If you're a regular reader of the Monday Mailbag, you might remember The Regular Tigers. That was the first youth soccer team I coached in 2018. We went 1-7 that season. (We got jobbed by the ref in one of those games. I know this because I was the ref in that game and forgot the AYSO rules and screwed over my team by accident). Anyway, my second youth soccer team (The Blue Red Lightning Thunder; that's a real name) also went 1-7. So I entered last weekend 2-14 as a youth soccer coach. But this is the year we turn things around. I'm proud to announce my Great Basin Youth Soccer League 7U boys team (The Teal Pirates) opened the campaign with a 3-0 victory Saturday over the MVPs (also a real name). For some reason, I didn't get any questions about The Teal Pirates in this week's Monday Mailbag, but I'll answer your inquiries anyway. Thanks, as always, for the questions.
(Note: If you're not seeing the tweets, it's because you're not using Google Chrome. Use Google Chrome.)
Is Trey Wade going to be an All-Mountain West pick next season? No. And as a result, some Wolf Pack fans are disappointed by what looks like the last addition to the 2021-22 roster (Wade puts Nevada at the NCAA maximum of 13 scholarships for next season, although I wouldn't rule out more roster changes). But I'm bullish on adding Wade considering the circumstances. Yes, it would have been great for Nevada to land a star with its last scholarship. But the Wolf Pack is returning all five starters plus adding two former top-50 prep recruits in Addison Patterson and Will Baker. Simply put, there aren't a ton of minutes left, and any impact transfer will be looking for 30-plus minutes a night.
Wade, a transfer from Wichita State, should impact winning without having to take a lot of shots. Between Grant Sherfield, Desmond Cambridge, Warren Washington, Patterson and Baker, the Wolf Pack didn't much room to add another player who was going to want 12 to 15 shots a game, which is typically what an impact player requires. Wade has averaged just 6.3 shots per game in his career. He's averaged 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds. He has more career assists than turnovers. He's a solid defender and can guard multiple positions. He can finish around the rim (60 percent on close twos last season). He's not a great shooter — 33.3 percent on threes and 50.5 percent on free throws — but he's an ultimate glue guy who plays hard and does a lot of things well.
At 6-foot-6 and 221 pounds, he's an undersized power forward, but that's that position where I see most of his minutes coming from. Nevada has options at power forward, but I could see him starting and playing 20 to 25 minutes per game, which is what he averaged at his last school (24.3 minutes per game at Wichita State). He was the Shockers' third-best player last season, and they made it to the NCAA Tournament, so he's been a starter on a strong team. That's not easy to do when you have a low usage rate, and Wade's usage rate — 14.7 percent — was well below the national average. He reminds me Tyron Criswell in that he's a tough, strong, physical player who might not check all of the boxes you look for in a star, but he fills in a lot of gaps and makes his team better. He gets the most out of his talent.
There's a reason a bevy of Power 5 schools reached out to Wade despite him not being a double-digit scorer at Wichita State, and it's because he impacts winning in a positive way. It might not be a home run addition, but it's a solid double if we're going to stay with a baseball metaphor. Nevada might be a little light on 3-point shooting following this addition, but it's easy to see why Nevada wanted to add Wade. Additionally, as a graduate transfer, he allows Nevada to use this scholarship again for the 2022-23 season, which was key given the Wolf Pack only had one open scholarship for the 2022 class (Desmond Cambridge is the team's only other scholarship senior in 2021-22).
Nevada is one of three Mountain West favorites heading into the 2021-22 season along with Colorado State and San Diego State, and this helps solidify that standing. It doesn't lift the Wolf Pack over those teams, but they're all roughly on equal footing at this stage.
Third or fourth round. This would not have been a good draft for Carson Strong to enter. For starters, there are already a bevy of high-quality quarterbacks in the class with Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance all projected to go in the top 10. If you're a quarterback, you want to enter a draft that doesn't have a lot of top options because quarterbacks are naturally going to rise as teams are so eager to get the next face of the franchise. Quarterbacks always get pushed up on the board, even if they don't warrant it, because of the lack of options. With five top-10 picks, that wouldn't be the case for a mid-round guy this season, and that's what Strong would have been had he entered the 2021 draft.
