Grand Canyon Basketball Runs Out Of Magic Late In Quest To Reach NCAA Tournament

Nevada coach Chris Ault is lifted after his 200th career victory.(Photo: RGJ file)

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I’m technically on vacation this week, but you need the Monday Mailbag, so I wrote one up just for you. I even posted it early in the morning – just for you! Really, I did it early in the morning because the rest of my day will be spent tearing the carpet out of my house and preparing to put down new flooring, but we’ll pretend I did it just for you. Here is your weekly Monday Mailbag. Thanks, as always, for the questions. I’ll see you all next Monday for another Mailbag, unless some news breaks in between at which point my vacation will be halted, if only temporarily.

There’s a show?

— Chris Gabel (@Chris_Gabel) June 8, 2018

There's a show? Is that even a real question? Hell yes there is a Gummi Bears show. There were 65 life-changing episodes from 1985-1991, and I'm pretty sure Donald Trump's whole "Make America Great Again" slogan was a reference to returning the country to the days when the Gummi Bears would brew their magical liquid concoction known as "Gummiberry Juice" and bounce around the forest on fun and educational adventures.

There's a show? What a ridiculous question. Now listen to the theme song. It's perfect. Try to avoid singing that chorus. You can't do it. Too infectious. There's a show? Unbelievable.

So no gummy candy questions?

— ryan32.exe (@TheProski) June 8, 2018

I also accept gummy candy questions. I love my candies.

Haribo, Black Forest, or Trolli?

— ryan32.exe (@TheProski) June 8, 2018

Haribo first. Trolli second. Black Forest? I don't think that's a real thing. I believe that is the forest the Gummi Bears frolic in after drinking their Gummiberry Juice. In fact, I would like Elon Musk to take the $1 billion in tax breaks Nevada has given him and funnel that money into creating actual Gummiberry Juice rather than plotting a way to colonize Mars. If he makes Gummiberry Juice strong enough, we can bounce to Mars.

OK. Let's get to the real questions.

If Chris Ault didn’t resign in 2012 and was still Nevada’s football coach, would the Wolf Pack have a Mountain West title by now?

— RGJ Sports (@RGJsports) June 10, 2018

Chris Ault spent one year in the Mountain West, going 7-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play. You might not be shocked to find out his offense was awesome that year (37.9 ppg in conference) and his defense was awful (34.9 ppg allowed in conference). This year will mark Nevada’s seventh in the MW, yet you could argue – I would argue – that 2012 team remains the Wolf Pack’s best in its MW era. Yes, Nevada only went 7-6, but it also lost three double-digit leads late in the fourth quarter, and that doesn’t include nearly beating No. 15 Boise State in the regular-season finale. That team should have been 10-3 at worst.

Still, Nevada was not good enough to win a MW title. It’s impossible to know what the Wolf Pack’s roster would look like if Ault never resigned (I’ve always had the feeling he left because he felt he’d have more NFL opportunities as Colin Kaepernick and the Pistol were all the rage of the league at the time. Instead he got a consultant job.).

We do know Nevada would not have bottomed out under Ault. He always put bowl teams on the field and usually they were good enough to compete for league championships. The Wolf Pack would not have won a MW title in 2013 (Derek Carr’s Fresno State was too good); or in 2015 (San Diego State went 8-0 in conference); or in 2016 (SDSU again was the class of the league as a ranked team).

But in 2014? Nevada would have won the West Division that season. Fresno State won the division in 2014 with a 5-3 league record and 6-8 overall mark. The division was garbage, and all Nevada had to do was beat a mediocre Fresno State team at home in the penultimate game of the regular season to secure the crown. Instead it lost 40-20. The Wolf Pack would have then played No. 16 Boise State for the MW title (those Broncos ended up winning the Fiesta Bowl). Would Nevada have won that game for the MW championship? Probably not, but it would have had a decent shot considering the Wolf Pack nearly beat Boise State – a 51-46 loss under Brian Polian – earlier that regular season.

