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Murray's Mailbag: Who makes Nevada basketball's Team of the Decade?

Luke Babbitt
Luke Babbitt has to be on Nevada's Team of the Decade for the 2010s. (Tyler Keck/Nevada athletics)

The Nevada football team's season opener is less than three weeks away, so most of the questions in this week's Monday Mailbag were football oriented, but we will start with a basketball question because it was the most intriguing to me. Thanks, as always, for the inquires. Without further ado ...

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

If we're doing Team of the Decade, you're looking at the 2009-10 season through the 2018-19 season, so your two-deep depth chart and three additional scholarship players (since every team gets 13 scholarships) is:

Point guard: Cody Martin/Deonte Burton

Shooting guard: Caleb Martin/Marcus Marshall

Small forward: Luke Babbitt/Kendall Stephens

Power forward: Jordan Caroline/Olek Czyz

Center: Cameron Oliver/Dario Hunt

Reserves: Lindsey Drew, Jerry Evans Jr., D.J. Fenner (credit to all of these guys for sticking around for four years)

And then toss in Josh Hall for NCAA Tournament games only since he always stepped up for those.

It's going to take a new president of the school for that dial to be moved. But the bigger issue is the university at large isn't funded robustly by the state (because we don't have an income tax), so there's less money to trickle down to athletics. Unless everybody wants to start paying income tax (they do not), then I don't expect much to change. Here is the university/student fees funding per school in the Mountain West, via the latest USA Today database.

1. Air Force, $40,260,673

2. Colorado State, $25,945,922

3. San Diego State, $25,017,562

4. UNLV, $23,577,631

5. Fresno State, $22,455,888

6. Utah State, $21,669,983

7. Hawaii, $20,371,627

8. San Jose State, $19,661,333

9. Wyoming, $19,644,204

10. New Mexico, $14,564,343

11. Boise State, $13,794,608

12. Nevada, $11,542,710

While these numbers tend to be more ballpark than 100 percent accurate, this is an issue. Nevada's university/student money is basically half the MW average of $22.453 million. It's hard to truly be competitive across the board when you're starting that far behind financially, which then makes it harder to assess how well a department is truly being run. This lack of a financial base is important to note, and underscores how well Nevada has performed in men's basketball/baseball/football over the years despite starting behind its competition. Kudos to Boise State for being 11th on this list but still being a strong department.

Yeah, I don't see how Carson Strong isn't Nevada's starting quarterback to open the season, although Jay Norvell does appear to be hedging a little. Sounds like an official starter won't be named until after Friday's second and final scrimmage and Norvell said Monday he wants to get Malik Henry back to full strength for Purdue and that Austin Kirksey also will play at some point this season. But Strong is the guy, although I wouldn't be surprised to see Strong and Henry both play early on. I'd just roll with Strong if that's your pick. Turn the program over to him. He's very talented. If you told me he had a Hall of Fame career at Nevada I would not be surprised. As for this season, if he's a full-time starter I can see 3,000 yards, 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The youth might lead to some mistakes, but he'd also make big plays. Give him four years and he'd break Nevada's drought without an all-conference quarterback honor, which dates to 2012.

He's legitimately talented. He's not all recruiting hype. He can make some amazing throws. The arm is not the issue and has never been the issue. It's been the attitude and demeanor that has held him back, although he appears to be improving there at Nevada. As Matt Mumme told me last week, “I’m really proud. Malik came here in the spring and a lot of stuff between each other was a fight. And he just had to learn and overcome some of the things that had happened to him in the past. I feel like he’s starting to settle in and I’m starting to see a lot of positives out of him. He’s tending to a minor injury right now, so he hasn’t gotten a lot of reps. But when he does get out there, he does what we ask him to do. He’s executing stuff and he’s learning the offense. The biggest thing for us is just getting him full speed back on the field where he can get some reps. In the last 7 to 8 months, I’m excited to see where he’s trending to.” Henry's junior-college position coach said he expects him to get to the NFL. He obviously has to win the Nevada job first, but that's the caliber of talent we're talking about. The Strong-Henry duo is the most talented Nevada has been at quarterback since 2009 when the Wolf Pack had two future NFL quarterbacks in Colin Kaepernick and David Fales.

With all due respect, anybody who thinks Colin Kaepernick isn't good enough to play in the NFL is a moron. The last time he played (with a horrible supporting cast), Kaepernick ranked 17th in the league in quarterback rating and 21st in QBR. He completed 196-of-331 passes (59.2 percent) for 2,241 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games. And he did so coming off multiple surgeries the offseason before. He has a better career quarterback rating than Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles and Matthew Stafford. He is tied with Tom Brady (only behind Aaron Rodgers) for second in NFL history in lowest career interception rate (1.8 percent). He's played in two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. And he's only 32 years old. He's certainly slipped some from his peak, but he was a starting-caliber quarterback (probably in the 15-20 range) in his last season in the league. There are 60 quarterback spots (at minimum) in the NFL. He belongs in the NFL, so he should scoff at the notion of going to the CFL or XFL. That's beneath him. What does he have to prove at that level? Nothing.

