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by Joe Santoro

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February 21, 2013
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Sports Fodder: Pack should be better at home

Sports fodder on a Friday morning . . .

Why can't the Nevada Wolf Pack football and men's basketball teams win conference games at home anymore? Northern Nevada, with its unforgiving altitude, gambling, bright lights and other distractions, should be a safe haven for the home team. The football team, though, went 1-3 in league games at Mackay Stadium in the fall and now the basketball team is 2-4 at Lawlor Events Center. The last time both teams were under .500 at home in league play in the same school year was the first season in the Western Athletic Conference in 2000-01. This is the first year in the Mountain West. But that's where the similarities end. The difference between 2000-01 and 2012-13 is that the football and men's basketball teams a dozen years ago were vastly overmatched. This year they have simply underachieved.

. . .

This year's Pack men's basketball team is in danger of doing something that no Pack team has accomplished since that dreadful first season in the WAC in 2000-01. The Pack this year could end up with just three victories after Dec. 31. The Pack is 3-8 since it rang in the new year. The last Pack team to win fewer than four games after Dec. 31 was Trent Johnson's first team in 2000-01, which went 3-14 after Dec. 31. The moral of this story? Stop changing conferences.

. . .

Have no fear, Wolf Pack fans. It won't take long for the Wolf Pack to legitimately compete for football and men's basketball Mountain West titles. This season is not the start of a dark era for Wolf Pack sports. It's just a little bump in the road. Brian Polian has the right idea in football. The Pack had to get faster and, judging by this recruiting class, it seems they are on their way. The basketball team just needs to find someone who isn't afraid to play inside the 3-point line and they'll be fine.

. . .

Paul George's emergence as one of the best players in the NBA under the age of 25 is a bit surprising. It was obvious he had a ton of athletic ability at Fresno State. But Luke Babbitt and the Pack always seemed to handle him fairly well in the WAC. George and Fresno met Babbitt and the Pack three times (George was injured and missed one game) and the Pack won two of them. Babbitt averaged 22.3 points and 10.7 rebounds and George averaged 14.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in their head-to-head showdowns. George, though, was the 10th pick in the 2010 NBA draft by the Indiana Pacers and has played 5,221 minutes in the NBA and Babbitt was the 16th pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves, immediately traded to the Portland Trail Blazers, and has played just 1,245 minutes. It's all about opportunity in the NBA.

. . .

I really believe the Wolf Pack men's basketball team has a chance to shock the UNLV Rebels on March 2 at Lawlor Events Center. There is no tangible basketball evidence for this. It's just a hunch. It's just a hunch based on a few actual facts and a few opinions. UNLV has lost four of its last nine games. They are a dreadful team on the road, losing at Fresno and Boise earlier this month. UNLV has won seven games in a row against the Pack but all seven were competitive battles. UNLV is overrated. Nevada is better than it has shown lately. UNLV will be overconfident. Nevada's David Carter is a better coach than UNLV's Dave Rice. The Wolf Pack will have all the intangibles (namely home court and desperation) on its side. The game is the Pack's entire season. UNLV will be looking forward to the postseason.

. . .

Why does anybody watch even a second of the NBA slam dunk farce? Why turn your sport on its showcase weekend into a circus? The dunk contest was interesting when actual NBA players participated. Now, though, we get James White, Terrence Ross, Gerald Green, Eric Bledsoe, Jeremy Evans and Kenneth Faried. Baseball lets the fans pick its all star teams. Why doesn't the NBA allow its fans to simply pick the dunk competitors? Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard and James Harden would be a nice contest.

. . .

We wish Stefphon Jefferson all the best in this week's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Jefferson had a great year as a junior for the Pack, finishing second in the nation in rushing, and decided it was best to go pro after his junior year. Some media outlets are already calling him the next Alfred Morris. But is he ready for the NFL? He had a tendency to drop the football last year and the next blitz he picks up as a blocker will be his first. Jefferson should be in Nevada getting ready for spring football right now. Staying at Nevada four years didn't hurt Colin Kaepernick.

Joe Santoro is a freelance writer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.

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The Record Courier Updated Feb 21, 2013 08:06PM Published Feb 21, 2013 08:04PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.