Lindsey Drew could be key for Wolf Pack | RecordCourier.com

Lindsey Drew could be key for Wolf Pack

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

Lindsey Drew is the Nevada Wolf Pack basketball team's biggest enigma, conundrum and riddle all wrapped up together in one puzzling package. The Mountain West's most efficient player (his 5.4 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the conference by a wide margin) is that rare college basketball player who would simply prefer to allow his teammates to take all the shots. The 6-foot-4 junior point guard just might be the most unselfish player in Wolf Pack history. The Pack went on the road last week to play Texas Tech and TCU and Drew took a grand total of just three shots in 51 minutes combined in the two games. He scored a whopping total of two points. And the Wolf Pack lost both games by a combined 10 points. If the Wolf Pack is going to make any noise in the NCAA tournament this year it just might need its point guard to score more than two points in 51 minutes.

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Nobody expects Drew to turn into Allen Iverson and hog the ball and take 15-20 shots a game. But it seems like the Wolf Pack is not taking advantage of all of Drew's wonderful skills on the offensive end. Whether he knows it or not, he is capable of doing more than merely passing the ball. But the emergence of Cody Martin as a reliable point guard has cut into Drew's production this year. His minutes (26.1), assists (4.3) and steals (less than one a game) are all down slightly from a year ago. His point production (5.9 a game) is the same as a year ago but most of that came early in the year. Drew scored 31 points combined in the Pack's first three games, converting 12-of-16 shots, but has scored just 28 points in the last seven games since, converting a mere 9-of-28 shots. The puzzling part of all this is that Drew is a solid offensive player when he wants to be, converting 48 percent of his field goal attempts and nearly half (7-of-15) of his 3-point shots this season. If the Pack really wants to take the next step this year, Drew's offense could be the key that unlocks that next step.

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Which teams seem to be the biggest challengers to the Wolf Pack in the Mountain West? That group is already whittled down to just five (UNLV, Boise State, Fresno State, Wyoming and San Diego State) and it's not even January yet. The best of that group just might be UNLV, the most improved team in the Mountain West. The Rebels, who have beaten Utah and Illinois, are 8-2 (after going 11-21 last year) with their only losses coming in overtime. UNLV leads the Mountain West in scoring (91.5 points a game), whipping its opponents by a conference-leading 18.6 points a game. The Rebels also lead the league in assists and blocked shots. The difference in the Rebels this year and last year is the addition of three players, 7-1 freshman Brandon McCoy, 5-11 senior Jordan Johnson and 6-7 junior Shakur Juiston. McCoy leads the conference in scoring (20.2) and is second in rebounding (11.1), Juiston leads in rebounding (11.2) and Johnson leads in assists (7.6). Right now UNLV's Marvin Menzies is the conference coach of the year. But it is early.

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Derek Jeter obviously believes he still works for the New York Yankees. The Florida Marlins' new CEO (he simply bought the job by contributing $25 million to the Marlins new ownership group) basically just handed over the game's greatest home run hitter (Giancarlo Stanton) to the Yankees last week. It was the type of trade that would get him kicked out of any fantasy league in the country. And, oh yeah, he also sent $30 million to the Yankees to help pay Stanton's salary. The Marlins' new ownership group clearly can't afford to operate a major league franchise and its only goal now is to cut payroll. But getting rid of players like Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna (and possibly Christian Yelich) has left the Marlins with a team that would finish in last place in the Pacific Coast League. Any profits the Marlins might realize by not having to pay competent major league players will be diminished by an average attendance this season that would make the Reno Aces nervous.

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The combination of Stanton in a Yankees lineup with Aaron Judge is intriguing. The two combined for 111 home runs last year and, of course, Yankee fans are dreaming of about 120 or more this year. The record for two teammates is 115 by Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) with the 1961 Yankees. The most Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig ever combined for in one year was 107 in 1927 (Ruth had 60, Gehrig had 47). Barry Bonds (73) and Rich Aurilia (37) combined for 110 with the 2001 San Francisco Giants. Maybe Jeter was just trying to keep his reputation as baseball's best ambassador, always looking out for the good of the game. Stanton in New York is indeed great for baseball.

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The Yankees might be fortunate if Stanton and Judge combine for 80 home runs this year. Stanton (compared to Judge) will likely suffer the biggest fall from a year ago and not even sniff the 59 homers he hit in Miami. He was playing last year without any pressure for a team that wasn't expected to win anything. It will be different in New York. Don't forget that Stanton and Judge combined for 371 strikeouts last year. They might approach 400 this year. One home run record, though, that is in jeopardy with Stanton in New York is the major league record 264 that the Seattle Mariners hit in 1997. The Yankees hit 241 last year without Stanton. He should be good for at least 24 more.

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The NFL should be embarrassed by the Cleveland Browns. The once-proud franchise is now 1-28 over the last two seasons and 4-46 over its last 50 games dating back to the final five games of the 2014 season. This is a franchise that won five championships in its first five years of existence from 1946-50 in the All-America Football Conference (4 years) and NFL (one). Those original Browns, though, moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens in 1996 and have won two Super Bowls. The current Browns, which debuted in 1999, have had just two winning seasons (2002, 2007). The NFL, with its draft, salary cap and abundance of awful teams each year, is supposed to prevent such drastic losing. The Browns, though, are simply the worst professional organization among all of the teams combined in the four major sports.