Beethoven was a big hit at my house last week. So big I've watched the Beethoven and Beethoven's 2nd a combined 12 times over the last six days. Lucky for me, they're both good movies. My son calls the films "Ripley No. 1, no puppies" and "Ripley No. 2, with puppies" named after our St. Bernard, who is named Ripley, of course. We were introduced to Beethoven's Christmas Adventure this winter (aka Ripley Christmas, per my son) and now have watched three-eighths of the Beethoven series. I'm not watching the other movies in the series, namely Beethoven's 3rd, Beethoven's 4th, Beethoven's 5th, Beethoven's Big Break and Beethoven's Treasure Tail, all of which are real movies, apparently. Anyway, you're probably here to read about sports, so lets discuss that.
(Note: If you're not seeing the tweets, it's probably because you're not using Google Chrome. Use Google Chrome).
Cristian Solano. It's not 100 percent going to be Cristian Solano, but it's more or less 100 percent in my mind. Football coaches tend to be risk-averse and they like to reward players who have "paid their dues." That's how you get Nick Graziano over Colin Kaepernick and Tyler Lantrip over Cody Fajardo. It's Solano's job unless he: (a) goes out of his way to lose it, which I don't believe he will do, or (b) a younger player goes crazy in spring and fall camp and shows he's clearly better than Solano, which is tough to do given how few snaps everybody gets with multiple people competing for the starting job.
The other competitors for the job are Carson Strong, Griffin Dahn and Malik Henry. Strong is probably the strongest competition, but he's also a redshirt freshman, so it'd be a sizable risk to start him over Solano, a senior, at the start of the season. Henry is a junior-college walk-on with a complicated backstory who Nevada wants to make earn his dues; and Dahn was behind Solano on the depth chart last season, so it'd unlikely he jumps over him in practice this spring and fall.
While I'd be surprised if Solano doesn't start the season opener, I'd be equally surprised if Nevada didn't use multiple quarterbacks this season. Strong and Henry both have high talent levels as passers. They each have higher ceilings than Solano while possessing lower floors. Does Nevada head coach Jay Norvell want to roll the dice with one of those two and let them play through growing pains or go with the more sure thing in Solano? Most coaches take the surer thing until forced to do something else. That's not necessarily Norvell's philosophy, though, as he started true freshman Kaymen Cureton over Ty Gangi two seasons ago, to poor results, but it showed he was willing to take a risk.
I like Strong long term, although Henry has been more impressive than I thought he'd be in the early portion of spring practice. Solano has earned the chance to start the season opener against Purdue (and then in week two against Oregon), but those are two sturdy tests. If they don't go well, Nevada could make a move and give a chance to a younger guy against Weber State and UTEP prior to the start of Mountain West play.
Ranking of hoses among Wolf Pack quarterbacks. (These are unofficial as they're just my best guess; I don't have actual mile-per-hour measurements of the quarterbacks).
* Griffin Dahn: At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Dahn is the biggest of the six quarterbacks. He certainly has arm strength and is a solid athlete. The accuracy is the question.
* Malik Henry: The Florida State transfer has a chooch*, which is why he was a four-/five-star recruit coming out of high school. That arm will keep him in the race if he stays on the straight and narrow.
* Carson Strong: You could also argue for Strong at the top of the list. The first three here are pretty interchangeable. Strong has one of the best all-around arms in recent Wolf Pack history.
* Cristian Solano: Solano and Ty Gangi have similar arm strength. Solano definitely has the arm strength to get the job done, and it looks like he's added some pace to his ball this offseason.
* Hamish McClure: The 6-foot walk-on has a legit arm. It's unlikely he ever hits the field for Nevada, but he's a nice depth piece.
* Austin Kirksey: The true freshman from Georgia joined the Wolf Pack a semester early and is the youngest of the six players vying for the job.
* chooch means strong arm
Yes. My initial impression of his play has been positive. He's been better than I thought he'd be, and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Matt Mumme said he's been relatively quiet during his time at Nevada, which normally isn't great for a quarterback but given the baggage he has taken to campus, I think that's a really good thing. Let your play speak for you. He's been volatile in his college career, so I wouldn't be shocked if something happened this summer where he didn't rejoin the team in the fall, but he's on the right path. He's legitimately talented.