Additionally, Strong is coming off a knee surgery and would have only had one season of high-level production (over a nine-game season with zero non-conference games to prove himself at a higher level), which would have led to some doubts. Given the skillset, I do think the Nevada quarterback would have been drafted if he came out this season, but he most likely would have been a day three pick. By returning to school, he has a chance to be a day one pick in 2022 if he balls out. He'll get some showcase games against Cal, Kansas State and Boise State, each on the road. He's still working with an excellent supporting case full of seniors in Romeo Doubs, Elijah Cooks, Cole Turner and Toa Taua. And he'll get a chance to add back-to-back standout seasons and try to drive Nevada into the Top 25 (and winning is big for quarterback recruits). As I've noted a number of times, I believe Strong has first-round potential, and next year's quarterback draft is not as highly rated as this year's, which should help push him up the boards next April.
Only six come to mind, the first being Todd Floyd, who starred at McQueen, leading the Lancers to a pair of state championships, before signing to play for Jeff Horton and the Wolf Pack in 1993 (a redshirt season). After Horton left for UNLV following one season leading the Wolf Pack, he took Floyd with him. Nevada coach Chris Ault didn't release Floyd from his scholarship when he transferred, meaning Floyd had to pay his own way during his first year with the Rebels. This all helped spark the chaos of the 1995 game, the first trip back to Mackay for Horton and Floyd, which included Reed High alum Quincy Sanders throwing his helmet at Ault. Floyd ended up catching 77 passes for 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns at UNLV before he spent time in four NFL training camps while winning the World Bowl in NFL Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy.
In terms of football, punter Logan Yunker and kicker Allen Hardison also pulled double duty, with Yunker starting at Nevada and Hardison at UNLV. Nevada kicker Ramiz Ahmed also was enrolled at UNLV at one point, but I don't think he was ever part of the Rebels football program.
Additionally, in men's basketball John Welch (from Nevada to UNLV) and Freddie Thompson (UNLV to Nevada) played for both schools. And now we can add Essence Booker to the list as the Wolf Pack's former top scorer has committed to play for UNLV after a one-year stint at Ball State. I'm sure I'm missing somebody who has played for both teams, but most of the names I remember who had stints at Nevada and UNLV were coaches, including Ault, Horton, Bill Ireland, Stan Stolte, Fred Dallimore, Enoch Borozinski, etc.
Some father-son duos that jump to mind are Eddie Sutton and sons Scott and Sean; Homer Drew and sons Scott and Bryce; John Thompson and son John III; Bob Knight and son Pat; Dick Bennett and son Tony; Rick Pitino and son Richard; Gene Bartow and son Murry; Ray Meyer and son Joe; Jim Dutcher and son Brian; and, of course, Bill Musselman and son Eric. The Musselmans were the first father and son to be head coaches in the NBA, so they'll always have that special distinction.
There have only been five father-son head coaches in the NBA, including the Musselmans; Bernie and J.B. Bickerstaff; Brendan and Mike Malone; Flip and Ryan Saunders; and Paul and Stephen Silas. That's still an exclusive group. While you could make a strong argument for the Musselmans as the best father-son basketball coaches given they were both head coaches in the NBA and NCAA, I think the top spot right now goes to the Drews. Father Homer won 640 games in college and took Valparaiso to seven NCAA tournaments in an eight-year period, including the 1998 Sweet 16. His son, Scott, just won a national championship at Baylor and is nearing 400 career wins. And his other son, Bryce, had made four NCAA tournaments in nine seasons as a head coach.
