Murray's Mailbag: Is Texas a good or bad draw for Nevada basketball? – Reno Gazette Journal


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We answer that question and everything else about the NCAA Tournament.
Chris Murray/RGJ

It?s been a long day and I still have a lot of stuff?to do before I can go home, so let?s get right to your questions for the weekly Murray?s Monday Mailbag. Thanks, as always, for your inquiries.

In the NCAA Tournament, you?re going to play a good team. Those are just the facts. The matchup will rarely be picture perfect, but I think it?s a pretty good draw for the Wolf Pack, both in the first-round game and also because it avoided the dreaded 8-9 matchup that would set it up with a one seed in round two.

Texas obviously has a big size advantage with 6-foot-11 center Mo Bamba and 6-9, 245-pound power forward Dylan Osetkowski. That?s not ideal, but it also gives Nevada some advantages with its smaller, faster lineup.

Texas has multiple future NBA players, so it?s a talented group, but also one that hasn?t truly gelled this season. Plus, Texas is down two key guards and has almost zero NCAA Tournament experience. If I had to assign a grade to Nevada?s matchup, it?s in the B-/C+ range, which is fine. Last year?s matchup with Iowa State was more like a C-/D+.

That?s the No. 1 key, so we will see. In the?national rankings, Nevada is one spot higher than Texas in rebounding margin. Nevada is minus-0.1 rebounds per game on the season; Texas is minus-0.2. But, Texas did that in the best rebounding conference in the country, so it?s a little misleading. Iowa State, also from the Big 12, was considered a ?bad rebounding team? entering its first-round game with Nevada last year. The Cyclones out-rebounded the Wolf Pack by 10 boards (and that was versus a much better rebounding Nevada squad). So, the stats can be misleading. If you told Nevada it would be even on the glass with Texas, it?d take it.

Yes he is. Coach Musselman put it best, and I’m paraphrasing: ?He?s a lottery pick and we haven?t played a lottery pick this season.? Nevada has matched up with some excellent players in Keenan Evans, Chandler Hutchison, Jaylen Fisher and Brandon McCoy, among others, but none are as talented as Texas? 6-foot-11 center Mo Bamba. Keeping him off the glass and not allowing him to be a force on defense is key.

Oklahoma because that’s an NIT-caliber team.

New Mexico coach Paul Weir “hates me” because of the following tweet I sent after the MW Tournament quarterfinals.

So, Weir did not like me saying the winner of the Nevada-SDSU game was going to win the MW Tournament. After New Mexico beat Utah State in its semifinal, Weir said:

?Chris Murray might not think there’s a game tomorrow night, but we do. We’re excited to be here. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got. We’ve battled back from a lot, and that’s America. And if Chris Murray doesn’t want to believe in that, that’s fine, but we’re really looking forward to just giving it everything we’ve got tomorrow night. We’ve come a long way and we’ll keep fighting.?

That was included in his opening statement after a big win.?And, for the record, I believe in America. Of course, SDSU went on to win the MW Tournament title, as predicted, but New Mexico did give he Aztecs a solid game. After that game, Weir went on to take a shot at Nevada, as seen in this next tweet.

Musselman is the best coach in the MW. I?m guessing he?s also the least liked coach in the MW for the following reasons.

1) He beats all of the other teams in the MW. I?m sure there?s some jealousy.

2) His sideline behavior has been referenced by at least two coaches I?ve talked to (?What does he have to do to get a technical?? I?ve heard after games).

3) He keeps his starters in late in blowouts. He?s a take-no-prisoners coach.

4) Some might view his transfer model as a shortcut to success.

5) Musselman has been critical of how other MW teams schedule. He doesn?t directly point out the schools, but he doesn?t like teams scheduling non-Division I schools, and all but two MW teams ? Nevada and UNLV ? did that this year. (Also worth noting: He?s right about that. Nevada has the scheduling model every MW team should be following).

