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Murray's Mailbag: Who's in the starting five for Nevada basketball in 2019-20?

Jazz Johnson
Jazz Johnson was a reserve who should slot into the starting lineup for Nevada in 2019-20. (John Byrne/Nevada athletics)

The Mountain West baseball tournament will be held in Northern Nevada this week as the Wolf Pack aims for its first NCAA Regional berth since 2000. We drew some questions on that topic as well as a variety of others this week. So let's dive into the 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 returning is the dream scenario for Nevada and would finalize a strong starting lineup. A Jordan Brown-less starting five would have a lot bigger questions.

Assuming Brown returns, my starting five would be:

PG: Lindsey Drew: Nevada has plenty of players who can initiate offense, but Drew is the best at that and at getting everybody involved. He should be the guy with the ball in his hands most of the time, if he's healthy.

SG: Jazz Johnson: Johnson came off the bench last season, but he played starters minutes and should slot into the first five. His 3-point shooting will be crucial to open space for the rest of his teammates.

SF: Jalen Harris: Harris could play either guard position, but he's big enough to play and defend on the wing, too. His game is similar to Caleb Martin's, and I expect him to make a similar impact at Nevada next year.

PF: Eric Parrish: Parrish isn't really a power forward (he's 6-6/195), but if Nevada is putting its best players in the starting five he'll be on the court. He's a really versatile weapon who is a good offensive rebounder, too.

C: Jordan Brown: Ideally, Brown would not be playing center, but given Nevada's roster and how basketball is played these days, that's the fit right now. I wouldn't be surprised if the Wolf Pack added some beef to try and get him to power forward.

Sixth man: Nisré Zouzoua as the first guard off the bench and K.J. Hymes as the first forward off the bench.

Without Brown, the starting five would be:

PG: Drew

SG: Johnson

SF: Harris

PF: Parrish

C: K.J. Hymes: He is the only other player on the roster right now with Division I center size.

Sixth man: Zouzoua as the first guard off the bench and Zane Meeks as the first forward off the bench.

Nevada still has up to three scholarship players to add, so a possible addition of a Mahamadou Diawara, for example, could change some of the lineups above. Diawara could be the starting center with Brown moving to power forward and Johnson returning to a super sub role. Until the roster is filled out, we can't pencil in a depth chart quite yet. Here's a list of recruits who could impact Nevada's roster. But I'd be surprised if Drew, Johnson, Harris and Parrish weren't starting. I'd put them down in ink with the center spot being the remaining question mark.

Mountain West football coaches, ranked from least secure in their job to most secure.

1. Bob Davie, New Mexico

2. Tony Sanchez, UNLV

3. Brent Brennan, San Jose State

4. Mike Bobo, Colorado State

5. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

6. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

7. Jay Norvell, Nevada

8. Craig Bohl, Wyoming

9. Gary Andersen, Utah State

10. Rocky Long, San Diego State

11. Bryan Harsin, Boise State

12. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State

None of those bottom eight are getting fired after the 2019 season. I think you'll see two MW coaching changes after the 2019 season. Davie and Sanchez both need to make bowls to keep their job. New Mexico isn't making a bowl. UNLV has the players to make a bowl, but that schedule is tough. Brennan and Bobo are possibilities, but Brennan is only in his third season and Bobo has a lot of money left on his deal.

There's no such thing as an "upset" in a single baseball game. Even when Nevada hosted No. 2-ranked Oregon State earlier this season, the Wolf Pack had a roughly 40 percent chance (per the advanced metrics) of winning the game. That's just how baseball works. One game tells us basically nothing about the quality of a team. So, yes, there's a good chance Nevada beats Fresno State in its Mountain West Tournament opener Thursday at Peccole Park.

The difficult part for Nevada on Thursday is the Wolf Pack will face Ryan Jensen, one of the best pitchers in the nation and a top-50 draft prospect. Jensen has a 3.09 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 84.1 innings. He's not invincible, but he's the MW's best pitcher. He held Nevada to eight base runners and three runs (all via on homer) over seven innings earlier this month. The Wolf Pack was out-scored 21-6 in Fresno State sweep at Peccole three weekends ago. Nevada has had issues scoring and will have to fix that to make a run in the MW Tournament, but, again, it's baseball. Nevada basically has a coin flip shot of beating Fresno State.

That said, Fresno State has won nine of its last 10, including sweeps of Nevada and UNLV. The Bulldogs are the favorite. San Diego State has won five of the last six MW Tournaments and are the co-favorite. Nevada, since it is hosting, is the third favorite. UNLV is the fourth favorite. I'd be slightly surprised if Nevada won this tournament due to its lack of hitting (5.5 runs per game, sixth out of seven MW teams) and recent starting pitching issues, but anybody can win a four-team baseball tournament.

