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Murray's Mailbag: Which Mountain West schools are best prepared for jump to Pac-12?

San Diego State
San Diego State has a killer basketball program, new football stadium and big media market. It could be attractive to the Pac-12 in time. (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)

We made history today. Reader Thomas Green asked me nine questions in this week's Monday Mailbag, which breaks the previous record for questions by one reader in a Mailbag (I believe that mark was seven questions, also by Thomas Green!). So if you like today's Mailbag, thank Thomas Green for asking almost one-third of the questions answered this week. Let's get to those questions. Thanks, as always, for the inquiries.

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

Yes! Happy birthday again to my wife, May!

The Pac-12 would prefer to grab a team that's already in a power conference, a Texas or an Oklahoma, but I don't see that happening given the current payouts for Big 12 schools. In fact, I don't know that expansion makes sense for the Pac-12 because short of adding a powerhouse like Texas or Oklahoma, is any addition going to move the needle enough to increase the conference distribution per school? Or is that addition just going to cut the pie into smaller slices? I don't believe adding a school like Boise State will bring an additional $33.6 million per year to the Pac-12, which is what every Pac-12 school got in the most recent reporting year. But I will play your game will list the most likely Mountain West schools (plus BYU) to get an invitation to the Pac-12 (although I don't think any of them are getting one this decade).

12. San Jose State: HaHa! The Spartans shouldn't even be in the Mountain West.

11. Utah State: Logan has a population of 50,863 people, which is bigger than Washington State's Pullman (33,598), but the media market is too small.

10. Fresno State: Have you been to Fresno? The Dog House Grill is impressive, but it's not that impressive. This isn't happening.

9. Wyoming: Montana and Idaho were once in the Pac-12 (it was called the Pacific Coast Conference back then), but far-off Western destinations don't move the needle anymore.

8. Nevada: In 2015, the Board of Regents floated the idea of Nevada and UNLV going to the Pac-12. That's as close as it's going to get from the Wolf Pack's perspective.

7. New Mexico: The Lobos' financial situation has been a mess (same with Nevada), and New Mexico simply doesn't win enough in football.

6. Air Force: There's a certain prestige that comes with military academies, but this isn't a fit for the Pac-12.

5. Colorado State: The Rams have a new football stadium and spend on athletics, but it doesn't carry the Denver region (media market-wise) and hasn't excelled in the revenue sports.

4. UNLV: UNLV has the market size and the facilities, but the academics aren't up to par and the football history is atrocious. But I wouldn't completely rule out UNLV given it has the nation's No. 39 media market.

3. Boise State: The Broncos have the best Group of 5 football program, but it's had that for the last 20 years and has never received a Power 5 offer (and the brand isn't quite as strong as it used to be). Academics are a major issue. But from a pure football standpoint — and football drives these things — Boise State would be the best add.

2. San Diego State: SDSU has a lot of things working it. Its media market of 29 is huge. The basketball program is a regular Top 25 team that would bank NCAA Tournament units. The football program is strong and moving into a new state-of-the-art stadium. Among current MW schools, SDSU is the best bet.

1. BYU: The Cougars got the shaft the last time the Pac-12 expanded, with the conference adding Utah and Colorado (BYU was so mad it left the MW to go independent). The Cougars have the infrastructure in place and above-average revenue programs. But the Pac-12 already turned it down once.

No. Eric Musselman's teams set the Wolf Pack record in per-game attendance three straight seasons. Nevada has had 51 games in its history hit 10,000-plus fans. Of those, 24 came in Musselman's four seasons. Twelve of the top-19 home attendances came under Musselman. That's an unrealistic goal. Two games in Alford's first season are in the top 51, so he had some nice spikes, and fans will be excited to go back to live sporting events. But Musselman's last team averaged 10,852 fans per game, which was bolstered by 8,326 season-ticket holders. That figure was down to 7,220 in Alford's first season and will probably be closer to 6,500 this year. If Nevada averages 8,500 fans in 2021-22, that'd be good. It'd rank fifth in program history. But 10,852 per game isn't happening (that's 94.1 percent capacity every game).

