Busy day today so the answers are more lightning-round style than long and drawn out, which is usual approach. But we still hit almost 4,000 words, so it's a meaty Mailbag. And speaking of meaty, we start with a question about burritos. Let's dive in — into the Mailbag, not a burrito, although I'm getting hungry so I wouldn't mind diving into a burrito, either. 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.)
I've got three for you in the race for Reno's best burrito: Super Burrito (although the nachos are the best thing on the menu), Speedy Burrito and Carlillos Cocina, which is in the old Landrum's Cafe and technically in Sparks. I wrote a review of Carlillos Cocina when I worked at the RGJ in 2015. It's a Mexican restaurant in a 1950s-style diner with about 20 seats around a bar top, which is not ideal during the COVID era, but you can get pickup. It's a unique place with great food and worth the trip. Super Burrito ("Make it Wet") is a staple for anybody who has lived in Northern Nevada and Speedy Burrito is a nice little place on Wells. I used to frequent Super Burrito and Speedy Burrito pretty regularly back in the day but have been working from home since March and haven't been to either place since. They're local companies worth supporting. For the breakfast burrito variety, I'd check out Walden's or Roberto's. If you want to drive to San Jose, La Victoria Taqueria with the orange sauce is the place to go. Best burrito I've had in my life. And your question gave me an opening to post the Super Burrito commercial, which I will do whenever possible.
Carson Strong's 2021 Heisman Trophy odds at BetOnline.ag are 25/1, although he's not listed on VegasInsider.com, which is more reputable. Spoiler alert: Nobody from Nevada is ever winning the Heisman Trophy. Sorry to say so. But it's not happening. Colin Kaepernick only finished eighth in 2010 and he accounted for 4,228 yards and 41 touchdowns on a 13-1 team that finished 11th in the nation and beat the No. 3 team in the country. There's nothing Carson Strong, as great as he should be in 2021, can do to win the Heisman Trophy next season. That award is not built for Group of 5 players.
Like you, I don't see that happening. I believe the buzz around Carson Strong will only continue to grow as he gets more recognition nationally and the opportunity to play two Power 5 schools next season (Cal, Kansas State). Football is different than basketball. Getting older is a killer for basketball prospects like Neemias Queta. That's not the case in football. Age and experience is good for NFL draft prospects (except for running back), so I don't see the buzz dying down for Strong as it has for Queta, who is two years older and put up the same type of numbers. Honestly, I think Nevada only has one more year of Strong even though he has three seasons of eligibility remaining. If Strong's 2021 season looks like his 2020 season, he would be smart to turn pro, especially with Elijah Cooks, Romeo Doubs and Cole Turner all being seniors in 2021. Working with a new set of less experienced pass-catchers in 2022 could neuter his numbers. But the hype should only grow for Strong over the next year.
1996? That group had John Dutton at quarterback and Geoff Noisy, Trevor Insley and Damond Wilkins (who caught 114 passes) at wide receiver. When the third-best receiver in your group has 114 catches that's pretty good. But I do expect Carson Strong, Romeo Doubs, Elijah Cooks and Cole Turner to surpass that quartet. I would not be surprised if all four of those guys play in the NFL. At minimum, three of them should.
TeamRankings.com puts it at 2 percent. I'll be more bullish and put it a 6.9 percent.
San Diego State is presumably the best team in the Mountain West (although Boise State might actually be). Nevada basically played SDSU even for 80 minutes on the road. So, yes, Nevada has a chance to win the Mountain West Tournament. It also has a chance to lose in its first game of the tournament to a bad team like it did last season against Wyoming. One-game sample sizes are fickle, especially for average teams like Nevada is this season. But Wolf Pack fans should be encouraged with how Nevada played against SDSU even if it discouraged by the losses. Getting a first-round bye (top-five seed) will be important for Nevada's MW Tournament title quest. But winning conference titles isn't easy. Eric Musselman and Mark Fox combined to do that only twice in nine seasons at Nevada, and both had great teams.
In men's basketball? I'm going San Diego State in the regular season and Boise State in the conference tournament, although the Aztecs don't seem to have much of a home-court advantage without fans in attendance.
That was released today, and 11 of the team's seniors, including eight returning starters, will be back. You can read about those guys here. As for the second part of your question, I assume Nevada will list them up a class, so Carson Strong would be listed as a junior even though he'd technically have three years of eligibility remaining. Starting in 2022, the NCAA is reinforcing the 85 maximum scholarship limit in football, so you won't see as many players use their "extra senior season" moving forward.