Nevada also might have been in the mix in for a conference title last year. The championship game came down to Boise State and Fresno State, and neither team was great. If I wagered on whether the Wolf Pack would have won a MW title during the last five years if Ault was the coach, I’d guess no but it’d have at least one divisional title for sure. And to think many fans thought the program was going to take off after Ault left. He was never fully appreciated.

Any updates on Chris Ault has been up to lately? I thought I remember reading that he was working on writing a book?

— Patrick Devine (@ThePatDown) June 8, 2018

A book is indeed in the works, although its release is not imminent. There's still a ways to go there. Ault is serving on the Nevada Athletic Commission, so he spends a decent amount of time in Las Vegas fulfilling his duties on that panel. He also attends Nevada football practice on a regular basis and spoke to the Wolf Pack baseball team before a series late in the season, so he's been pretty attached to campus since Jay Norvell took over as Nevada's football coach, a change from the last regime.

What does the loss of the tie-in to the @LasVegasBowl mean for Nevada, UNLV, and the entire Mountain West?

— Scott H. Carey (@Scott4Nevada) June 8, 2018

It means the Mountain West just lost its top bowl destination. The Las Vegas Bowl, while not a New Year’s Eve or Day bowl, has been the marque event for the MW.

(For those who missed it, former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy said last week the Las Vegas Bowl will end its relationship with the MW when the Raiders’ stadium opens in 2020 and likely pit a Pac-12 school vs. an SEC school).

The Las Vegas Bowl gave the MW a chance to punch up in bowl season since it featured a MW team versus a Pac-12 school. It also comes with a $1.350 million payout, a hefty chunk more than the other MW bowls. These are the conference’s other tie-ins outside of Las Vegas.

New Mexico vs. C-USA

Hawaii Bowl vs. C-USA

Famous Idaho Potato vs. MAC

Arizona Bowl vs. Sun Belt

Nothing too appealing. The MW does have two years to figure out a way to either get into a bigger bowl or create another bowl with a stronger cross-conference matchup, but landing an annual bowl against a Power 5 opponent will prove difficult. Not only will the Raiders’ new stadium cost Nevada citizens about $1 billion in tax money, it also will take away an opportunity for Nevada or UNLV to play in a great bowl. Good job legislature!

I've not seen this question addressed. Why would Nevada pay 50 G to get out of a good game with Rhode Island without a better option already lined up?

— Daniel (@HISDNLMS) June 8, 2018

The Wolf Pack decided as soon as the offseason started it didn’t want to return the game to Rhode Island. The cost to buyout the game was $50,000, which is half the cost of most home-and-home series. You’re probably looking at $30,000 just to play that game (travel, hotel, food, etc.). While it’s not a wash, it’s pretty close.

Canceling the game also gave Nevada more scheduling flexibility to add an additional road or neutral-site game. For example, the Wolf Pack scheduled a home-and-home series with USC (hopefully with a buyout of more than $50,000). So if Nevada was able to land a similar road game – USC will probably be a stronger opponent than Rhode Island would have been – and get a home game as part of that package, it makes sense to cancel Rhode Island and swap in USC.

If Nevada was able to get a better-travel lower-cost neutral-site game against an equal opponent – for example, playing Grand Canyon at the Phoenix Suns’ arena – in exchange for canceling Rhode Island then it makes sense. If Nevada lands a money road game – like it did at Texas Tech last year when the Wolf Pack got a $90,000 check – in exchange for canceling Rhode Island then it makes sense.

Rhode Island was obviously and understandably upset with losing a home game against a top-10 opponent.

“We are disappointed in Nevada’s decision to exercise its option within the contract to pay the buyout rather than return the game this year,” Rhode Island AD Thorr Bjorn said in a news release announcing the team’s schedule. “We played a great game in Reno last year and planned to provide a similarly great event at the Ryan Center. We acknowledge it is Nevada’s right to pay the buyout rather than return the game to URI this year. That said, it certainly wasn’t in the spirit of the agreement we signed, but with that we will move on.”