I'm taking Big League Chew (and Fruit Stripe) over Big Red and Juicy Fruit. But if I have to chose one of those, I'll take Big Red. There's a nice spice to Big Red.

I wrote up the scenarios here, but Nevada basically has to win two of four games against San Jose State or beat SJSU once and have San Diego State lose once to New Mexico. SJSU is awful. The Spartans have lost 13 straight games. Nevada has won 11 straight MW contests. The Wolf Pack should at least split with the Spartans. As for NCAA Regional sites, the last time a Mountain West team didn't play in the West (and I'm including playing in the state of Texas in that "West") was 2014 when San Diego State was shipped to Lafayette, La., when it was the No. 2 team from the MW. So Nevada should stay out West with its Regional site. The last several MW Regional sites have been Stanford, Corvallis, Long Beach, Lubbock and Lake Elsinore.

Very impressive. It's not easy to sweep a baseball series. Even if you're the far better team, baseball can by fluky. So, Nevada sweeping San Diego State, UNLV and Fresno State (the three best teams in the conference outside of the Wolf Pack) has been exceptionally impressive, especially considering the pressure Nevada put on itself by starting MW play 4-7. Under T.J. Bruce, the Wolf Pack has typically been much better in conference play (89-50) than non-conference play (50-90). Part of that is the schedule as Bruce beefs that up. But those are vastly different winning percentages (64 percent in conference and 35.7 percent out of conference). As a result, you could predict an improvement in MW games to an extent. But not many expected this.

It's really come down to the hitting. Nevada had four double-digit scoring games in its first 19 contests (and was 7-12 overall) and then scored double-digits in nine of its next 19 games (and went 14-5). Scoring runs is helpful! Nevada is eighth in the nation in batting average, fifth in doubles per game and sixth in slugging percentage. I know Bruce likes to build his teams on defense and pitching, but you have to score big to win games at altitude, and Nevada's bats have awoken in the second half of the season. The Wolf Pack is fourth in double plays turned per game and 13th in field percentage, so the defense has been solid, too, and Nevada has done this despite losing ace Owen Sharts to elbow surgery. So it's been very impressive.

It's worth noting Nevada is 3-9 in non-conference games (against a strong schedule), so it must prove it can beat NCAA Regional-caliber teams. But the first step is getting there, and the Wolf Pack is on the verge of achieving that for the first time since 2000.

AJ Bramah, a highly productive transfer from Robert Morris, had Nevada as a finalist before committing to Arizona State in March. He decommitted from the Sun Devils today, so he's back on the market. There were issues getting him into Nevada academically the first go-around, so unless that's changed, the Wolf Pack won't be a landing spot. Plus, Nevada is technically at the maximum of 13 scholarship (but that's always flexible). Unless Bramah has fixed the academic chasm (which he could have since most schools just finished finals), it's not a fit. But he'd be a nice addition as an undersized power forward, which was the role Wichita State transfer Trey Wade was going to fill after signing with Nevada before decommitting. That's the kind of player Steve Alford has been looking for in the transfer portal. He'd be an impact addition at Nevada, a guy who get 25-plus minutes per game and makes the Wolf Pack a more dynamic offensive team with his slashing ability in addition to him being an above-average rebounder.

And if you read the previous paragraph, you now know why I don't like covering recruiting. Committing to one school over another and being at the maximum scholarship allotment means nothing these days.

It's going to be tough to have both by 2025, although 2030 might be a realistic goal. The issue here is the stadium. The Nevada Legislature just gave the Raiders a $750 million taxpayer handout, which wasn't popular in the state. Will it do that again just a few years later as we try and climb out of a recession? I could see an NBA expansion team playing in T-Mobile Arena, so that wouldn't require a new stadium. But the A's have been rumored to be interested in Las Vegas, and that'd require a new stadium. Who's funding it? I think the A's will find a way to stay in Oakland. So my money would be on an NBA team in Las Vegas before an MLB team. Both by 2030? I wouldn't bet on that. I'll give it a 10 percent, although Las Vegas has shown it can support major-league sports with its backing of the NHL's Golden Knights.