Most athletic departments run in the red. Boise State is operating in the red and just had to cut women's swimming and diving and baseball, yet it has had a Top 25 program in football for the last 15 seasons, and that's the biggest revenue sport there is. Now, "operating in the red" can be a little misleading because one of the top costs for athletic departments is scholarships, and that's basically a transfer of money from athletics to the university that could be written off as a non-expense. A recent NCAA study determined only 20 college athletic departments turn a profit, but that can include some funny math. But the point stands that you can be a Top 25 program and be in the red at the same time. Lots of schools do it. Nevada has generally done more with less with its men's basketball and football programs. If it does have two Top 25 programs next season despite paying Jay Norvell the lowest salary among Mountain West head football coaches, that'd something to be proud of. Nevada basketball has increased its budget to be among the top schools in the MW, which is typically a necessary step to maintain Top 25 success over a long period of time. Wolf Pack football's budget is still relatively low for its level of success, so it will have to invest into the program (i.e. sell more tickets) to stay in the Top 25 if it's able to break through next season.
The Boise State and Colorado State series are at home and the Utah State series is on the road, so I'll go 2-4: swept by Boise State and splits with the Rams and Aggies. My favorite basketball website has Nevada as an 8.9-point underdog at Utah State, a 2.8-point underdog against Boise State and a 0.9-point favorite against Colorado State, so it also projects 2-4. But 3-3 is doable. I'll give Nevada a 40 percent chance of going 3-3 in those games.
You're probably getting that feeling because Zane Meeks hasn't had a true breakout season, but he is better in basically every offensive metric, including points per game (6.4 to 9.5), field-goal percent (43 percent to 47.2 percent), 3-point percent (36.4 percent to 37.8 percent) and offensive rebounds (1.0 per game to 2.2 per game). Meeks also has improved on defense with his defensive rating going from 102.9 to 96.8 (that's points allowed per 100 possessions when he's on the court). So, Meeks is an improved player, both on offense and defense, but it does feel like he's becoming more of a traditional post player rather than a stretch four. He's averaging just 2.8 3-point attempts per game, down from 3.5 per game last season, despite playing seven more minutes per game. I'd like to see a few more threes out of Meeks, but he has rounded his game out nicely with better rebounding and defense. There's been a lot of talk about Nevada's "third scorer," but I think that will be by committee rather than a rigid system. In the second game against SDSU, it was K.J. Hymes. As long as one player steps forward with a 12- to 16-point game to complement Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge, Nevada should be fine offensively. Meeks is the most likely to fill that role this season, and while he hasn't become the 14-point scorer I figured in 2020-21, he's getting better and might take that leap next year.
As for Sweet Tarts, I'm a fan. They'll always be a third-tier candy for most, but I like them despite not typically liking sweet things. They're a Halloween regular in our house.
He's worth tracking for sure, but it's hard to make it in the NBA. I'm not sure what his standout NBA skill is at this point, and he doesn't have great size for a guard (6-2, 189, so NBA teams will have to project him as a point guard). If he continues to shoot the 3-pointer at 40-plus percent, that could be his standout skill. Statistically, he's having a pretty similar season as Jalen Harris last year, and doing so while being two years younger, so he could get some pro buzz over the next couple of seasons if Nevada wins at a high level. SDSU's Malachi Flynn might be your best comp. Sherfield is a heady player with a high basketball IQ who is really productive as a sophomore, so there's a path to the NBA, but that's the hardest league in American sports to make. He's a really savvy player. Smart. He knows what he's doing on the court. I'm not sure if he has the plus-athleticism people look for at point guard, which is the hardest position to crack given how many players grow up as point guards, but his shooting might get him there. Nobody projected Ramon Sessions as a 10-year NBA player, so it could happen. Steve Alford has compared Sherfield to Aaron Holiday and said improving on defense (Holiday was a plus-defender) will be a key to getting to the next level.
It'd be nice to see them play for Nevada first before putting this one out there, but I'd list Nevada basketball's top NBA draft prospects on the 2021-22 roster as:
1. Grant Sherfield
2. Addison Patterson
3. Will Baker
4. Warren Washington
5. Tre Coleman
6. Zane Meeks
7. Desmond Cambridge Jr.
I wrote about that last month but Nevada is basically arguing Addison Patterson should be eligible because he wasn't enrolled at Oregon during the fall semester. The NCAA ruled in December that sit-out transfers would be immediately eligible as long as they were enrolled at their current school in the fall. Patterson did not fit that criteria but he also wasn't enrolled at Oregon in the fall. The Wolf Pack is arguing Patterson left Oregon at the same time Grant Sherfield left Wichita State, only Sherfield was enrolled at Nevada in the fall. Now that Patterson is enrolled at Nevada for the spring semester, the Wolf Pack believes he should be eligible just like Sherfield and the other transfers who were given a waiver. Will that argument work? I would not make a lot of money betting on whether NCAA waivers are approved given the lack of consistency there, but my guess is Patterson does not get cleared even though Nevada has created a somewhat convincing argument in this "anything goes" kind of season. If he was approved, Patterson would step into big minutes right away.