I don't think it hurts to be playing at home, although only two of the last 10 MW Tournaments was won by the host school (San Diego State won at home last year and New Mexico in 2016). Nevada hasn't won either of the conference baseball tournaments it's hosted, either. It was the heavy, heavy favorite in the 2015 event when it hosted, and Nevada went 0-2 in that tournament to get bumped from an NCAA Regional at-large spot. Additionally, Nevada is 6-9 at home in MW games this season and 14-12 at home overall compared to 14-11 on the road this season.

Being at home is a minor advantage, but I'd rather have the better team rather getting to host. And Fresno State and San Diego State are the two best teams in the conference by a healthy margin.

Nevada finished tied for third in the MW along with UNLV (both were 14-16 in conference), but the Rebels won the tiebreaker. Nevada and UNLV split six games during the regular season, and UNLV had the better record against the No. 1 seed (Fresno State) than Nevada did, so the Rebels got the third seed and Nevada the fourth seed.

As for best Nevada-born MLB player. That's Barry Zito! No. Just kidding, although he does have the most career WAR of a Nevada-born player. It's between Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant and will probably end up being Harper. But we also should put some respect on the name of Wheezer Dell, Nevada's first big-leaguer. Tuscarora stand up.

Consider it? Yes. Do it? No. The only MW Tournament that makes money is the men's and women's basketball tournament. All of the other conference tournaments are a financial drain. So why does the MW hold those tournaments? Because there isn't a round-robin regular-season conference schedule in women's tennis, so you have to hold an event to come up with your NCAA Tournament automatic qualifier. And you need conference tournaments in men's golf; women's golf; swimming and diving; track and field; and cross country simply because there's never a regular-season event where those teams all compete against each other.

That leaves just baseball, football, soccer, softball and volleyball as MW sports. You can't hold a conference tournament in football, obviously. Baseball and soccer have conference tournaments. That leaves just softball and volleyball without a conference tournament, which is odd. What differentiates those sports from baseball and soccer, for example? If the MW is going to hold conference tournaments (that lose money) for those sports, why not softball and volleyball? I've never asked the MW about this, but I imagine it is a financial decision.

The interesting thing is the MW was strong at softball this season, with four top-50 RPI teams (as many top-50 RPI teams as the Big 12). The MW also had five teams in the top 61 of the RPI and seven in the top 105. Playing a conference tournament this year could have bumped a bubble team like UNLV or San Jose State into the NCAA Tournament. As is, the MW got two NCAA berths. But unless the MW decides to take a financial loss to host a conference tournament, it's not going to happen. It's just odd softball and volleyball don't have a tournament when every other non-football sport does.

He measured well but played poorly and fell into ESPN's list of players who hurt their stock at the NBA Combine. ESPN writes:

He measured off the charts at 7-foot-0 1/4 and 226 pounds, with a 7-foot-4 1/4 wingspan and a 9-foot-3 1/2 standing reach, similar to a taller Clint Capela at the same age. But Queta showed that he needs to get stronger, become more mobile and continue to improve his feel for the game. That isn't surprising, given the fact that he was playing in the Portuguese league not too long ago and doesn't have a ton of high-level experience. While still full of long-term potential as a rim-runner, lob-catcher and shot-blocker, Queta would benefit from a full summer working on his body and another year at Utah State, unless he would prefer to develop in the G League.

So you could see him return to Utah State for his sophomore season, which comes with obvious risk. If he does return and posts similar numbers to last year, he'll be seen as having less "potential." Probably 50-50 he stays in the draft. As for Nevada's Cody Martin, ESPN was high on him, writing:

Three second-round caliber prospects helped themselves over the course of two days: Cody Martin, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Terence Davis. Martin stood out by defending with toughness at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, operating as a lead ball handler given his excellent vision and feel and finishing above the rim in space. He didn't make a 3 and remains limited in that area, but should a team feel comfortable it can work with his mechanics, he could most certainly carve out a role in the NBA.

He might have worked his way into a draft pick. He definitely had a good week.

If Queta stays in the NBA draft and Jordan Brown returns to school, I will have Nevada at No. 1 in my preseason poll, but I think the consensus would still have Utah State atop the list. On paper, the Wolf Pack lost its entire starting five and its head coach. That's hard to overlook. That's a lot to lose, and while Nevada has some talented players behind those departed starters, that's probably too much of a talent drain for the Wolf Pack to get the nod for the top spot in the preseason. The good thing is preseason polls are worthless.