We did a "Bet or No Bet" segment last week (full segment here), and one of the question was whether Eric Musselman would still be at Arkansas in five years. I said, "No Bet." Musselman has never spent more than four seasons at any of his stops, and while Arkansas is a top-40 job in college basketball (and Musselman has elevated that to a top-25 kind of job), I wouldn't rule out a move in the near-term future. Musselman's buyout falls from $7.5 million to $2 million after the completion of his first year of this deal (full contract details here). That's an awfully low buyout. Look at Steve Alford's contract with Nevada. The Wolf Pack guaranteed Alford only half the money of Musselman's contract (at twice the length) and his second-year buyout is $6 million. Alford's buyout doesn't dip to $2 million until year five. Musselman had the leverage to decrease his buyout in these negotiations and used it, which doesn't necessarily mean he's gone. But he wants options, and now he has them. It's hard to predict when coaches will stay or leave because it takes just one job opening to create a cascade of outcomes. I'd guess Musselman is still at Arkansas by the end of 2023 (which is your question), but I'd bet against him still being there at the end of 2026 (which was the five-year window given to me in our "Bet or No Bet" segment).
I kept telling fans Musselman would be a short-timer at Nevada. Well, I get the opposite feeling about Coach Alford. I don't see him being desirous of making a jump back to the Power 5 level. He's been there, done that twice, first at Iowa and then at UCLA, which is one of those top-10 destination jobs. Neither worked out great, which would tamp down some potential suitors who'd have to sell the hire to an eager fan base. Alford had his greatest success at New Mexico, which, like Nevada, is in the Mountain West. He had a top-10 team with the Lobos. I get the feeling he wants to try and build the same thing at Nevada. He's getting paid $1 million a year, a fine salary. He gets to work with his best friend, Craig Neal. He gets to play a lot of golf. The pressure isn't enormous. The fan base is good. There are no state taxes. He has job security with an eight-year contract. His buyout is steep (full details here). He's nearing his 60s. Nevada fans can sleep as safely as possible that their basketball coach isn't going anywhere. It's never a 100 percent lock, but this is about as close as it gets.
Tyger Campbell probably starts, but I could see Grant Sherfield playing the shooting guard position besides him in place of Jules Bernard. Or he would have been the first guard off the bench in front of David Singleton. Sherfield would have gotten his 25-plus minutes per game, whether it was as a starter or a reserve. He's good enough to play big minutes for a Final Four-type team.
It's too early to completely tell, but odds are Nevada will be at 100 percent capacity for the start of the 2021-22 athletic season, which begins in September. The Reno Rodeo announced Monday it is planning on full capacity for its event, and that is held in June. So the Wolf Pack has 2.5 more months after that to get clearance for full capacity. To some degree, it depends on how much of the population gets vaccinated and the corresponding COVID-19 infection rates, but the Wolf Pack should be at full capacity at the beginning of the next athletic season.
I will defer opinion on that until after speaking with Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth, who is expected to hold a press conference this week to discuss the changes at Mackay Stadium for the 2021 season, which I wrote about last week. The biggest change, as you noted, is moving the student section and band from the north end zone to the south end zone with the Zonies. The end goal is to have vibrant sections in both end zones. Nevada has accomplished that in the south end zone with the Zonies, the most passionate part of the Wolf Pack fan base. It hasn't gotten the same out of the north end zone where the band and students sit. So let me get some insight from Knuth first. I'd like to have a better understanding from their perspective about why that change was made, and, of course, I'll pass that along with a story once we talk to him. At minimum, it's nice to see Nevada making some changes to try and improve its game-day experience given the program's attendance issues in recent seasons.
Arizona is a better job than Arkansas, plain and simple. If that makes me "hated in Arkansas," so be it. And I loved the Wildcats' hiring of Gonzaga head-coach-in-waiting Tommy Lloyd. He'll do a great job there. Arizona has been to 32 of the last 36 NCAA tournaments, missing only four times. Arkansas had missed 12 of the last 19 NCAA tournaments. The facilities and fan bases are more or less equal. The budgets are similar. Arizona has developed nearly three times as many NBA players over the last 30 years than Arkansas. The Wildcats have been way more successful on the court. It has equal or better in-state recruits thanks to Hillcrest Prep, et al. Arkansas has SEC money, but if you offered every head coach in the nation the Arizona or Arkansas job, more than three-quarters are taking the Arizona job.
I'm pretty sure I've answered this question before, so let's see if I can replicate my top five from the last time I did this.
4. Grand Canyon
Our NSN staff visited Yellowstone, Zion, Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon and Arches national parks for Road Trippin' last year (all top-10 national parks). If you want to read more on those trips, click here.