He's correct. The NBA isn't suspending LeBron James for going to a party. He's the face of the league. He's the reason the Lakers-Warriors play-in game did huge numbers (5.62 million viewers, the most for an NBA game since before the pandemic). He's going to get the star treatment, and he's earned it. If you want to call that a lack of "balls," so be it.

I'm not a fan of the play-in tournament because it rewards mediocrity. If you can't finish among the top-16 teams in a 30-team league, you shouldn't be in the playoffs. But these leagues know there's TV money to be made with more playoff games, so the NFL, MLB and NBA have all expanded the playoffs in the last 12 months. It devalues the regular season, but it's all about money, and these games draw good ratings, so they're not going anywhere. I did enjoy the Lakers-Warriors game, but that matchup was a one-time thing thanks to the Lakers' regular-season injuries. You're not going to get stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry facing off in the play-in game ever again. It's going to be more like the Wizards versus the Pacers. The one-game elimination nature of it makes the play-in games more fun. It gives it an NCAA Tournament feel. But count me out on giving bad teams more access to the playoffs (the four Eastern Conference teams in the play-in tournament were a combined 14 games under .500 in the regular season).

As for the NBA title, this is the most open the postseason in my lifetime. The Lakers are the Western Conference betting-line favorite but haven't been healthy all season and aren't in prime form. The Nets might have the best offensive team in NBA history but don't play defense. Nobody believes in the Jazz or Suns, but they were great in the regular season. Would you be shocked if the Bucks, Clippers or 76ers won the title? No. It's wide open, which is fun. I'll pick the Nets over the Lakers (and I'm a Lakers fan, so let's hope that doesn't happen).

Does he deserve to? No. Will he? Yes.

Thomas is referencing this story. His trip is not until June, so he'll decide after that. He's excited to visit all of the places I've laid out for him and his wife.

Yep. I loved the first season. It was refreshingly upbeat but wasn't campy. It had heart. I highly recommend the show to those who haven't seen the first season. It's the only show I've watched on Apple TV+. It's a quick watch and will restore your faith in humanity, at least a little. I'm curious to see where they take things in season two with the club's relegation and Lasso's relationship status. The show also gave birth to a great Twitter handle (@DancingLasso).


I answered this in a Monday Mailbag in 2019. The first question in that Mailbag asked me if Nevada football should drop to the FCS. Things can change quickly! But here are my holiday rankings if we discount Memorial Day since it's not a celebratory day.

10. Valentine's Day (those heart-shaped candies with little sayings like "Be Mine" are legit)

9. Cinco de Mayo (Mexican food is so damn good)

8. St. Patrick's Day (I'm part Irish)

7. Easter (no better way to celebrate the resurrection of a human than looking for hard-boiled eggs)

6. New Year's Eve (I'm so old I don't even last until midnight anymore)

5. Festivus ("I've got a lot of problem with you people!")

4. Halloween (I've always been a big fan of knocking on the door of strangers and demanding candy)

3. Fourth of July (aka "Propane Night" when I used to battle my roommate and dog in a hot-dog eating contest; RIP Lukin)

2. Thanksgiving (the only day I'm allowed to drink wine from a bottle with a gigantic plastic straw)

1. Christmas (Home Alone season!)

Depends if we're talking about a plane trip or a car trip. I'm going to assume a car trip since you have two young kids. I'll also assume you don't want too long of a drive (again, because of having two young kids). We're going to Monterrey for three nights and four days for Memorial Day weekend. That's a fun trip for the kids. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is awesome, as is Cannery Row. The Dennis The Menace Playground is great for kids. The beaches are nice, although the water is too cold to swim in. The Oregon Coast also is fun if your family is into camping. The beaches are a little gloomy, but it's a great bonding trip and has amazing scenery. For the summer, I recommend a houseboating trip at Shasta Lake, which is only 3.5 hours away from Reno. Rent a speed boat, too. The kids will love it. You could visit Burney Falls on the way there. Redwood National Park is a fun place, and you could double back through Mendocino. If you want to get on a plane, I'd guest Seattle, San Diego or Maui (we're going there in July). And you can't go wrong with a little stay-vacation by renting an Airbnb in Tahoe.