My answer on the starting job is above, but I don't see why Henry would leave the team if he doesn't win the starting gig for the season opener, which is a real long shot. He has two seasons of eligibility at Nevada, and he has nowhere else to go. As Norvell has said, he'll start at the bottom and has a lot to prove. Success won't be quick to come at Nevada. He has to be ready to play the long game, and while he's off limits to the media during spring camp, I think he understands that.
Purdue minus-four? Both teams are in year three under their coach, with the Boilermakers making good progress under Jeff Brohm, who has led Purdue to back-to-back bowl seasons after the program hadn't been to a bowl since 2012. Purdue was the only team to beat Ohio State last season, although it did end the season losing three of four while getting destroyed by Auburn in its bowl. Purdue loses its starting quarterback, although it does return some experience there as well as wide receiver Rondale Moore, who is the best pass-catcher to visit Mackay Stadium since Michael Crabtree in 2008 (with all due respect to Davante Adams). As a freshman, Moore caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018.
This will be Purdue's first road game at a non-Power 5 team since 2015 and its first game on the West Coast since playing at Oregon in 2009. For Nevada, it's a huge game in getting the fan base back out to Mackay Stadium. Beating a solid Big 10 team should help get Northern Nevada's attention. With the Wolf Pack playing at Oregon in week two, a loss to Purdue in the opener probably means an 0-2 start and another series of bad attendance games at Mackay given the poor home slate after Purdue (games with Weber State, San Jose State, Hawaii, New Mexico and UNLV, the only other big draw).
Nevada, losing half of its starters and breaking in a new starting quarterback, should be a modest underdog, although this is a winnable game.
Two-hundred years is a long time, but I'll go with 0 percent. I doubt college football even exists in 200 years.
I'm going to release my "Way Too Early" Mountain West basketball rankings later this week, but I don't see a major jump forward for the league next season. The conference is losing 10 of its 15 all-conference players. A quick look at which teams should be moving up, moving down and neutral.
New Mexico (can't be much worse than last season)
San Jose State
Nevada (still good, but not top-10-in-the-nation good)
UNLV (depends on whether the transfers leave)
San Diego State
The MW won't be as bad as it was this season (No. 16 in RPI), but I doubt it cracks the top 10 in RPI in 2019-20.
No. Nevada isn't winning 30 games next season. I have the Wolf Pack in the "moving down" category above, but that's because what was achieved in 2018-19 will be hard to match. The two big variables we have unanswered are: (1) What will Nevada's schedule look like? (2) Which grad transfers will Nevada land this offseason? But I'll peg the Wolf Pack at 24-9 right now. Check back in October for a firmer guess.
Nevada went 13-0 in non-conference, so we can pencil the Wolf Pack in for a perfect record entering league play. The WAC only plays 16 league games compared to the MW's 18. The WAC only had one top-100 KenPom team in New Mexico State, which was legitimately good. Utah Valley and Grand Canyon ranked 103rd and 113th, respectively, in KenPom. The rest of the WAC sucked. The Wolf Pack probably goes 14-2 in conference, so 27-2 would be my guess. (NMSU went 15-1 in the WAC, so Nevada could have been one game better than my 14-2).
Probably never. The MW could have added Wichita State a couple of years ago. The Shockers wanted to be in the MW. But the conference declined to extend an invitation, and while many fans of the MW did not like that decision, it looks pretty solid right now considering Wichita State has been averaging since joining the AAC two seasons ago (the Shockers went 22-14 overall and 10-8 in the AAC this season). The travel to Wichita is tough and you'd have to split the revenue into another slice. The MW has been staunchly against adding partial members, and adding New Mexico State and/or Grand Canyon in basketball only doesn't do much for me. If anything, the MW needs to cut the fat (namely SJSU). More is not always better. Adding a mid-pack MW team isn't going to elevate the conference. Adding a Gonzaga in basketball is a different story. If you can land the Zags, you make it happen.