6) Maybe they?re jealous of his polo game? Who wants to wear a suit and tie when their counterpart gets to wear a polo?

So, yeah, he?s not exactly a favorite among other coaches. Does he want to be? Everybody wants to be liked and respected, so I?m sure hearing comments like that from Weir hurt a little. But, it also adds to his motivation. The chip on the shoulder gets bigger. And the wins and trophies keep piling up.

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I?ll be working the entire time I?m in Nashville, so I won?t get to do anything fun or go to any restaurants, although I will hit up Bojangles based on the Martins? advice. Nevada football is playing in Nashville in September and I plan on going to the game a day early so I can have some fun in the Music City. But, based on my experience at last year?s NCAA Tournament, I will either be working or sleeping the entire time I?m in Nashville.

I don?t see that as a fit. I think Doug Knuth would go in another direction, even though Mark Fox is a good coach. The difference in offensive approach between the two coaches is pretty vast, and the players are used to the freedom Musselman allows on that end of the court. I could, however, see Fox landing in the MW at Colorado State. That?s a solid program that can offer a seven-figure salary and Fox has family (or at least did when Nevada played there in 2008) in that area. I think he’d be a great addition to the MW.

That?s a big question mark. He?s listed as day-to-day and has been limited in practice but is expected to play Friday. Stephens is Nevada?s big X factor as his 3-point shooting opens up everything for everybody else. When Nevada goes on big runs, Stephens usually hits a couple of threes in that stretch. Much of the Wolf Pack?s roster is physically compromised to some degree, which is an issue, but it?s March, so you play through it because nobody will remember a decade from now how you were feeling during the game, but they?ll remember if you win the game.

The football team always takes a charter plane, so I never see them. The basketball team gets a charter paid for by the?NCAA for the tournament, so I won’t be on their plane. But, I’m on the same commercial plane as the hoops squad probably half a dozen times a year. I’ll usually talk to the coaches more than the players. Nobody treats me as a leper. This staff is very easy to work with and the players are some of the nicest and smartest guys I’ve covered, so I’m not the enemy (unless I pick them to lose in my three keys and prediction, I suppose).

The team is flying out Wednesday morning. I am flying out Wednesday afternoon. I expect a big going-away crowd for both me and the team.

I’ll take Caroline, 11-7. Similar player. Both excellent. But, Caroline is the better athlete.

It doesn’t really matter because Curry Lynch takes on the winner and he crushes him, 11-0.

Wolf Pack fans are fairly loud. I wouldn’t judge anything based off the MW Tournament semifinal game. In the pre-game warmups and introductions, Nevada’s fan base was louder than San Diego State’s. Once the game started, the Wolf Pack didn’t give its fans anything to cheer for. The Aztecs gave their fans a ton to cheer for. I wouldn’t blame that on the fans. When you’re team is getting whipped, it’s hard to cheer.

I pondered texting their mom to get the answer to this question but didn’t want to sound like a creep, so I looked it up in LexisNexis, which is also sort of creepy, and it appears Caleb’s middle name is Christopher (good name if you ask this Chris). But, Cody does not exist in?LexisNexis, which is pretty rare. So, I have determined the Martins are not actually twins, but rather there is only Caleb and his hologram who he calls “Cody.”

He’ll win a PGA event again, but he’ll never win a major again. So, that probably means he’s not “back” since the bar for him is so high.

The creation of the Reno Events Center kind of killed Lawlor as a concert venue. Rarely does an act that comes to Reno need a facility larger than what the Reno Events Center (or the Grand Theater in the GSR) holds. There also are some acoustic issues with Lawlor, which hasn’t been kept up to par with its maintenance over the years. But, I remember going to a number of great shows there in my younger days, namely Tacking Back Sunday, Rise Against, My Chemical Romance and?Underoath in 2007.

I’ll put it at 90 percent they all return, with the 10 percent chance of leaving being a result of a transfer if Musselman is hired away from Nevada. I don’t think any of them are going pro and sticking. They might test the proverbial waters, though.