I'll still go with Dom Peterson despite the knee injury he suffered in Saturday's scrimmage, which could keep him out of the Purdue game. He has an excellent motor and great arm length and technique. I'll put him down for seven sacks, assuming health for the full season. Gabriel Sewell also is a guy to watch out for as he moved from inside to outside linebacker and will get more blitzing opportunities like Malik Reed did in 2018. JuCo transfer Tristan Nichols, a 6-foot-4, defensive lineman, also is a guy to watch out for. Sleeper is linebacker Maliek Broady.

Yep. That was Dom Peterson, who injured his knee. Jay Norvell said Nevada was fortunate it wasn't a season-ending injury and listed him as "day-to-day," but he'll almost certainly be out for Friday's scrimmage and the injury could potentially jeopardize his availability for the season opener.

Brandon Cooks? You mean Elijah Cooks, who is on Nevada? I'll peg Cooks and Romeo Doubs for a combined 15 touchdowns. San Jose State had 21 touchdown receptions last season, so I'll go with the Spartans even though the team lost tight end Josh Oliver to the NFL and top receiver Trey Hartley. SJSU does return Tre Walker, who is a legit big-play threat (39 catches for 714 yards and five touchdowns in 2018). I do love Doubs, though. He'll be Nevada's next NFL receiver.

Not at Nevada and I doubt anywhere else. Offenses change and grow from year to year and Nevada's Pistol probably would have developed into something else even if Ault was still the team's head coach so not to grow stale. That said, the 2007-12 offenses were pretty special, in part because of scheme of course because the Wolf Pack had Colin Kaepernick and Cody Fajardo at quarterback; Vai Taua, Luke Lippincott and Stefphon Jefferson at running back; Rishard Matthews, Marko Mitchell, Virgil Green and Zach Sudfeld as pass-catchers; and Nevada's best run of offensive linemen ever during that period. The personnel helped, but the scheme made Kaepernick and Fajardo the only players in college football history with at least 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. Ault's Pistol definitely got the most out of those two.

Colorado State's Ryan Stonehouse was second among FBS punters last season with a 48.3-yard average. He was first-team All-Mountain West and an AP mid-season All-America second-team honoree. He's the guy to beat for top MW honors. Fresno State's Blake Cusick also was named to the preseason Ray Guy Award watch list. They were the only two from the MW to make that list. Quinton Conaway has made a ton of strides during his time at Nevada and Jay Norvell has named him among the team's top prop prospects heading into the season. He could certainly win All-MW honors, especially if Nevada knocks off that rugby-style punting I despise. Rugby-style punting is for teams that don't have punters who can boot the ball. Conaway can boot the ball.

I don't know the format that will be used this season, but if Nevada does go with one offensive, one defensive and one special teams captain with additional captains for specific games like it did last season, you're most likely looking at Kaleb Fossum (offense), Lucas Weber (defense) and Quinton Conaway (special teams). Fossum and Weber represented Nevada at media days and that's usually a good signal, and Conaway makes sense on special teams.

Per the NCAA (bylaw 17.29.1.3): "An institution shall not engage in a foreign tour more than once every four years per sport. In basketball, a student-athlete shall not participate in more than one foreign tour for a particular institution." Nevada went to Costa Rica in August 2017, so my math says the Wolf Pack men can't go on another international tour until after the 2020-21 season, so that would be two offseasons from now. And I have no idea why Michigan football gets to go overseas every year, including South Africa this year, France the year prior and Italy the year before that. Seems like that's against the rules.

NFC: Eagles (East), Rams (West), Packers (North), Saints (South), Panthers (wild card), Bears (wild card)

AFC: Patriots (East), Chiefs (West), Steelers (North), Jaguars (South), Chargers (wild card), Browns (wild card).

Title games: Chiefs over Jaguars (AFC); Eagles over Saints (NFC)

Super bowl: Chiefs over Eagles, 31-24. The Kool-Aid Man finally gets his title.

You can't go wrong with Aaron Rodgers, but my list goes:

1. Saints (Drew Brees/Teddy Bridgewater)

2. Chargers (Philip Rivers/Tyrod Taylor)

3. Patriots (Tom Brady/Brian Hoyer)

4. Chiefs (Pat Mahomes/Chad Henne)

5. Rams (Jared Goff/Blake Bortles)

And looking at backup quarterback depth charts reemphasizes how much Kaepernick deserves to be in the league.

Antonio Brown is not going to retire over a helmet. He'll play. And he'll play well. But the Raiders aren't very good, so you're looking at 6-10. I wasn't high on the John Gruden hiring when it happened, and nothing that occurred last year changed my mind.

Saquon Barkley, then Alvin Kamara, then Christian McCaffrey.

Sleepers include Jameis Winston (great new system and his team will be behind and have to throw a lot), Josh Jacobs (one rookie running back always shines) and Kenny Golladay (could catch 100 balls with health).

We cannot kick San Jose State out of the Mountain West, but the Mountain West could kick San Jose State out of the Mountain West. I doubt that happens. I've been trying for a couple of years now. But you could tweet @MountainWest and put in the request.