Again, that’s understandable, but Rhode Island should have put in a stronger buyout. I also get Nevada’s motivation. The Wolf Pack basically bought a home game against a Top 25 opponent in Rhode Island last season for $50,000. Home games against so-so teams cost $70,000 or $80,000. It ended up being a sly move by Nevada, although it could inhibit the Wolf Pack from getting home-and-home series that start in Reno moving forward. Opponents could be a little more skeptical Nevada will return their game.

Ultimately, there are a few ruffled feathers and everybody will move forward with Nevada not having to travel across the country for one game.

Who’s this years nevada basketball player, that sat out last season due to transfer rules, to be a stand out? Multiple? Will it be harder then in years past because the amount of talent in the team?

— Quinn Lightfoot (@5Mighty_Quinn) June 9, 2018

Yes, it will be much harder for the transfers to stand out considering none of them will start. A couple of them have all-conference ability, but they won't be named to the team given how difficult it will be to get consistent minutes. Tre'Shawn Thurman and Nisre Zouzoua are the two best players of the sit-out transfers, and Jazz Johnson is a dead-eye shooter. Thurman will likely play the most minutes, so if I had to pinpoint one player who could stand out it is him, although I've been a big Zouzoua guy since watching him practice.

@MurrayRGJ Are fanny packs good for carrying championship rings? #MondayMailbag

— Geoff Grammer (@GeoffGrammer) June 9, 2018

Nevada alum JaVale McGee, who sells fanny packs on his website for $39 a pop, says yes. McGee is now in rare company as a Wolf Pack alum with multiple world titles. Here is the list of Nevada players to win a ring in the big four sports.

MLB: Lyle Overbay, Andy Dominique

NBA: JaVale McGee (2)

NFL: Charles Mann (3), Brock Marion (2), Derek Kennard, Frank Hawkins, Brandon Marshall, Virgil Green, Kyle Roberts, Chris Barker

That means The Big Lemonhead, who was booed during his final game at Lawlor Events Center for shooting too many threes in a CBI contest against Houston, is one of only three Nevada alums with at least two title rings. And he's storing them in a $39 fanny pack. Simply amazing.

Rank the likelihood of each happening:

1. NV gets to New Years Day Bowl

2. Dodgers Win 2018 WS

3. Knuth is AD in 5 Years

4. NV wins NCAA Hoops Championship

5. NV wins NCAA '19 College WS

6. Chris Murray Shoots Par through 18

7. Muss is still at NV in 5 Years

— Damon Hirschensohn (@nevadapackfan) June 8, 2018

That's a whole lot of things that aren't likely to happen. But let's rank from most likely to happen to least likely to happen.

1. Doug Knuth is still Nevada's AD in five years

2. Dodgers win 2018 World Series (I still believe)

3. Eric Musselman is still Nevada's coach in five years

4. Nevada wins NCAA basketball title (this team is super talented, but that's a really high bar to clear)

5. Nevada wins the 2019 College World Series (weird things happen in baseball; you never know)

6. Nevada gets to New Year's Day Bowl (I'm assuming you're talking about a New Year's Six Bowl)

7. Chris Murray shots par through 18 (I shot an 81 in my second round this summer, but 72 seems impossible, although if I refer to myself in the third person from now on perhaps it will give me the confidence to pull off such an awesome feat)

With the depth he has, will Muss play much more full court defense??

— THE Big Fish (@RandyMi76785766) June 9, 2018

He should. He said the coaches have discussed it. Musselman has 12 capable and eligible players. Will he play 10 of them or go with the shorter rotation we've seen his first three seasons? That's one of next year's big questions. While I can't see Caleb Martin, Cody Martin or Jordan Caroline playing less than 27-30 minutes per game, the playing time should be more spread out, which will allow Nevada to play faster offensively and extend itself more on defense. Will Musselman trust his bench enough to spread out those minutes so his team can play faster? That is the plan, but until we get into the season we don't know if that will be the reality as he's leaned heavily on his starters in years past (his bench is more talented this year).

Any news on how Kendall Stephens’ pro workout sessions went? What’s next for him?

