season, and you get a lot of cheap assists off made threes. Nevada ranked 302nd in assist percentage in Mussemlan's first year because it couldn't shoot. The ball was a little more sticky this season, and I'm sure guys trying to showcase for the NBA was a minor factor, especially late in the season, but the ball movement was still well above average when compared top the nation average.

No, although I did have some fringe Vegas media argue with me over Twitter publicly before issuing apologizes via DMs. It's also funny when Las Vegas radio people ask us to come on their shows they text us asking if we can "talk Nevada basketball" but then refer to the school at UNR on the air.

The two locks are Kirk Triplett and Michael Allen, who both had successful PGA careers (and even better Champions Tour careers). I'd also throw Richard Barcelo on there since he also had pro success in addition to his stellar play at Nevada. The last two slots are tougher, but I'll go with recent graduate Grant Booth (lowest stroke average in Nevada history) and Kevin Lucas, who has had some pro success. Those are my five, but you also can argue in favor of Scott Smith, Sprague Kolp, Adam Hagen and one day maybe Joey Vrzich. Pretty strong history of quality golf at Nevada. And I know you said "men's golfers," but we also must acknowledge Parry Sheehan is the best golfer in Nevada history.

As for this year's team, Nevada is rated second in the GolfStat rankings among MW teams behind only UNLV, so I'd expect a top-three finish. They'll be in NCAA Regionals. I'll also go out on a limb and put Nevada in the NCAA Championships. This is probably the best team in program history.

How many strokes am I getting? Alford seems to love golf and was a pro athlete, albeit in another sport. I'm guessing his handicap is 6 or 7. Mine is 16 or 17. Give me 10 strokes and I'm in.

Me? I have no idea how good a golfer Geoff is, but I'm a little better than the average golfer despite a horrible slice (I line up aiming 50 yards left of my intended target. No joke).

Nevada has already moved back to a more Pistol-style offense, which is why it's called by some with the Wolf Pack the "Air Pistol." I think picking one path would be wiser. The Wolf Pack is kind of bastardizing two very different offenses at this point, and the reason Nevada was so good last year was because of the defense. The offense was average, at best, in my opinion. It really depends on who wins the quarterback job, too. More Pistol stuff makes sense with Cristian Solano at quarterback, but it makes no sense with Carson Strong at quarterback (or Malik Henry, too). Nevada hasn't really gone all-in on running the Air Raid. I think it'd behoove the Wolf Pack to go all-in on the Air Raid (or whatever scheme Jay Norvell ultimately prefers).

And funny question on pancakes versus French toast. We made both for our Easter brunch yesterday. I make the pancakes, and my wife made the French toast. I told her nobody was going to eat my pancakes because people like French toast more. I was right. All of the French toast was eaten. Only three pancakes (out of 11 people) were eaten, and I had one of them. I like French toast more, and I think most people agree.

It has gone as expected. Cristian Solano is still the frontrunner with Carson Strong pushing him pretty well. The big surprise to me has been Malik Henry. He's legit. I did not have high hopes for him after watching Last Chance U, but he's got the goods, dude. The arm strength is there, the accuracy is there and he seems to be fitting in OK with the rest of the team. I'll be curious to see what he looks like when he goes live since standing in the pocket and taking a hit was an issue at his junior college, but he's really solid. I wouldn't be surprised to see him start some games at Nevada. He's better than David Cornwell or Austin Kafentzis, two previous high school stars who didn't pan out with the Wolf Pack.

It would make sense for the defense to take a step back, but I'd note the defensive line, linebackers and cornerbacks are all pretty solid. Nevada returns two starters at each of those positions. The front should be fine. The big question is at safety, where Nevada has a lot of athleticism but no experience (almost all of those players are converted offensive guys). Nevada's offense will have to improve for the Wolf Pack to win eight games again, and that's always hard to predict with a new starting quarterback and a new starters at the three interior offensive line positions. If Nevada's offense isn't better in 2019 than it was in 2018, it's going to struggle to make a bowl game.

