Loss at Wyoming no cause for concern | RecordCourier.com

Loss at Wyoming no cause for concern

Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The Nevada Wolf Pack men's basketball team might want to chip a piece of cement off Lawlor Events Center and take it with them the next time they venture out on the road. It's not that the Wolf Pack can't win away from Lawlor. It's just that if the Pack is going to lose, it's almost certain that it will happen away from home. Lawlor protects the Pack. It takes everything silver and blue and turns it into gold. Amazing things happen to the Pack at Lawlor. Weird things happen on the road. Take Wednesday's 104-103 double overtime loss at Wyoming, for example. Two Pack players fouled out. Two more had four fouls. Seven of the eight who played had three fouls or more. The Pack missed eight of its 10 3-point shots in the second half. It missed six of 11 free throws in overtime. The Pack's Caleb Martin appeared to get fouled on a 3-point attempt as time expired in regulation but no foul was called. And the Pack lost. None of those things happen at Lawlor, where the Pack is 28-1 since March 5, 2016. The Lawlor Magic is real.

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The loss at Wyoming is not disturbing because, well, it took an extraordinary set of circumstances for it to take place. And the Pack still almost won. You can't miss eight of your last 15 free throws and expect to win on the road. You can't expect to win on the road when two starters (Lindsey Drew and Kendall Stephens) are on the bench for the final 14 minutes of the game after fouling out. The Pack's best scorer, Caleb Martin, scored 12 points and took eight shots in 19 first-half minutes but then disappeared the rest of the game, taking just three shots and scoring just seven points while playing the entire 30 minutes of the second half and two overtimes combined. And the Pack still almost won. Again, none of these strange things happen at Lawlor.

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The Wolf Pack apparently cannot stand prosperity. Or national attention. The Wolf Pack returned to the Associated Press' Top 25 rankings this week and, of course, lost its very next game. The Pack is now 0-3 when it is ranked nationally this season (18-1 when not ranked). The first time the Pack jumped into the Top 25 this year was in early December after an 8-0 start. The Pack promptly lost to Texas Tech and TCU. The last time the Pack won a game while in the Top 25 rankings was March 16, 2007 when it beat Creighton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

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How much did the loss at Wyoming hurt the Wolf Pack's position heading into the NCAA tournament in March? Not much at all. The Pack's RPI is still 18. The Pack is still on top of the Mountain West. A road loss, especially in double overtime in a conference game, isn't the worst thing to happen to a team. The Wolf Pack is still in great position to get a NCAA tournament spot even if it doesn't win the Mountain West tournament.

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Nick Foles beating Tom Brady in the Super Bowl is not as far fetched as it might seem. Seven backup quarterbacks have won Super Bowls before. Jeff Hostetler of the 1990 New York Giants is the best example. The other six were technically backups because they didn't start the season as starters. But all six (Jim Plunkett in 1980, Roger Staubach in 1971, Terry Bradshaw in 1974, Kurt Warner in 1999, Trent Dilfer in 2000 and Brady in 2001) were obviously the best quarterback on the roster. Foles, though, who took over for Carson Wentz last month, will likely return to a backup role next year win or lose in the Super Bowl. Keep in mind one thing this week. Brady almost lost to Blake Bortles in the AFC title game at home. He can lose to Foles at a neutral site.

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It seems only a matter of time before Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, arguably the poster boys of the steroid era, get enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame. Clemens appeared on 57.3 per cent of the ballots this year while Bonds got 56.4 per cent (75 per cent is needed to get in). That just shows how scattered the criteria of getting into the Hall of Fame truly has become. Other players who have been connected to performance enhancing drug use, though, didn't fare as well as Bonds and Clemens. Just 22 per cent voted for Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa received just 7.8 percent while Gary Sheffield got just 11.1 percent. Why are Bonds and Clemens knocking on Cooperstown's door while Sosa, Ramirez and Sheffield can't get in the same county? Bonds and Clemens were obvious Hall of Famers before they took steroids late in their careers.

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Voters need to stop giving so many votes to Edgar Martinez (70.4 per cent), Mike Mussina (63.5) and Curt Schilling (51.2). None of the three are Hall of Famers. Larry Walker (34 percent) and Fred McGriff (23 per cent) also continue to get more votes than they deserve. Players like Mussina, Schilling, Martinez, Walker and McGriff — players with solid but not spectacular careers who were not linked to steroid use — have benefited from the steroid era because the voters who won't vote for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Manny Ramirez need to vote for somebody.

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The player who has the biggest reason to complain about the Hall of Fame voting is Billy Wagner. Wagner was, without question, one of the greatest closers in baseball history. His 422 saves are sixth in baseball history. He also had a 2.31 career earned run average and 1,196 strikeouts in just 903 innings. In his final season in the major leagues, Wagner had 37 saves and a 1.43 ERA at the age of 39 in 2010 with the Atlanta Braves. But Wagner made the huge mistake of playing the bulk of his career in obscurity with the Houston Astros. Rich Gossage had just 310 saves and a 3.01 ERA. But Gossage played for some great New York Yankees teams in the 1970s. So he's a Hall of Famer. Wagner's name appeared on just 11.1 percent of the ballots this year.