— clarkdf (@nvpack89519) June 9, 2018

Stephens had his first NBA workout Sunday with the Orlando Magic. That's in addition to his time at a scouting combine at IMG Academy. Stephens' goal at this point should be to get a summer league spot and hope that leads to an invitation to training camp. Most likely, Stephens will have to pick between playing in the G League or overseas, but given his length and shooting ability I wouldn't rule out making an NBA team at some point in his career. He can really stroke it.

What will Nevada’s basketball non conference record be next year roughly?

— Eddy Cruzer (@ECRSmartyPants) June 8, 2018

Nevada will play 13 non-conference games. We don't know who two of those games will be against, so tough to say for sure, but I'll go with 12-1. The Wolf Pack will most likely be favored in all 13 games (USC on the road and Arizona State neutral site are the only ones where it might not be). 13-0 isn't out of the question, but almost every team trips up at least once out of league.

What are the odds Nevada plays a game at Madison square garden?

— CameronAlconero (@camAlconero7) June 9, 2018

Two percent. The only way that happens is if Nevada misses the NCAA Tournament and then reaches the Final Four of the NIT. I don't think Wolf Pack fans want that to happen.

It looks like the weight room and nutrition area is complete at the b-ball practice facility. Is there anything more to be finished or is the practice facility now fully complete?

— Jared Grauvogel (@JGrauvogel) June 8, 2018

That thing has basically been done for five months. It’s nice. The football team will continue to do its strength and conditioning in Cashell FieldHouse, but basketball and many other programs will do their training in the new facility inside the Sessions Dome. While the court and strength center are done, the project is far from over. The facility also needs locker rooms – both for the basketball programs and others at Nevada without on-campus lockers – in addition to coaching offices and signage.

That’s easily a $1 million-plus project, and I would guess it does not get done any time soon. I know Nevada would like to brand its facility with notations of players who have reached the NBA, conference titles, etc., for recruiting purposes. That could get done fairly soon, but new locker rooms (which would go where the current locker rooms sit next to the pool) are a pricey addition.

When quoting people, journalists often put some words in parentheses. Example from Santoro article: "This is stronger (excitement and interest) than in the mid-2000s when we made our run of four straight tournaments." Why the heck are parentheses being used here?

— Ethan Brizendine (@RichmondTubes) June 8, 2018

I can't speak for another writer, but I use parentheses for quick asides or explanations. I tend to use them more in the Monday Mailbag and 1,000 Word columns because they're more conversational than my normal stories. Take a sentence from my previous answer:

It reads: "That could get done fairly soon, but new locker rooms (which would go where the current locker rooms sit next to the pool) are a pricey addition."

Perhaps I overuse parentheses. I know one thing for sure: I cannot spell parentheses correctly without spell check.

Question from earlier: is there reason to hope that Adidas won’t butcher Nevada’s football uni’s like they butchered ASU’s when they switched from Nike?

— Rost O. (@RostOlsen) June 9, 2018

I'm pretty ignorant when it comes to uniform designs. I know people don't like Adidas' uniforms, but I don't see a huge difference from the Nike ones. I will say the Wolf Pack's football uniforms last year were as simple (traditional? boring?) as they could possible be, so I don't see how Adidas can really "butcher" them if Nevada sticks with the same theme. I'm guessing most fans will be fine with the end result.

Which addidas school has the best uniforms?

— Blake Krek (@BlakeKrek) June 9, 2018

These Miami ones look fine to me, but, again, there are few things I can less about than college football uniforms, so I'm not the best judge.

Just for shits and giggles. Average game score based on the badasses we have on the team??⛹🏽‍♂️. Do you have a counter on your phone till tip off?

— Evoke Fitness (@EVOKEFitness) June 8, 2018

Nevada averaged 82.6 points per game last season while giving up 72.8. I'm guessing the offense stays about the same in efficiency while the defense improves all while upping the pace of place. I'll peg Nevada at 86 points per game while allowing 73 a night. And I do not have a countdown clock on my phone for the season opener. While I understand fans' excitement, I would prefer for it to stay June for the next 12 months as that is the month when I take all of my vacation time.