Winning big is the first step. It felt like Eric Musselman became essential to the community in a way Nevada football has struggled to do in recent seasons. That's why the boosters stepped up to keep him, and then stepped up to pay Alford to keep the program where it was. It's an open question whether the booster can do that in two different sports. They probably can. But until the football program feels like it is essential to the community, it will be a tough sell.

Is Canelo Alvarez still on steroids? If so, I'll take him in a split decision.

No. That would be financial lunacy. Nevada would have to leave the Mountain West, where it gets $4 million or $5 million a year. It would have to give up the seven-figure pay games Nevada football reels in basically every season. There's no reason for the Wolf Pack to drop football. It's coming off an eight-win, bowl-victory season. The fans just need to show up more. Dropping football would nuke Nevada basketball in the process.

I don't see the appeal to the MW of adding New Mexico State. Yes, they're solid in basketball, but they're bad in football and adding the Aggies would just slice the TV money and NCAA Tournament units by another sliver. Getting BYU back in the conference would be a slam dunk for the MW, but the Cougars appear to be too proud of ever come back (and their ESPN TV deal might be too good to return). Adding NMSU and deleting SJSU would be a net positive, but not a big push forward, and I doubt the MW ever kicks SJSU out of the conference anyway.

Jelly beans. Chocolate bunny is a mid-major recruit and peeps are walk-ons. But jelly beans are high-major material.

Mike & Ike, baby! Wait, that's not an Easter candy?

The new The Lion King is not considered live action since real people or real animals are not used. Media reports stating it as "live action" are inaccurate. It uses photorealistic computer-generated animation ala The Jungle Book remake and thus is not live action. Either way, the last time I've been this pumped for a movie was Black Panther, and that didn't disappoint. Disney's recent "live action" movies haven't been great, so they better not mess up The Lion King.

I'm sure we'll have some Reno Rodeo coverage (mostly interviews) during the event. I'd like to interview a bull. And I have not been bumping Old Town Road remix because I don't listen to bad music.

During last year's Reno mayoral race, candidate Azzi Shirazi referred to herself as "The Hero of Reno" until RGJ reporter Anjeanette Damon, who at the time was my colleague, basically ended her candidacy with her strong reporting. It is then when I switched the location on my Twitter profile to "Hero of Sparks." But if I was really Sparks' hero, I'd be able to get Ernie's All-American Burger to return to town.

Great. Our St. Bernard is now 14 months old and largely has grown out of the puppy stage with the exception of mauling strangers, which she likes to do as a first impression. She's probably 100 pounds right now, so she has a little growing left to do. I just wish she had a bigger backyard to play in. One day we'll move up to The Deluxe Apartment in Fresno with a big yard for her to play in.

If you stop by the station, I'll get you something NSN branded. I think we're out of shirts, but I'll find something for you.

I am a passive Star Wars watcher. I've seen all of the new ones and they're fine, but I cannot give insight into the intricacies of the movie series.

I have tickets for Saturday night. I'll give it an 8 out of 10 in terms of excitement. And Thanos is going to die while all of the people snapped to death come back. I'm mostly worried about Loki. I hope he's not dead for good.

The biggest obstacle is the sport itself. Baseball is weird. You can be the best team in the game and still have only a one-in-five chance of winning the World Series. It takes a lot of luck to win the World Series. It takes a lot of good timing. The Dodgers are going to win the NL West. They're most likely going to be in the World Series again. But weird things happen in the playoffs. And Joe Kelly is bad, so he'll probably ruin the Dodgers' chances, too.

I'm fine with baseball shifts. Players need to learn how to bunt down the third-base line if they don't want to be shifted against. There's also evidence that shifts don't actually prevent runs.

I drove from New Orleans to the Oregon Coast once, so lots of options in there. If you're starting from Reno, I'd do the Oregon Coast drive. It's beautiful and you can take it at a slow pace and hit a lot of cool spots. I'm also going to Kona in about 45 days, although you can't drive from Reno to Hawaii unless you have a floating car. But Oregon Coast or Grand Canyon would be my pick if your starting point is Reno. And I'm going to start working on that floating car idea now, so we'll have to end the Mailbag now. We'll chat again next week.

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