You could play it either way: (a) It was a wakeup call and the team will be better for it or (b) it destroyed their confident and that will drag into Friday’s game. I asked the players how that loss affected their confidence, and here was one answer.

?Hurt our confidence??No,” Caleb Martin said. “If anything, it makes us even more hungry. Just coming in, I?d rather us get hit like that right before the tournament than get hit like that in the tournament. I think it will be a good wakeup call for us going into the tournament and hopefully we can give that right back to the next team.?

We will see Friday.

With games on back-to-back-to-back days, you can’t reseed after the results are posted. For example, in your scenario, Nevada would have drawn Utah State in the semifinal, but that wouldn’t have been fair to the Aggies since their game didn’t end until 11 p.m. and they would have had to play Nevada at 3 p.m. the next day. Not enough rest time. The format is fine as is.

Mix in some Pearl Jam, Incubus, Rage Against the Machine and Phil Collins.

The talk at the Mountain West Tournament indicated the conference still believes it can land Gonzaga. BYU is a secondary piece. I don’t see the MW adding Saint Mary’s, and I also don’t think it will kick out San Jose State. We should know on that Gonzaga piece by early April.

Very real. I now feel like it is more likely to happen than not happen.

Reno, so I can sleep in my own bed and see my own kids (as opposed to anybody else’s kids, which would be weird).

Yes, there are two separate trophies. I just came from?Musselman’s office and he had two 2017 MW trophies in there and one for 2018.

I could see another $1 million coach at some point. UNR president Marc Johnson said he’d never go to $1 million, but did for Musselman. When you win, you want to keep winning, so I wouldn’t put a cap on how much money Nevada will spend on a coach even though there has to be a ceiling somewhere. If you need to pay $1.5 million to keep Musselman, you do it.

Ultimately, yes. I know the team desperately wanted to win the MW Tournament. The post-game locker room was ugly. Grown men sobbing with towels over their heads. It was bad. It also shows you had much this team wants to win. But, in the end, they needed some rest and the loss didn?t drop them into the 8-9 game, so it could be viewed as a positive in the long run as long as that team confidence wasn’t crushed.

Yes. Nevada was a fairly young team last season, so it should be stronger in 2018 as a result of pure maturation as well as a recruiting emphasis on adding larger human beings to the roster.

You are sore because I gave you a spanking on those bowling lanes.

They could, but I don?t think they will. A potential second-round matchup with Cincinnati would be exceptionally difficult. That?s a Final Four-caliber team. But, if Nevada hits its threes at a 50 percent rate, which it?s more than capable of doing, anything is possible. That?s why they call it March Madness.

No. Per NCAA rules, the sit-out transfers cannot travel with the team. They can pay?their own way to the tournament, if they?d like, and join the team at the venue.

Three percent chance that happens. So, in short, it is not going to happen.

I?ve learned I?m not the best at projecting college players to the NBA, but I think all three have a chance. They?re not locks by any means. Odds are more likely they don?t make it than they do, per the numbers. But, there?s a certain competitiveness and drive to these three that is different than most players and that will behoove them in the long run. I wouldn?t count them out despite the long odds they face.

Both Jazz Johnson and Nisre Zouzoua are excellent shooters. Johnson shot 41.5 percent from three at Portland last season. Zouzoua shot 36.7 percent from three?at Bryant last year. And Corey Henson shot 37.8 percent from three in his final two seasons at Wagner. Johnson is a Kendall Stephens-caliber shooter in practice, but he?s only 5-foot-10 and Musselman hasn?t played a guard that small in his rotation, so that will be interesting to track. But, there are plenty of good shooters in the pipeline.

Sure. And I’ll buy?16 boxes of Mike & Ike. One ticket and one Mike & Ike per giveaway.

All of my fantasy team names are profane, so I cannot help you with this unfortunately.?

I don’t believe Biscuitville is a real thing. I believe you are trying to prank me.

I don’t care.


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