Very amazing! But not as amazing as Reno High winning the 5A regional championship with its victory over Manogue. The Huskies went 19-1 this season and out-scored its opponents, 164-45, an average winning margin of 5.95 runs per game. And in softball, Spanish Springs went 18-1 en route to a 5A championship. The Cougars allowed just three runs in its final 13 games. Ace Hailey McLean gave up zero earned runs (0!) in her last 11 appearances this season (61.2 innings). Amazing!

In a word, "unsurprising." The Giants have a nice little ball club. They might finish a little above .500 and compete for the second wild card spot. They're not the Dodgers. The Dodgers are the best team in baseball. So even though the Dodgers were on the road and without three legitimate MVP-caliber players (Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Mookie Betts) and didn't pitch their ace (Clayton Kershaw), I expected a sweep. The Dodgers are a lot better than the Giants, who have been riding unsustainably good starting pitching while posting the fifth-worst batting average (.227) in baseball while playing an easy schedule. San Francisco has the second-hardest remaining strength of schedule in the NL. Could the Giants make the playoffs? After that hot start, yes. But they're not in the same class as the Dodgers or Padres and aren't winning the NL West. Good thing I put $20 on the head-to-head series between the Giants and Dodgers with a co-worker before last week's games. In a best-case scenario, the Giants can earn the second wild card and play the Dodgers in a one-game winner-advances situation. Anything can happen in one game in October. Keep your heads up.

I don't like a no-hitter every 10 days, which is what we've seen so far this season with six full no-hitters plus Madison Bumgarner's seven-inning no-no. It makes them less special. MLB has a real problem on its hands with calibrating the ball so the game isn't all about homers without taking all of the offense out of the game (the MLB batting average of .237 is the lowest since also hitting .237 in 1968). I don't know the answer, but the game is tough to watch when the ball is never put in play.

In terms of Dodgers' no-hit potential, I'd go (1) Trevor Bauer (since the Dodgers will let him go 120-plus pitches), (2) Walker Buehler (best stuff on the team and was part of a combined no-hitter for the Dodgers in 2018) and (3) Dustin May (if he was healthy). Since he's hurt, I'll put Julio Urias third, although he's never thrown more than seven innings or more than 100 pitches in a big-league game. So the Dodgers would have to be willing to stretch him. He's got the stuff to do it.

I've never been there and didn't know which state it was in before Googling it — it's in Maine — so I might not be the right guy to ask on this one. But there appears to be a badass lighthouse called Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, so I'd just hang out there. Some beautiful views.

Since I'm in the middle of a 100-day keto diet — down 13 pounds in the first 40 days — I can't eat sandwiches since I have to keep myself to 30 grams of carbs or less per day, and there's at least 15 grams of carbs in one piece of bread (so 30 per sandwich). But in my sandwich-eating days, my go-to place was Full Belly Deli, which is close to the NSN studios. I'd go meatball sandwich all day every day, but anything on that menu is great. Now I'm sad that I can't eat a meatball sandwich.

The top-ranked Americans in badminton are Timothy Lam (men's singles; 86th in the world), Beiwen Zhang (women's singles; 14th in the world), Phillip and Ryan Chew (men's doubles; 35th in the world), Ariel and Sydney Lee (women's doubles; 78th in the world) and Howard Shu and Paula Lynn Cao Hok (mixed doubles; 68th in the world). Outside of Zhang, we don't have a chance. "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A (badminton) nation turns its lonely eyes to (Beiwen). Woo, woo, woo."