I addressed this last week, but I won't publicly kick somebody off the team for next season in the middle of this year. Also, I don't believe the coaches even know who will be on the roster next season given how fluid things are with college rosters. But Nevada does need to cut down its roster by two scholarship players this offseason. And, no, I don't see a scholarship player staying at Nevada but moving to walk-on status. Everybody on the roster is good enough to move to a lower-level Division I team on scholarship.
Je'Lani Clark was with Nevada during summer workouts but went back home to San Francisco due to off-the-court stuff (not bad stuff like getting arrested, just that going home would be better for his short-term future). With Nevada already two over the maximum scholarship limit for next season, I don't see him resurfacing with the Wolf Pack, but I imagine he'll join a junior-college team with the hope of getting a Division I scholarship down the road.
I was going to let the season evolve a little more before doing a "Top NBA draft prospects in the MW story," but since you asked, the MW underclassmen most likely to turn pro and leave eligibility on the table are: Fresno State's Orlando Robinson, Utah State's Neemias Queta and UNLV's Bryce Hamilton. I can't see anybody else doing that. Maybe Nevada's Grant Sherfield tests the waters just to get some feedback, but the MW isn't as loaded with underclassmen NBA prospects as last season when Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris were in the league.
Both the Rams (at the Packers) and the Browns (at the Chiefs) are unlikely to advance, but I'm just happy Joel Bitonio will get a chance to play in the playoffs, assuming he gets COVID-19 negative in time. The Rams are seven-point underdogs; the Browns are 10-point underdogs. So I'll take Corbett and the Rams being the more likely of the two to advance.
The odds are against Joel Bitonio being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame just because of how damn hard that is. But he's starting to put together the credentials with three Pro Bowl berths and three AP All-Pro second-team honors. For context, the best offensive lineman not in the Hall of Fame in my estimation is long-time Raider Steve Wisniewski, who made eight All-Pro teams (two first team, six second team). Longtime Bear Jay Hilgenberg made five All-Pro teams and isn't in the Hall of Fame. Randy Cross made four All-Pro teams, and Mark Stepnoski, Joe Jacoby and Bob Kuechenberg three each without getting into the Hall of Fame. Offensive guard, which Bitonio plays, is an under-respected position. Only 15 guards have made the Hall of Fame. If Bitonio gets six or more All-Pro honors, he has a chance. But playing in Cleveland doesn't really help the cause unless the Browns become a playoff regular. It'd be awesome to see Bitonio make it given how great of a player and person he is, but it's worth noting Bitonio still hasn't made a NFL top-100 player list in his career, so the recognition of his greatness is still pretty low.
My favorite Tommy Lasorda memory was his cameo at the end of the movie "Ladybugs." While Lasorda might be the most famous MLB manager ever — not the best mind you, but the most famous — he left a lot to be desired as a person given his treatment of his son Spunky, Darryl Strawberry and Wolf Pack alum Glenn Burke, who I wrote about a couple of months ago, among others. Lasorda also was a giant lush at spring training. If you were an attractive lady around Lasorda, watch out. Lasorda did have this killer line about V. Stiviano (see below) while defending his friend Donald Sterling, and it tells you a lot about Lasorda that he was friends with Sterling.
Also, don't ask Lasorda about Dave Kingman (see below). There's also this one, which has a lot of cuss words. At least you never had to guess what Tommy Lasorda was thinking.
Via my observations from attending games, I'd say, from oldest to youngest, it'd be: 1. Colorado State, 2. Air Force, 3. Wyoming, 4. Utah State, 5. Fresno State, 6. Nevada, 7. New Mexico, 8. UNLV, 9. Boise State, 10. San Diego State, 11. San Jose State (no fan base, so doesn't count). But, honestly, I have no idea. That's a complete guess. I just feel like Colorado State and Air Force have older fan bases, but that could be because they don't have much in the way of student sections to balance things out.
You asked that question last week, and I answered it last week.