I argued in favor of a Texas-based school when the MW added SJSU. I was right on that one. Even if Texas-San Antonio, North Texas or Texas State didn't grow into their potential, there's no way those schools could have been worse than SJSU, which has provided nothing to the conference. At this stage, if I'm the MW, I'd cut SJSU (in everything), Hawaii (in football) and go to a 10-team conference where you can play a true round-robin schedule in football, a home-and-home series with every conference foe in basketball and cut the revenue into larger pieces.
That's impossible to predict. I don't see the MW making any changes unless changes are made at the power-conference level above it. In a perfect world, it'd be:
West: Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State, Nevada, UNLV, Hawaii (six teams)
Mountain: BYU, Utah State, Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico, Air Force (six teams)
Gonzaga, Nevada, San Diego State, Fresno State, BYU, Utah State, Colorado State, New Mexico, Wyoming, Air Force, Boise State, UNLV (12 teams)
So, kick out SJSU in all sports; add BYU in all sports; and add Gonzaga in all sports (the Zags don't have football, so you'd retain Hawaii there).
Recruiting and playing freshmen. I don't the mind transfer model, but Nevada has basically abandoned high school players, and as I noted for much of the season, it would have been nice to see Jordan Brown get more run this year. I'd play the bench a little more overall, especially in blowout situations. And there have been some end-of-game issues over the years (I would have fouled on the last possession against Loyola Chicago in last year's NCAA Tournament), although I don't think that's really a blind spot, per se. That's about it. He's a fantastic coach.
My blind spot? I don't like to criticize people, so writing what I wrote about is tough for me, but it's part of the job. It makes me uneasy to criticize people I cover, although I do it when I have to. Sometimes I feel like I might be a little too soft as a reporter, although I believe I have a reputation as being overly tough on campus, so who knows. If I have a blind spot, I wouldn't know about it (hence it being "blind"), so let me know what you think my blind spots might be.
I also have a weakness in arguing with morons on Twitter, although I have gotten better at that in recent months.
If Eric Musselman gets offered a top-40 college basketball job, he's almost certainly not turning it down. Whether that offer materializes, I cannot say. It doesn't look like it will this offseason. I will say Musselman has not been as eager to interview for jobs as somebody like Mark Fox, who interviewed with Nebraska and Cal in his first four seasons at Nevada. The only known interview Musselman has taken is at Cal after his second season (and clearly the Bears should have done whatever was required to get that move done).
You are in charge of your emotions, so you can stop worrying about it whenever you want.
But there is always the potential for one move triggering a series of event. UNLV had Chris Beard locked up three offseasons ago and then Memphis basically paid their coach, Josh Pastner, to take another job (at Georgia Tech) and then hired Tubby Smith from Texas Tech, which then hired Beard away from UNLV after just 19 days on the job. Beard is in the Final Four this season; UNLV fired its coach this offseason. One little trigger point can screw everything up.
It appears to have been started by the editor of "Sin City SM," which trumpets itself as the the home for "Las Vegas Sports News & Rumors." So the site is based on rumors and not reporting. Why would Musselman want to take over a complete rebuild and piss off a Wolf Pack fan base that has supported him so ardently over the last four seasons?
They money? Nevada will match that in due time.
The fan base? Nevada drew more than UNLV this season and Las Vegas is becoming a pro sports town.
The potential? UNLV has more of that but it also has a much lower ceiling than a power-conference job Musselman could get if he stays at Nevada.
The city? I don't think Musselman wants to move his family to Las Vegas.
The expectations? UNLV fans weren't even fully pleased with Lon Kruger.
That move would make no sense. I don't believe the "reporting."
I'm torn on this. I generally would foul while up three with less than 10 seconds to go in a game, but it's always tricky because a player can try and raise his arms to attempt a shot while being fouled to get three free throws. That didn't happen in this case. Purdue successfully pulled off the foul that led to two free throws with 5 seconds left. Virginia just nailed the quartet of requirements to tie up the game in that situation: (a) make the first free throw; (b) miss the second free throw; (c) get the offensive rebound; and (d) make a bucket to send the game into overtime. That's why fouling in that situation is smart. It takes four things to fall in place to tie the game rather than one thing (make a 3-pointer) if you don't foul. Purdue did the right thing. Chaos just played against the Boilermakers. And it really was chaos. Just look at this. (For the record, Eric Musselman does not foul when up three in this situation).
