Sports Fodder: Anti-Pack sentiment grows | RecordCourier.com
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Sports Fodder: Anti-Pack sentiment grows

by Joe Santoro

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The Western Athletic Conference coaches and media are predicting the Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball team to finish third in the regular season this year. Utah State, picked first, returns four starters and New Mexico State, selected second, beat the Pack at Lawlor Events Center in the conference tournament last March. So third sounds about right for a young Pack team that will need to wear “Hi, my name is . . .” stickers at practice for the first month.

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We do, however, have a problem with the pre-season All-WAC teams picked by the coaches. The Wolf Pack’s Dario Hunt should have been named to at least the coaches’ All-WAC Second Team (the media only picked a First Team). Hunt was one of the top shot blockers and rebounders in the league a year ago. He blocked more shots and had more boards than Utah State’s Tai Wesley, who was picked as the Player of the Year by the coaches. The coaches, though, put all four Utah State returning starters on their First or Second Team, including questionable picks Nate Bendall, Pooh Williams and Tyler Newbold on the Second Team. It couldn’t be some anti-Wolf Pack WAC sentiment because the Pack is leaving the conference, could it?

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The anti-Pack sentiment in the WAC is a real thing. Hawaii football coach Greg McMackin let it slip after his Warriors beat the Pack last Saturday, telling the Hawaii media that beating the Pack was special because the Pack “doesn’t want to play with us anymore.” He also said the way the Pack (and Fresno State) left the WAC (almost overnight in late August) was not the right way to do it. “To the winner goes the spoils,” Pack coach Chris Ault said, when told of McMackin’s comments. Ault also told me he’d likely never play another game at Hawaii in his career. “That’s whether we won or lost,” he said.

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This is going to be a down year for WAC men’s hoops. Every team but Utah State lost a ton of talent off last year’s roster. Gone from the league this year are, among others, Paul George, Sylvester Seay, Kyle Gibson, Magnum Rolle, Jamel Guyton, Jahmar Young, Jonathon Gibson, Mac Hopson, Jared Quayle, Ike Okoye, Kashif Watson and, of course, Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson. That is why a young Wolf Pack team can still win 18-20 games.

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We’re going to learn just how good of a head coach David Carter is this season. Last year he simply sent his five starters out on the court and sat back and watched Babbitt and Johnson audition for the NBA. This year he’s going to have to mold a team, deal with bench players who might be upset at not starting and also demand a whole lot more effort out of his team on the defensive end. This is Carter’s program now.

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The San Francisco 49ers are going to show us this weekend whether the playoffs are a possibility or not. The 49ers must win this weekend at Carolina. No excuses. The Panthers are horrible, maybe the worst team in the N FL. If the 49ers do not win this game, well, they might not win a road game all year. The 49ers are 13-46 on the road since 2002. They are not going to make the playoffs this year if that trend continues.

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What are the Chicago Cubs thinking, hiring Mike Quade as manager over Ryne Sandberg? Quade is a career minor leaguer. Sandberg is a Hall of Famer who went down to the minor leagues to learn his craft for four years. How many Hall of Famers would do that? Sandberg is an old school, quiet type of leader who would have been a great representative of the entire organization. Cub fans love him. How do you not hire him? Let’s hope Quade didn’t get the job because he managed the Cubs to a winning record in garbage time games the last six weeks. The Cubs have to be smarter than that. Right?

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OK, San Francisco Giants fans, who do you want to play in the World Series? You know what? It doesn’t matter. The Giants will have the home-field advantage and they will out-pitch either the Texas Rangers or New York Yankees, especially a Yankees team without Mark Teixeira. Giants in seven in the Series. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum will do what Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal could not — bring a World Series winner to San Francisco. Go figure.

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The Wolf Pack football team’s loss to Hawaii couldn’t have come at a better time. This team hasn’t played all that well since beating Cal in Week 3, when everyone started to tell them how great they were. They muddled through victories over BYU, UNLV and San Jose State and thought they could do the same to Hawaii. Well, a funny thing happened to the Game of the Century on Nov. 26 against Boise State. The Pack stumbled. The guess here is that the Hawaii loss is the wake-up call this team has needed the past month. The bye week this weekend will give them two weeks to get their heads straight and bodies fresh. This team won’t lose again before Nov. 26. Or after. And maybe not on Nov. 26.