I don't fully understand the question, so I'll just answer by saying, "Alabama." "Alabama" is the answer to most questions about college football. #RollTide
He's earning himself a backup role. The Taylor Heinicke story was a cool one, but I don't see any NFL franchise putting him No. 1 on the depth chart this offseason. There's another free-agent quarterback who led his team to the Super Bowl that's more deserving of that than Heinicke.
He also had a 78.4 quarterback rating in the game. I would hope the Washington Football Team would not pin its hopes on Heinicke as its future quarterback. As noted above, backup is fine. But that's a position Washington needs to upgrade after missing on Dwayne Haskins as a first-round draft pick.
I might have missed something, but my last update has the NIAA waiting on state clearance to play basketball and wrestling this winter while skiing is moving forward with its season. I didn't see anything about a Jan. 21 start date. I imagine the Northern schools, if they do play basketball and wrestling, will do everything they can to have a regional playoff, even if that means truncating the regular season even more.
It depends what I'm putting it on, but I generally chose blue cheese over ranch, although I like both.
In terms of rule changes:
MLB: Robot umps
NBA: Seed the playoff teams 1-16 regardless of conference
NFL: Use the college overtime rule, except start each possession at midfield instead of the opponent's 25-yard line
NHL: Make all penalties major penalties to increase scoring
Tennis: When the score reaches deuce, the next point scored wins the game
Soccer: Orange slice break every 10 minutes
Golf: Add snakes to every bunker
NASCAR: Use flying cars
The Giants haven't been on air in Reno for a couple of years, so I would guess that trend continues, although you could get the games via the TuneIn app or a variety of other apps. I get all the MLB games via SiriusXM. As for the Reno Aces, I do expect there to be a minor-league season, but it could be truncated with an MLB spring training followed by a minor-league spring training at the same site (so not to overlap with bodies in this social-distancing era) before the minor-league season begins. Instead of a 140-game season, you might get 100 games. But that's down on the list of priorities for baseball. We still don't even know if we're getting a full MLB season, so we won't know on minor leagues until at least February or March.
The Bills had not circled their wagons around a playoff win since 1995, so, yes, I believe other teams are better at circling wagons than Buffalo. But at least the Bills no longer have the third-longest playoff win drought in the NFL. First place goes to the Bengals and second place to the Lions, who are 1-12 in the playoffs in the Super Bowl era. 1-12! The Lions have won just one playoff game since 1966. And that actually came against the Cowboys in 1991. Dallas responded by winning three of the next four Super Bowls. That's just proof that if you're bad enough to lose to the Lions in the Super Bowl, fate will reward you with three Super Bowl titles in four years.
Slime Zone > Packfetti. I don't care what it costs, erase the Packfetti line item and replace it with Slime Zone.
Why would Tom Brady be celebrating the Chiefs' second straight Super Bowl title?
The Chiefs and the Packers because they have the two best quarterbacks, and quarterbacks are important. State Farm would have a field day given Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers both rep the company.
You can't expect sanity from the insane, so I wouldn't rule out another terrorist attack on Capitol Hill like we saw last week. Only this time, I hope local police would be better prepared. We spend $934 billion a year on our defense budget but couldn't keep Buffalo Bill from walking onto the senate floor. Imagine if an actual Army had attacked the Capitol and not Uncle Jedidiah's militia, which unfolded over multiple days but still caught local police off balance. I personally wouldn't attend the inauguration for fear of violence, and all law enforcement and national guard branches should be ready at all times given the fomenting of violent sentiment being stirred up by some elected officials.
17.4 million gallons. Google is useful.
Here are all the Home Alone traps I could do at my house with the things currently inside my home.
* Walks into plastic wrap covered with caulking glue to the face (I can't add the feathers blowing from a fan)
* Slipping on Kevin's Micro Machines (sub in my son's Hot Wheels).
* Hit in the face with a paint (I have full paint cans but not a stairway to throw them from)
* Steps on Christmas ornaments with bare feet (I have a lot of ornaments)
* A bag of tools falls on head after kicking open the door (I have a lot of tools)
* Staple gun shot to the butt, groin and nose
* Steps into a puddle of Monster Sap Soap, slips, falls on his back and slides into a shelf of paint cans (I would sub in laundry detergent for Monster Sap Soap)
This is all to say I don't have the ability to pull off Kevin's cooler traps. Maybe I need to start hoarding more supplies in case Marv and Harry ambush me. Time to go to the store to get said supplies. See y'all next week!
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. He writes a weekly Monday Mailbag despite it giving him a headache and it taking several hours to write. But people seem to like it, so he does it anyway. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.