I've been pretty consistent in saying I'm not sure any of the three get selected given how the draft skews more toward potential than production, so a guy like Jalen McDaniels from San Diego State is a bigger prospect than the Martins or Caroline despite being less productive in college. The same would apply to Utah State's Neemias Queta. Age is a major factor in who gets drafted, although it seems a little less important in recent years.
I'd give Caleb Martin a 30 percent chance of getting drafted, Cody Martin a 25 percent chance of getting drafted and Jordan Caroline a 5 percent chance of getting drafted. NBAdraft.net doesn't have any of the three in their mock draft. ESPN has Cody Martin as the 85th-best prospect in the draft and the other two unranked in the top 100. All three will get summer league invites, at minimum, with both of the Martins almost surely getting into training camps. The next big step is getting an NBA combine invitation, which both of the Martins earned last season. I'm not sure any of the three upped their draft stock by returning to school for their senior seasons, although it doesn't mean that was a bad decision.
Only they know the truth on that one. I know things didn't turn out as they hoped, but I can't imagine they're "bummed out" about playing for Nevada this season. While I don't think they upped their draft stock by returning this season, I also don't think it was hurt. Caleb Martin said he largely returned to school so he could be healthy for the pre-draft process and now he should be. Cody Martin got to play point guard this season and should be more prepared for the pre-draft process, too, while being branded as a point guard.
The NCAA Tournament is crazy. Auburn should have lost to New Mexico State in the first round. All the Aggies had to do was make three free throws with 1 second left and the Tigers would have been out on the first day. Instead, those free throws were missed and Auburn is in the Final Four. I don't believe Nevada had a Final Four-caliber team. Even the Sweet 16 was a bit of a reach given the way Caroline was struggling at the end of the season. But weird things can happen in the NCAA Tournament, as we saw with last year's Wolf Pack team. If Nevada fans are going to rue anything that's happened the last few seasons, rue the loss to Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16 last year. That bracket opened up so nicely for Nevada to get to the Final Four. And the Wolf Pack beats Loyola relatively easily if it doesn't go 7-of-27 from three (25.9 percent, nearly 14 percent below its season average). Everything was lined up.
There is no timeframe. You can put your name in the transfer portal whenever you want. All you have to do is tell your school's compliance officer you'd like to be put in the portal and you're entered. It's my understanding coaches can't look directly at the portal, but they can get a report from their compliance officer on who has entered the portal and who remains in it.
No. College basketball has been headed this way for a long time, and if there was one program that took the transfer path first it was Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State. The Wolf Pack has taken things further than any other school in regard to recruiting transfers, but it's not like everybody is responding to Nevada's move by going down the same path. ESPN had a story today on "How the 2019 Final Four teams were built," and of the 36 players coded among the four teams, only eight of those players came to their schools via transfer (that's 22.2 percent). Seventeen of the players were top-100 recruits (47.2 percent). The other 11 were non-top-100 high-school recruits (30.6 percent). The best teams are still built with high school players. Nevada has taken a different path, likely because the odds of the Wolf Pack building a team with top-100 recruits would be tough as a mid-major, but Nevada's transfer model has not spread like Nevada's Pistol offense did. It even reached the NFL.
I wouldn't describe it as "more selfish in their play." I would say it makes it more difficult to create a positive culture and to develop players over the long term. Players have been empowered to leave a school after one season if things aren't going well (that's partially why Nevada has avoided prep players), and while the players should have more power in their careers, a lot of times they do make bad decisions thinking the grass will be greener at another school. Getting complete buy-in from the entire roster seems to be much more difficult now than a decade or two ago. That doesn't mean the players who are getting on the court are playing more selfishly. It does mean the players who aren't happy with their roles are looking to bounce quicker.
And I'll take a waffle cone.
College basketball is in a recruiting quiet period until Wednesday and then a dead period until April 11, so you won't hear much for the next 10 days. Things should heat up in two weekends.
Nevada, doing its due diligence, has basically reached out to every Division I transfer who averaged at least 10 points per game last season. The Wolf Pack hasn't landed an official visit yet, but those should fire up soon. It's not real for me until an official visit is scheduled. Nevada's staff checks in on a bunch of guys, but they are pretty picky on who they bring on visits. They don't bring just any talented player in on a visit. They have to match the culture.
