Sports Fodder: Show up to support the Pack
March 15, 2012
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Will Northern Nevada show up on Sunday at Lawlor Events Center? Will Wolf Pack fans rise up out of their deep slumber that has lasted five seasons and buy a ticket for the Pack’s NIT second round game against Bucknell? Anything less than 10,000 fans would be a huge disappointment. Remember back in 1997 when 11,275 fans showed up to see the Pack play a second-round NIT game against Nebraska? There’s no reason that shouldn’t happen again. This Pack team has won 27 games. It won the Western Athletic Conference title. It won 16 games in a row. It is just two wins away from going to the NIT Final Four at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Why wouldn’t you want to support this team? You wouldn’t.
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The Wolf Pack can actually win the NIT title. Honest. The only teams standing in their way of getting a trip to New York are Bucknell and either Illinois State or Stanford. A third-round game would be either at home against Illinois State or at Stanford. And we all know how Wolf Pack fans love to travel to the Bay area for postseason games, right? Madison Square Garden is so close you can almost hear the trains rolling into Penn Station already.
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What would winning the NIT championship mean for the Wolf Pack? It would put the Pack back on college basketball’s national radar. It would be the Pack’s first post-season national tournament title. It would mean a school-record 31 victories. A Pack fan could get a chance to sit in Spike Lee’s seat at MSG. And it would get David Carter a half-dozen job offers. But winning the NIT is sort of like winning an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Wichita State, Dayton and Penn State won the last three NIT titles and nobody outside of Kansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania knew it. But the best thing a NIT title would do is prove that the NCAA Tournament selection committee was a bunch of idiots for leaving out the Pack this year.
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It is time the Portland Trail Blazers give Luke Babbitt meaningful minutes. The Blazers stunk up Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, losing by 42 points to a sorry, lazy, over-hyped New York Knicks team whose coach just quit a few hours earlier. But Babbitt came off the bench to score 12 points with five rebounds and a steal in 17 minutes. A week ago he scored 10 points with six boards in just 12 minutes against the Boston Celtics. He’s ready. The Blazers, which have lost 13 of their last 19 games, need to give Babbitt a legitimate chance to prove he wasn’t a wasted first-round pick.
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This is a great week for Wolf Pack basketball. The Pack is headed to the NIT second round, Babbitt is playing well and former Pack point guard Ramon Sessions was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. Sessions, who was averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 assists for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and has long been one of the most underrated and underused point guards in the league, could average 10 assists a game passing the ball to Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. And he could end up in the NBA Finals.
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The San Francisco 49ers better wake up and jump into the NFL’s free agent feeding frenzy soon before it’s too late. This is a team that needs to add a legitimate wide receiver to help quarterback Alex Smith. Pierre Garcon, Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne, Robert Meacham, Laurent Robinson and Brandon Marshall all were available in one way or another this off-season and all have found new homes or stayed put. The talent pool is shrinking fast at wide receiver. Mario Manningham, Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal are still out there. Smith needs one of them.
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All of the NFL free agent buzz this off-season has been about Peyton Manning and where he’ll end up. But the best quarterback available right now with which to build your franchise for the present and long-term future is ex-Green Bay Packer Matt Flynn. Yes, teams are a little gun-shy about giving huge money to another team’s backup after the Kevin Kolb and Matt Cassel disasters, but Flynn could be a Super Bowl title waiting to happen with the right team.