Sports Fodder: Polian proving to be the right choice for Nevada football
Special to The R-C
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Brian Polian has only had one spring practice and has basically stayed within his comfort zone, recruiting coaches and players, since he got the job as Nevada Wolf Pack head football coach in January. But it’s obvious already that the Nevada Wolf Pack has made a solid choice in replacing Chris Ault. Nobody knows how many games Polian will win, but he’s already energized the program in his two months on the job. He’s focused, confident, likable and seems to be a true leader. Those are the four things head coaches need the most these days. Coordinators can do all the actual coaching. The prediction here is that Polian will win at Nevada. And he’ll likely win enough to get another job higher up the college football food chain.
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All of the negativity surrounding the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak is silly. Winning 27 games in a row, in any league, in any era, is quite an accomplishment. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers deserve all the credit in the world for their 33-game winning streak. It was a tougher, more grueling NBA in those days. The Lakers had to play three nights in a row five times during the streak. The first nine games of their streak came in just 12 days. But to suggest that the NBA is more watered down now than in 1971-72, that there are more horrible teams, is simply a case of rewriting history. The NBA of 1971-72 was a bad league. Just two of the eight teams in the Eastern Conference finished over .500. Most of the great basketball talent in 1971-72 (Artis Gilmore, Julius Erving, Dan Issel, Rick Barry, Charlie Scott, to name but a handful) was in the ABA. Praise the 1971-72 Lakers. But don’t diminish the 2012-13 Heat.
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The Nevada Wolf Pack’s men basketball team needs to grow up this off-season. It needs to toughen up. It needs to get physical and throw its weight around. It needs to go from boys to men in order to compete in the Mountain West. Yes, the Mountain West is a solid league but, as we saw in the NCAA Tournament, it can’t compete with the big boys. The Pack had enough talent to be competitive in the Mountain West last year. But it didn’t have nearly enough toughness. There are a lot of rumors swirling about the Pack right now, that certain players are leaving the program. We’ll see. All we know is that the 2013-14 Pack better come back stronger, tougher and a bit more nastier.
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Another reason why college basketball is better than college football: A coach like Shaka Smart can ignore interest from UCLA, Minnesota and Illinois over the last two years and stay at Virginia Commonwealth. That would never happen in football, where only a handful of teams can realistically win a national championship. In basketball, though, Smart knows he has just as good a chance to win at VCU as he does in the Pac-12 and Big Ten. And he can do it with half the pressure. Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens are the two best young coaches in college basketball. If they were in football, they would be playing for the right to play in the Beef “O” Brady’s Bowl. In basketball, they can win a national title.
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A big issue facing Polian and the Pack football team this spring is who will replace Stefphon Jefferson as the top running back. It’s really not that big of an issue. As we’ve seen since Chris Ault invented the pistol offense in 2005, anybody who knows how to put one foot in front of the other without tripping over the quarterback, can run the football with authority in the Pack offense. Jefferson was just the last guy to do it. But countless others since 2005 have gotten the ball and excelled at running with it. It’s all about the quarterback making the right read.
All the running back has to do is hold onto the ball. The Wolf Pack will have a solid running game in 2013. Count on it.
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We’ve said it before and, well, here it is again: The Wolf Pack baseball team will only go as far as its bullpen takes them. The Wolf Pack has a chance to do something special this spring. It can be the only sport at Nevada — among the three that the public cares about, that is — to not self destruct in the Mountain West. Mountain West baseball is competitive but it’s not overwhelming. First of all, there are only five other teams. As of Thursday afternoon, the Wolf Pack and UNLV were the only two over .500. The Pack can find itself back in the NCAA Regionals for the first time in 13 years. But the bullpen has to stop giving games away.
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Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals recently donated 40 new and used major league bats to the College of Southern Nevada, where he played just one season in 2010. Each bat is worth at least $150 and Harper, of course, didn’t pay a cent for any of them. So, yes, we’re not suggesting that Harper is the World’s Greatest Human Being for giving his school some bats. But it was a nice gesture for Harper to do for a program that was nothing more than his quickest way into the June draft. More of that sort of thing needs to happen at the University of Nevada.