It depends on the school, but Nevada, for example, requires a head coach has a college degree, as do almost all Division I universities.
I have 13 "keys" scribbled on a piece of paper and I have my 4-year-old son, Dominic (aka the Dominator), pick three out of a hat. Those three selections become my three keys to the game.
Nevada went from allowing to allowing 4.42 rushing yards per carry and 208.3 rushing yards per game in 2017 to 3.62 and 142, respectively, in 2018. I don't see the run defense taking a big step back in 2019. Yes, the line loses Korey Rush, but it also returns full-time starters Dominic Peterson and Hausia Sekona as well as part-time starter Kaleb Meder and Sam Hammond. JuCo monster Tristan Nichols also joined the team this spring. The run defense should remain stout. The bigger question is whether Nevada can get a consistent pass rush. Peterson can heat up a quarterback, but incoming freshmen Breylon Garcia and Javasia Brunson might need to play immediately to get their pass-rushing skills on the field.
Gabe Sewell is staying at Nevada. Here is my story from Feb. 19.
That's kind of a double-edged sword. You can certainly sell the fact you're playing in a state-of-the-art, NFL-level football stadium, but if the team is drawing 15,000 fans in a 60,000-capacity stadium the environment isn't going to help land recruits. Overall, I think it's a net positive for UNLV and the right coach -- with a new stadium, a new football facility, a world-renown city to recruit to and a nice base of local prep talent -- could turn UNLV into a winner. But the Rebels have never been very good at football, and the reason for that goes beyond the stadium. The Rebels' infrastructure has improved, to the point it might be a more attractive job than the Nevada football gig, which still lacks an indoor facility, but I don't see UNLV shooting past Nevada in football. They'll probably be fairly even over the next decade, which would be a good thing for the rivalry.
Zion (the park) is the eighth wonder of the natural world and Zion (the human) is the ninth wonder of the natural world, so hard to pick between the two, but I'll take the park. I like nature.
My bracket is broken and I don't really care about any of these Final Four teams. I'd prefer not to see Bruce Pearl win considering he was banned by the NCAA. Michigan State has won before. Texas Tech is meh. I'll take Virginia, considering last year's first-round disaster. I'm rooting for the Cavaliers, I guess.
While Mark Fox, who just got the Cal job, has not confirmed he'll hire Trent Johnson as an assistant coach, I've heard that will be the final outcome. Fox, of course, assisted Johnson at Nevada and now it will be the other way around at Cal. Where's David Carter? (Answer: He's an assistant at San Diego. Coming to Cal soon?)
I originally read this as a "big name" in Reno and wrote the following:
Is USC or Utah a big name? If not, then probably no.
In Musselman's first four seasons, the only Power 5 opponent to play in Reno was Oregon State in year two. The only non-conference NCAA Tournament team to play in Reno was Rhode Island in year three.
USC and Utah will become arguably the two best teams to visit Reno in Musselman's tenure.
I then realized you did not specify just home games. Nevada could play Cincinnati in the Paradise Jam, but you're probably looking bigger than that. With the Wolf Pack appearing "down" on paper next season, Nevada might be able to land a bigger-name team with one of its final six games, but I wouldn't expect the Wolf Pack to land a blue-blood program.
As for Cal, Fox never wanted to play Nevada when he was Georgia's coach, so it would require a change of heart on his part for the Bears to schedule a series with the Wolf Pack. Nevada fans would cheer him heartily, so I don't know why he wouldn't want to do a home-and-home with the Wolf Pack, but up until this point he hasn't been interested.
It's a good question, but I'm of the mindset that basically all power-conference schools are "cheating," and I'm sure a lot of mid-major schools are "cheating," too. We'd be naïve to think otherwise. And it's not all on the coaches. I'm sure administration is in on some of this, too. Nothing you can ask in an interview session will let you know for sure your coach won't cheat. Players are exceptionally valuable and the competition to land them is exceptionally high. Plus, there's a ton of money in college athletics.
But I'd probably ask:
1) Do you like Home Alone?
2) If you could be a breed of dog, which dog would you be?
3) Dodgers or Giants?
Attendance for the five MW Tournament women's basketball sessions this season was 9,174, with 2,011 fans showing up for the title game.