Yes. I don't think we're 100 percent cleared to announce anything yet, but I'm confident saying you'll be able to watch the Silver & Blue Scrimmage on a certain local sports network if you live in Northern Nevada.
UNR Wolfpack is my favorite. Or even Ne-VAH-duh Wolfpack. Lots of ways to screw up the name of the team in silver and blue. As I wrote about earlier this month, Nevada is the most mispronounced state in the union. The "Wolfpack" might be the most misspelled mascot in the FBS.
I say "yes," but I think most people say "no." Is Nevada-Boise State football a rivalry? For me, it is. These teams have basically played every year since 1971, except when they both moved into the Mountain West, which is really idiotic. The fans hate each other. They're regionally close. They fight for the same recruits. They're in the same conference. The game means a lot to both sides. They've had a number of thrilling and memorable contests. So it checks the boxes required to be a rivalry even though the Broncos have won 16 of the last 17 games between the schools.
As for Dodgers-Padres? I guess it's a rivalry, although San Diego seems to be more desirous of it being a rivalry because they're trying to inflate their team and brand to be on the same level as the Dodgers, which we know is not the case. You know you're the alpha when every team in your division believes you're their No. 1 rival as the Giants, Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks do. But since the Dodgers moved to California in 1958, they've won six World Series championship. The rest of the NL West combined have four. The Dodgers also have 19 NL West title in its history to 18 combined from the Giants, Padres, Diamondbacks and Rockies. It's a big brother-little brother situation.
Nevada beating Boise State in football.
The truth is, "We don't know." Some athletes are great at putting forth a persona of being a great man/woman, but it's just that, a persona. A couple of months ago, Deshaun Watson would have been considered one of the best dudes in football. Now? Not so much. So I rarely write about somebody's character because we honestly have no idea what quality of human these athletes are. I've seen the sausage made too long to know a lot of these athletes or coaches people look up to aren't worthy of that distinction. I've often told reporters I've mentored to avoid absolutes when talking about people they write about because we simply don't know them. We don't know their character based on a handful of interviews.
With that said, Lance Armstrong and Ryan Braun deserve special distinction for being jerks given they tried to ruin the lives of others to cover up their doping. It's one thing to lie while vehemently denying steroid use. It's another to try and ruin somebody's life to cover up your doping as these two did. They can say hello to Art Briles when they reach their final destination.
I don't know!
But, yes, very cool to see the Sparks boys soccer team jump from the 3A to the 5A and beat Galena in penalty kicks (5-4) to win this year's regional championship game. Perhaps I should set up a game between the Railroaders and my Teal Pirates.
Miles Hayes is on Nevada's roster. Not sure why 247Sports doesn't have him listed. But he's practicing with the team. As for Mack, there's actually two of them. There's Tyrese Mack, a transfer from Utah State, where he was a walk-on. And there's Tyriq Mack, a junior-college transfer from City College of San Francisco who joined Nevada last season. They're from Brentwood, Calif. Tyrese, a wide receiver, also played at City College of San Francisco before spending last season at Utah State (he didn't record a stat). Tyriq, a defensive back, appeared in one game with the Wolf Pack last year. So they're walk-ons who will add depth to the roster.
Nobody. Too business writing five or six stories a day to read what anybody else is writing! The only sports reading I do is about baseball, and I go to FanGraphs for that.
Well, it would have been a sweep if Dave Roberts was managing Sunday's game to win. The Dodgers were leading 2-1 entering the seventh inning and Roberts inserts Brusdar Graterol, who hadn't pitched the entire season in that high-leverage spot? And then he follows that with Scott Alexander and Dennis Santana, two low-leverage guys, while keeping Corey Knebel, Kenley Jansen and David Price (each with a day of rest) on the bench, not to mention Jimmy Nelson and Blake Treinen being available and not pitching? Very questionable decisions from Roberts, who is the weakest link in the Dodgers' championship hopes. I understand the Dodgers can play the long game and keep guys fresh for October, but I don't like seeing them lose. The Dodgers are going to go 110-52 or something this regular season, and I'll be mad about all 52 of those losses. This was an avoidable loss if Roberts used the Dodgers' best bullpen arms with nine outs to go to victory. Let's just hope he doesn't screw it up come playoff time.