It remains a marquee West Coast program with a great fan base that can get you into the NBA (which is what every player wants more than anything). But, yeah, it's a huge risk school. Coach Sean Miller could be fired at any moment. The team could be banned from the postseason at any moment. Still, Arizona has the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in 2019, so those issues haven't dissuaded recruits this year like they did last year when the Wildcats lost a number of recruits and had the 22nd-ranked class in the nation. I assume this is a question about Jordan Brown potentially transferring to Arizona rather than staying at Nevada. The potential issues coming down the pike for the Wildcats would deter me from going there, but if he did transfer in and the NCAA dropped sanctions on Arizona, I would guess he could get a waiver to transfer out and play immediately in 2020-21. Still, I'd avoid stepping into those issues and headed to Tucson given the state of the Wildcats' program.

My guess is they wanted a little more separation between when football season-ticket renewals were due and basketball season-ticket renewals were due. They came back-to-back last season. I doubt they're waiting for Brown to make a decision to set and release prices. I doubt his decision would impact too many season-ticket holders on whether they're going to re-up or drop their tickets. That being said, if they do know he's coming back (and right now they don't know that), dovetailing the two together would be smart. Release the news and then release the price increases.

I have not heard Nevada strongly connected to any graduate transfers, although I obviously don't hear everything. The Wolf Pack has three open scholarships (four if Jordan Brown leaves town) and has depth issues, so there's a decent chance of that. But it does seem Nevada is mostly focused on high school kids. I'll peg it at 30 percent chance Nevada adds a graduate transfer.

Because the grass is always greener on the other side. Or at least it seems that way. Almost everybody is looking to move up in an attempt to get more recognition and increase their potential of playing pro ball. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. But this trend really starts at a lower level. Kids are transferring high schools and playing for multiple AAU teams all the time. When that's the culture you grow up in, you're going to do the same when you're in college. I do like players having the option to transfer since coaches can break contracts and leave schools whenever they want, but sometimes it's a little too much. Playing four college seasons for three teams as some players do isn't ideal.

UCLA and Indiana both remain really good jobs, but clearly not what they once were. Look at UCLA's search. The Bruins got Mick Cronin, who was probably their 12th-leading candidate entering the search. He was hired only after failed attempts to get Jamie Dixon from TCU and Rick Barnes from Tennessee over buyout concerns. When Indiana's job was open, the Hoosiers got Archie Miller, who is a fine coach but he's not Billy Donovan. They're both top-25 jobs in the nation, but not top-10 jobs. And with their respective fan bases sometimes expecting things that haven't been accomplished for decades (like UNLV to a degree), the expected standard is sometimes unreachable.

An important question. The answer: Nevada has played Arizona (1-4-1), Cal (3-22-1), Hawaii (14-9), Idaho (20-9), Maryland (0-1), Massachusetts (0-1), Missouri (0-2), Montana (10-4), Nebraska (0-1), New Mexico (3-3-1), North Dakota (0-1), Oregon (1-6), Utah (5-4-1), Washington (1-1), Wisconsin (0-1) and Wyoming (3-4). So that's 16 states down, 34 to go. Nevada also has played Louisiana-Lafayette (1-1) and that school calls itself Louisiana but nobody else does, so I'm not counting it.

Good find by my doppelganger. Per USC senior athletic director Steve Lopes (a Winnemucca native and potential Nevada athletic director if Doug Knuth ever leaves), it sounds like Nevada and USC could be matching up. Per the story in The Athletic:

In the coming weeks, USC hopes to announce three nonconference home games — season openers in 2021 and 2023 and the second game in 2024. The Trojans opened the 2017 season with Western Michigan and open the 2022 season with Rice but those are essentially outliers relative to how USC usually fills its nonconference slate outside of Notre Dame. “If you look at the games, it’s UNLV, it’s Fresno, it’s New Mexico, it’s Nevada-Reno, it’s Utah State,” Lopes said. “You want some of their fans to come, you want there to be some regional interest.

Sounds like USC loves playing Mountain West teams. I've heard rumors over the years of a potential matchup between the two, but I've haven't heard anything of late. I'll circle around for another look, but Nevada's 2020 schedule is full and 2021 already has Cal and Kansas State on it. The 2023 season opener is already scheduled, too (at New Mexico State). So sounds like the match is the second game in 2024, although the 2021 Cal game could get moved to accommodate USC. It's been moved a few times already.

The one story I've wanted to write more than any other over the last few years is an update on Kirk Snyder. Go spend a couple of days with him wherever he is and do a long-form feature story on his life today. Last I heard -- and this was when David Carter was Nevada's head coach, so a long time ago -- he was living in Southern California with his mother. Hopefully one day I do catch up with him for that story, but he's not the easiest to find.