San Jose State football would go undefeated in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference. In fact, I will start a petition to move the Spartans over there right now.

Correct. Nevada ranked 122nd out of 129 FBS teams last season in third-down conversion percentage at 32.4 percent. Per SB Nation's advanced metrics, the Wolf Pack had the second-most explosive offense in the MW but the fourth-least efficient. So it was boom or bust. Nevada largely struggled to throw the ball when the field shrank, either to convert a third down or to get into the end zone while in the red zone. The Wolf Pack scored touchdowns on only 55 percent of its red zone appearances last season, including only eight touchdowns passes in 47 red zone attempts. Those numbers aren't great. Nevada was able to run the ball out of the wildcat with success in short-yardage situations but has to be able to move the ball through the air better in crucial plays. That shouldn't be an issue given the Wolf Pack's size at receiver, but it was last year. Nevada's big receivers need to win one-on-one battles more often and the quarterback has to be better on big plays.

I'll sell the naming rights to my Twitter handle/name for the low, low price of $999 annually. Just send the cash to 1790 Vassar Street with the new handle and we have a done deal.

Red. As a reminder, red is the best flavor of every candy, whether it is cherry, strawberry, apple, watermelon or even pomegranate. Let's just avoid the cranberry flavor. Red is a flavor, not a color.

Go to Panini's website and wait until the company releases them for purchase? Twin brother, Caleb Martin, is selling two of signed game-worn Nevada jerseys from last season, too.

I did list Robby Robinson III as my top surprise breakout guy in last week's Mailbag, so I wouldn't say it was desperate. Nevada had a lot of spots to fill and wasn't working from a position of strength in the 2019 class, so there were certainly some reaches, but that doesn't mean some of the additions won't work out. Robinson didn't have any other Division I offers, but he does one thing really well: rebound, which is usually the stat that translates best from level to level. He's not going to be a star, but he doesn't have to be. If he can rebound, play tough defense and hit 35-plus percent of his threes, he'll find a role. I think he can do all of those things. If he does, he was worth the scholarship.

I believe UNLV would consider Nevada the little brother considering it has won two national titles (basketball in 1990 and golf in 1998), is in a bigger media market, has a much better apparel contract, has better athletic facilities, has better brand recognition and maintains possession of the Fremont Cannon. While I personally don't understand why UNLV's throwback helmet this season has a "UN" because the school was never referred to as that, I don't think it was done to peeve off the Wolf Pack or its fans even if that was the ultimate result.

Reno and Sparks merging? I've never heard that as a realistic proposition. It basically is one city and you'd save some money with only one policy department, city council, etc., instead of two, but they will never become one.

Thank you. I expect a housewarming present. Fruit basket and such.

Unintended consequence. I guess I'll have to switch my Twitter location from "Hero of Sparks" to "Regular Guy From Reno" since former mayoral candidate Azzi Shirazi already took Hero of Reno.

As for the dog question, definitely a Bullpoo.

It has already been surrendered.

We packed up 36 large Home Depot boxes and then unpacked them. We stuffed a 26-foot UHaul to the gills with furniture. I drove from Wingfield Hills to Saddle Ridge in Damonte Ranch 14 times (one-hour roundtrip dropping stuff off). We were under contract to buy three different houses but stuff happened. We were under contract to sell our house to two different people but stuff happened. Closing costs on both houses were about $40,000 (and we actually got a good deal there). Interest rates dropped significantly two days after we closed (if we got the lower rate we would have saved about $150 per month for the next 30 years). I've had to switch over 30-35 accounts from one address to another. I have to go to the DMV to get a new license. And we did all this the weekend before school started and had to get both of our kids enrolled in new schools (one a first-year middle school student and the other a first-year elementary school student) without a current electricity bill since we hadn't moved into the house yet. Not to mention this happened during Nevada football fall camp, one of the busiest times of my year. Other than that, it was fun.

We did purge. I believe it was seven trips to Goodwill, one trip to the dump and eight straight weeks of full Waste Management loads. Congrats on the 53-foot trailer. Mine was only 26 feet. But I impressed myself with how well I drove that thing. If you need a backup driver for your 53-footer, give me a call.

I moved 18 bobbleheads in all and didn't break any of them. All but four of the bobbleheads are Dodgers players. The other four are: Ron Swanson, Nevada version of Joel Bitonio (still in the box so I can $1 million for it at some point), Mike Piazza on the Marlins (a rarity considering he played just five games for them) and current Buffalo Bill Ed Oliver riding a horse when he played for the Houston Cougars.

It is pretty odd I had never lived in Reno before. I moved from Gardnerville to Reno/Sparks in 2000 for college and had lived in Sparks ever since, first off Queen Way and then D'Andrea and then Wingfield Hills. South Reno is certainly different, but part of the reason we moved was because the schools we are zoned for are highly rated. I need to try this Zeppelin place.

* If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?

* What age do you feel right now and why?

* If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be?

* If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?

* Why the hell are they trying to remake Home Alone?

And with that, see y'all next week.

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