Zeb Hogan stars in the National Geographic show, Monster Fish, which makes him famous. Fun Fact: He emailed me to say he appreciated my work. It was cool to see him as a loyal reader, but I believe my email back to him only read, "Monster Fish!" I didn't say, "Thanks for reading. I enjoy your show, too." I just typed in, "Monster Fish!" and hit send. I didn't hear from him again, so maybe my "Monster Fish!" response was in poor taste. But, yes, I think Hogan qualifies as the most famous professor at Nevada. I don't know of any others who host popular national television shows. Second would probably be Eric Rasmussen, who is among the world's foremost experts on the works of William Shakespeare (I took a couple of classes from him).

1) A commitment from the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority (RSCVA), which generally hasn't been overly interested in bringing pro sports event to Northern Nevada. It's hard to beat out Las Vegas for these kinds of bouts, so I wouldn't bank on any big-name title fights coming to Reno in the near future. It's more likely you'll see an up-and-coming boxer make a stop in Northern Nevada en route to greatness, ala Mike Trout playing at then-Aces Ballpark as a farmhand for the Angels (he hit a ball into the train trench beyond the left-field fence), Buster Posey (he went 9-of-14 in a four-game series in Reno) or Madison Bumgarner (he gave up four runs on 11 hits and two walks in three innings in a 2010 start in Reno).

2) We tied 3-3 after leading 3-1 at halftime. I informed the team after the game that we tied 3-3, but Ellie, one of the Pirates' best players, said, "We got to three goals first, so we technically win." And who am I to argue with a 6-year-old girl? If Ellie counts it as a "W," I do, too. Put us down for 4-1 this season.

The biggest change is The Teal Pirates are the talk of town and the biggest sports draw in the city.

I pay Hulu an extra $6 per month so I don't have to watch commercials, although I still get commercials on 80 percent of the playbacks on my DVR and non-live television, so I have no idea why I'm paying the additional $6 per month outside of the illusion that I believe I won't get commercials. Do better, Hulu. Of 2021 commercials, Handsome Mike B. Jordan is the best. "Things are getting way too wet around here!"

The only Messina I know is Mike "Moose" Mussina, so I'm making this one up on the fly. While Jim Messina is no Kenny Loggins, he did have a nice career as a member of Buffalo Springfield and Poco in addition to his time in Loggins and Messina. That duo went on reunion tours in 2005 and 2009. Messina released seven solo albums, worked in production, dabbled in watercolor and acrylics and did carpenter work building furniture. Seems like a great life even if he didn't become as big a star as Loggins.

As for Loggins and Messina, "House at Pooh Corner" is a classic. My dad used to play that ish when I was a kid.


* Green River (pioneers of grunge who featured future members of Pearl Jam — Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament — and Mudhoney)

* Bad Radio (featured an unknown Eddie Vedder)

* The Castiles (featured an unknown Bruce Springsteen)

* Bluesology (featured an unknown Elton John)

* Sista (featured an unknown Missy Elliott)

* Breakfast Club (featured an unknown Madonna)

* Wind in the Willows (featured an unknown Debbie Harry, known best as Blondie)

* The Hassles and Attila (two bands Billy Joel was in pre-fame)

* Fritz (a high school psychedelic band that included Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham pre-Fleetwood Mac)

* Crawling King Snakes (featured future Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant and John Bonham)

I'm not taking all of next week off. I'm just taking Monday off for Memorial Day. And while I'd be open to having President Sandoval do a guest Mailbag, I doubt he wants to spend the six hours I take every Monday to write one of these up. Also, the two times I've had guest Mailbags (Doug Knuth and Fake Matt Mumme), they've sent me their answers and I have to go back and match the questions to the answers and put it into our system. All of that backworking usually takes me 90 minutes, and I'm not going to be in town Monday to do that. So no Mailbag next week, but we'll make the following week's Mailbag extra special!

See y'all in two weeks!

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 crmurray@sbgtv.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.

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