What's the top 5 music genres you listen to?

— One Pack under God (@BattleBornBlue) June 8, 2018

1. 1990s grunge (quintessential album: Pearl Jam's "Ten") 

2. Alternative rock (quintessential album: Local Natives' "Gorilla Manor")

3. 1990s rap (quintessential album: A Tribe Called Quest's "The Low End Theory ")

4. Hip hop (quintessential album: Kid Cudi's "Man on the Moon: The End of Day") 

5. Acoustic (quintessential album: Jack Johnson's "Brushfire Fairytales")

6. Whitney Houston (she gets her own genre)

Have the twins tried KFC and Popeyes and if so how do they feel it compares to Bojangles?

— Richard Lee Sheets (@rljesheets2) June 8, 2018

I legitimately thought about texting one of the twins to ask them this, but I thought the better of it. I'll ask them on media day in October to rank the best fast food chicken places. Probably goes Bojangles, Chick-fil-A, El Pollo Loco, Popeyes, KFC and Raising Cane's. Wingstop tops the list if it counts in this category.

I did, however, recommend M&M's Southern Café in Sparks to Wolf Pack transfer Nisre Zouzoua last year and apparently that has become a go-to spot for many Nevada players, including the Martins as well as associate head coach Johnny Jones. So I can at least give you that piece of #InsideInfo. If you want to meet the Martins, randomly show up at M&Ms. Maybe they'll be there.

Best AYCE Sushi in Reno (price be damned)?

— VB (@VBinNV) June 8, 2018

I am not a sushi guy, but Tha Joint in Sparks is the best in town. I usually get the chicken teriyaki and a couple orders of angry birds, which is not sushi.

What's the most popular snack and drink after the soccer games?

— Steven Nichols🎤 (@DJStevenROCKS) June 8, 2018

I only get halftime snacks for my team (always two kinds of fruit). The after-game snacks are assigned to one parent per game. But based on how we played this season, my most popular drink after games was Jack Daniels (we finished 1-6, but we played hard, improved a lot and displayed great sportsmanship, so it was an awesome season).

I much perfer Paw Patrol over Gummi Bears. Am I wrong??

— Tony Erquiaga (@lilerq74) June 8, 2018

You are wrong. One human can only take so much Paw Patrol before breaking, and I went past my breaking point a long time ago.

Almond joy or mounds

— Nicklaus Morton (@NicklausMorton) June 8, 2018

I actually answered this question last month. To quote myself: "Almond Joy. You need the nuts. Mounds is like having one Martin twin without the other. Something's just missing."

Almond Joy is one of my favorite candies. If you handed me a Mounds I wouldn't eat it. That's how important the nuts are. You need the nuts.

What’s your favorite slide at @WildIsland? Also, do you think Commissioner Craig Thompson would get his hair wet or have fun there?

— Fake Matt Mumme (@FakeCoachMumme) June 10, 2018

Black Widow, of course, and Commish Thompson would probably be sitting on a flotation device on the lazy river sipping in a piña colada, most likely while wearing a business suit.

After removing some older ugly plants, I've got about 30' of brown fence in backyard that needs some color. What plants/bushes would you suggest I go back with? (Please note... Sacramento Climate)

— Damon Hirschensohn (@nevadapackfan) June 8, 2018

Paint the fence Dodger blue, plant palm trees and pipe in a recording of Vin Scully broadcasting games on a loop.

If you are told you deserve better and it's not you. It's still you right??

— Tony Erquiaga (@lilerq74) June 8, 2018

Correct. In that scenario, it would unfortunately be you. I'm sorry.

Which team wins this fantasy baseball trade. pic.twitter.com/RbCSnylJC4

— Chris Gabel (@Chris_Gabel) June 8, 2018

I would take the side that includes the third-round prospect pick and use that on Nevada's Owen Sharts. That would have an explosive pick.

Source : https://www.rgj.com/story/sports/college/nevada/2018/06/11/murrays-mailbag-peaking-nevada-footballs-alternate-reality/686419002/

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