The Red Sox were left for dead after getting swept in three games by the horrible Orioles to start the season. They won eight straight after that and are sitting at 11-6 now. It's all short-sample-size stuff. I wouldn't read too much into April records or stats. But in terms of the Red Sox, the hitting is there. Between J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Alex Verdugo and Christian Vazquez, the Red Sox are going to score runs (fourth in MLB in runs per game right now). It comes down to the rotation for the Red Sox. There's no depth there. Boston is 10th in baseball runs allowed per game after ranking 29th last year. That's been the difference, but an injury or two in the rotation would submarine Boston's season. That depth will be tested over a 162-game season. I'm still not penciling the Red Sox into the playoffs, but it's been a nice start. FanGraphs gives Boston a 51.8 percent chance of making the playoffs this year after starting the season at 38.9 percent. The Yankees' craptacular start has helped their rival.
Biggest positive surprises in MLB: Red Sox, Mariners, Reds, Giants, Royals
Biggest negative surprises in MLB: Yankees, Cubs, Braves, White Sox
But, again, it's April, and they play 162 games for a reason.
Yeah, the Padres don't have the same caliber of hitting as the Dodgers, and that's why the Dodgers will win the NL West. It's just a shame the Dodgers and Padres won't face off in the National League championship series. They're going to face off in the National League division series, which is only five games. They're the two best teams in baseball and deserve a seven-game series, not five games. Change the playoff structure, MLB.
As for the NL West's future, both teams are set up for long-term success. The Dodgers have the money, drafting prowess and development to be elite for another decade. The Padres have the big-league roster and farm system to remain in contention for the next half-decade. The Giants are getting better, but they're not going to compete for NL West titles against the Dodgers and Padres until 2024 at the earliest, and they'll need some pitching depth since the minor-league system is slanted toward position players. I kind of feel bad for the Giants (actually, I don't) because they're getting better but are still way behind two beasts. If they played in the NL Central, they could be competitive next season. Among the NL West's final two teams, I like the Diamondbacks' long-term future more than the Rockies, in part because Colorado is MLB's worst-run franchise and has the impediment of Coors Field, which makes it tough to build a World Series contender.
You always have to defer to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz with the Atlanta Braves. They were together from 1993-2002, which is incredible in retrospect. Atlanta had three Hall of Fame pitchers in their prime in the same rotation for a decade. Technically, it was only a seven-year run when all three were starters since Smoltz had Tommy John surgery in 2000 and went to the bullpen thereafter. But to only squeeze one World Series title out of that trio (in 1995) is an all-time waste of talent. In fact, they only got to three World Series in the 10-year period when those three were together. Either Bobby Cox wasn't good at his job, baseball is random flukiness in the playoffs or it was karma for their fans doing the tomahawk chop. For best MLB rotation ever, I'd go 1998 Braves with Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Denny Neagle and Kevin Millwood slightly over the 1966 Dodgers with Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Don Sutton as well as Claude Osteen, who posted a 2.85 ERA that season. Neither of those teams won the World Series, by the way. The 2021 Dodgers rotation could put itself in that same class with a World Series title. On top of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Trevor Bauer, the team's fifth starter is Dustin May, who pumps in 100 mile-per-hour fastballs with regularity. That's crazy.
My money is on Jeff Gordon edging Bill Elliott and Darrell Waltrip for the checkered flag.
It's funny you ask because I got a "How Many Times Has Low Places Been Played In A Country Bar?" counter for Christmas that I placed on my nightstand. Let me go and check where we're at right now.
***Returns five minutes later***
My "How Many Times Has Low Places Been Played In A Country Bar?" counter currently reads 3,367,982,192. It went up 434 times over the weekend, which is less than usual, but the numbers haven't been as strong during the pandemic with people gathering less often. And with that, I'm calling it a day and heading over to the Pure Country Canteen in Sparks to request Low Places so I can push my counter up to 3,367,982,193. 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.