The season prior, attendance for the five MW Tournament women's basketball sessions was 9,757, with 2,419 fans showing up for the title game. So attendance was down 6.4 percent, with most of the difference coming in the title game.
In 2020, the MW Tournament will be moved up a week because of a major convention in Las Vegas during the traditional week for the MW Tournament. The women's tournament will again begin on a Sunday.
As for 2021 and beyond, no decision has been made. Both San Diego and Phoenix made a pitch last cycle to host the event, but the MW kept it in Las Vegas. I would guess it remains in Las Vegas in 2021, with the only potential change being the venue, although I'd put my money on Thomas & Mack to remain the host.
1) Nevada lost three of its four best hitters, it Friday starter, its closer and had its Freshman All-American pitcher begin the season with a shoulder injury, so there was a lot of talent to replace.
2) Nevada had a really weird 2018 season. It went 20-9 in MW regular-season games and 9-15 in the rest. So there was probably a little luck in play in answering why the conference record was so good. Overall, the team was a shade over .500 at 29-24.
This year's team also has been a shade over .500, just with better results out of conference than in league play. The Wolf Pack hasn't had a consistent strength this season. Its pitching was excellent early but has faded of late. The hitting came on in mid-March but has tallied just nine runs over the last four games, so that hasn't been consistent, either. As a result, it's been a pretty frustrating season. Nevada is 7-3 in one-run games, so it'd not like the team has been unlucky this season.
Ultimately, it comes down to how Nevada plays in the MW Tournament since the conference isn't getting an NCAA Tournament at-large team, but the Wolf Pack has to finish in the top four of the MW to get into the conference tournament. Its currently tied for last with UNLV at 5-7, but that's only one game out of a postseason spot. Friday starter Ryan Anderson has been terrific as has reliever Shane Gustafson. Position players Jaylon McLaughlin, Josh Zamora and Dillan Shrum have been solid. But it's been a guessing game with the rest of the squad.
I don't think Texas Tech lets him go. The Red Raiders will match whatever offer he gets. At this point, I have no idea who the Bruins will get. Seems like UCLA has a ton of money, but will anybody take it?
I don't call my favorite teams "we," but if you want to I'm fine with it.
Non-animated, of course. If we included animated movies, it's Lion King, end of story. Honorable mention to The Jungle Book and The Land Before Time.
Also, the animals used must be real, so no Jurassic Park, etc.
1. Beethoven 1/2: A St. Bernard owner can't pick any other movie.
3. Ed: Sign me up for a monkey throwing a baseball.
4. Free Willy: I liked this a lot more before Michael Jackson was exposed as a creep.
5. Jaws: I've never seen Jaws, but I feel like this should probably be on the list.
Sorry, Homeward Bound.
1. The Sandlot
2. Major League
3. Rookie of the Year
4. A League of Their Own
5. Eight Men Out
Apologies to 42 and Angels in the Outfield (and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
1. Max Scherzer
2. Jacob deGrom
3. Justin Verlander
4. Chris Sale
5. Corey Kluber
Verlander is not worth two pitchers.
* Jackie (or Robinson)
* Pee Wee (would fit for that size of that dog)
* Fernandomania (that'd be fun to yell if the dog ran away)
* 1988 (never seen a dog named after a year, so this might be cool)
I hope so just so I can say I shoot better free throws than an NBA player. (The 7-foot-6, 310-pound Fall made just 36.2 percent of his free throws this season).
I'm guessing Fall does not make it in the NBA. He'd be the third-tallest player in league history behind Gheorghe Muresan and Manute Bol. At some point, height is a disadvantage (probably once you hit 7-1). Fall isn't a good fit in the modern NBA, which is more about being able to switch on pick and rolls and stretch your offensive game out to the 3-point line.
Considering the song is about an adult male singing about "reaching out and touching" an 11-year-old girl, I hope I never hear that song at Lawlor again. (It is catchy, though. A real earworm).
Yes, I like pizza. I feel like I've made that pretty clear in these Mailbags throughout the years. My favorite is Grimaldi's, then Wild Garlic and then J J's Pie Co. In fact, I'm going to go eat some pizza now. See y'all next week.