Richard is referencing this story that takes a deep dive on UCLA basketball's APR issues stemming from the Steve Alford era. The Bruins' multi-year score is 933, just three points ahead of the 930 minimum threshold (Oregon is the second worst in the Pac-12 at 958). As far as one-and-dones go, nobody recruits those more than Kentucky, which has posted six straight perfect 1,000 marks. So it's possible to be a one-and-done factory with great APR scorers. Kentucky has perfected it.

Basically, this is how it works, per the San Jose Mercury-News story, which explains two different counting methods depending whether the university is on a semester or quarter system.

* Each player at a semester school can earn a maximum of four points for the academic year: Two points for eligibility/retention in the fall semester; two points for the spring semester.

* But each player at a quarter-system school can earn a maximum of eight points: Two points for eligibility/retention in the fall quarter; two points in the winter quarter; and four points in the spring quarter (or whichever is the last quarter for enrollment).

So, basically all a player has to do is remain in school and in good academic standing to score points for their program. If they leave early for a pro career, you're not dinged unless they don't finish the semester or post non-qualifying scores.

Nevada men's basketball posted a brutal 882 APR in its latest single-year score. And next year's score also will be one earned under Eric Musselman since the APR trails by a season. But Musselman's team posted back-to-back 1,000s leading into the 882, so there's some wiggle room for the Wolf Pack, but it's worth tracking given Alford's history at UCLA (overall, he has posted a roughly D-I average during his career) and the 882 that will stay on Nevada's balance sheet for four seasons.

Well, Cody Martin did measure 6-foot-6 in shoes, and players usually wear shoes when they play basketball, so I think it is fair to call him 6-6. So, Nevada over-listed him by one inch. North Carolina State listed Martin at 6-6, so they were being truthful. I don't know why schools list players over their actual height. Nevada had Colin Kaepernick listed at 6-6 and he was listed at 6-4 in the NFL. Perhaps it is to try and increase their draft stock. But if we could all just list athletes at their actual heights and weights that'd be nice. Almost all of them are really tall to start with. And I say this as a 5-foot-11 human being (using Nevada's method of a one- or two-inch embellishment, of course).

He's obviously going to be a very good player, but I don't think he's going to be a LeBron James/Kevin Durant/Steph Curry level player that transforms a team and turns it into a winner. More likely, he's going to be a Blake Griffin/Shawn Kemp type player who has a ridiculous combination of size, strength and athleticism but doesn't truly alter a franchise to titles runs long term. If the New Orleans Pelicans could ruin the careers of Chris Paul and Anthony Davis, they can do the same to Zion Williamson.

If you missed it, the NCAA is considering moving the college line from 20 feet, 9 inches at the top of the arc to 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches, which is the international line. The NBA's 3-point line at the top of the arc is 23 feet, 9 inches.

Musselman was a proponent of every league in the world using the FIBA rules. I agree with him. It's weird there a different rules for different levels. I'd move the 3-point line back in college basketball. It'd make scouting easier for the NBA and it'd allow players a smoother transition to the pro level. Additionally, it'd hopefully bring back some more of the mid-range game. Like Major League Baseball, basketball has been overtaken by analytics, which has made the product less entertaining. In baseball, it's all homers, strikeouts and walks with fewer balls in play. In basketball, it's all 3-pointers and rim attacks leading to free throws. I understand leaning on analytics to win as many games as possible, but it's boring watching a game full of 3-pointers and free throws. Moving the line back would probably limit 3-point attempts (slightly) and bring back a more appealing brand of basketball.

About a month ago, I put in a public record request for all of Nevada basketball's future non-conference games and did not receive a file on a 2020-21 non-conference tournament, so nothing booked as of yet to my knowledge. It is a little odd Nevada hasn't moved into better tournaments, though. If you look at this year's non-conference tournaments featuring MW teams, Utah State (Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic), Colorado State (Cayman Islands Classic), New Mexico (Legends Classic), Wyoming (MGM Resorts Main Event), San Diego State (Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational) and Boise State (Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic) are all in better events than Nevada. I do expect, given Steve Alford's ties, the Wolf Pack will be in upgraded non-conference tournaments moving forward.

It depends on how well Nevada is playing leading into that game, but it's a convenient drive and getting to see the Warriors' new arena in person is as big a draw as actually seeing the Wolf Pack play, so I expect it will be a hearty turnout. The Dec. 21 tip-off could be a little tricky given how close it is to Christmas, but it is a Saturday, which should boost the numbers. I'll say 3,000 Wolf Pack fans are in attendance. Let's check back in December to see how accurate we were.

1. Ernie's All-American Burger (RIP)

2. Awful Awful

3. Juicy's Giant Hamburgers

4. 775 Gastropub (RIP)

5. In-N-Out Burger

6. Five Guys

7. Burger Me

8. Fat Cat Bar & Grill

9. Sonic

10. The Habit Burger Grill (haven't eaten here, but I hear it's good)

Yes. His son, Michael, graduated from his Masters' program. He did his two-year program in just one year, making him free to join his dad's staff at Arkansas for the 2019-20 season. Seems like that was pre-planned. Smart kid.

Sadly, Musselman was booed when he crossed the stage, as people are still upset his father left for Arkansas. Coach Musselman then had a tweet about being booed is a sign of being remembered, which has since been deleted. Lots of very mature things going on here.

It's pretty rare and generally frowned upon. You don't typically raid your former roster to build your new roster. Although in this case, David Jenkins (19.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.6 apg) did at least take official visits to Gonzaga and Oregon, so it's not like he just followed his coach without looking at other options. If you're a South Dakota State fan, you're probably not happy. But Jenkins, a former low-level recruit who elevated his name during his two seasons at South Dakota State, was probably leaving the school regardless given his new-found options as a prized recruit (the second-best sit-out transfer this offseason, per ESPN).

a) Let the players profit off their likeness. That's an easy one.

b) Pay the players. That's more difficult to figure out a model for, but that doesn't mean you don't do the work to figure it out. Coaches are getting $93 million contracts. There's enough money to pay the players. How do you do it? That's the tough question. Do you just pay the revenue sport athletes? Do starters get more than backups? Do quarterbacks get more than centers? I don't know. But when the NCAA has a $8.8 billion contract for the TV rights to the NCAA Tournament, some of that money has to get to the players. Figure it out.

I have no idea.

Nevada basketball got word the final season of Games of Thrones was going to be trash and decided it was no longer worth putting 100 percent energy to its season, which lead to a 5-4 finish to the year and a first-round NCAA Tournament ouster.

Per the NIAA's official state tournament packet, there does not appear to be a cap on the number of games played in a given day. That being said, there are pitch count rules that limit pitcher abuse. Those rules include:

* A pitcher may not throw more than 110 pitches in any one day

* A pitcher may not throw more than 150 pitches during any 4 consecutive days of postseason play

* A pitcher will be allowed to finish a batter if they reach either of the above limits during an at-bat, but must exit the game (as pitcher) after the hitter has completed his/her at bat or the half-inning ends

* A pupil who is a pitcher on a team that participates in baseball as a sanctioned sport during a baseball season shall not, during four (4) consecutive days of that season, pitch more than 11 innings or more than 33 outs

* If a pitcher violates any of the above pitch-count provisions, the team of which he or she is a member forfeits the game in which the violation occurs.

Those rules basically keep players from being massively overworked. Now, the NCAA just needs to add similar rules in college.

No, for a few reasons:

a) He loved football way more than baseball.

b) He got a four-year, $35 million contract from the Arizona Cardinals. It would have taken him, at minimum, eight seasons to get to that figure with the Oakland A's.

c) There's no guarantee he would have even made the big leagues, let alone be a star, in baseball. He missed a lot of field time splitting duties, and baseball is a sport where repetition is essential.

d) Given the way quarterbacks are protected by the NFL rules these days and how MLB free agency is going, there's more earning potential in the NFL if you are a quarterback.

e) If he flames out in the NFL, he could still return to baseball at a relatively young age (say 25 or 26 years old).

There are obvious health concerns involved with the NFL, but I think he's completely at peace with the situation and will be a decade from now even if he's putting his brain at risk. He was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Hard to regret that no matter what happens.

1. Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" (originally recorded by Dolly Parton)

2. Aretha Franklin's "Respect" (originally recorded by Otis Redding)

3. Johnny Cash's "Hurt" (originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails)

4. Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" (originally recorded by The Family)

5. Nirvana's "In the Pines" (originally recorded by Lead Belly, kind of)

"Good job, good effort" award goes to Fugees for "Killing Me Softly With His Song" (originally recorded by Roberta Flack).

Once they've played their last game.

I'll gladly take this weather over 100 degrees. We did get about 10 days of summer before this latest "cold front," but 100 degrees will be here before you know it.

Ted Ginn Jr. in a 40-yard dash and White Lightning in a 100-yard dash. (Some background on the story).

I was 9 when I first heard that joke.

Have mercy.

I am not related to Jim Murray. I am, however, related to Bill Murray.

Sloth from The Goonies. "Hey you guys!" See y'all next week.

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