Wolf Pack bullpen looks promising
Special for the Tribune
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
Don’t be surprised if you see a Carson Senators logo hanging up on the fence in the Nevada Wolf Pack’s bullpen this season. Former Senators Colby Blueberg and Adam Whitt are each having an outstanding season in the Pack bullpen and are a big reason for optimism up on north Virginia Street this year. Blueberg has been virtually untouchable with a 0.56 earned run average in 10 games. Opponents are also hitting just .154 (8 hits in 16 innings) against him. Whitt has three saves in nine games and has allowed just 11 hits in 18 innings (.169 opponents average). Their success this year comes as no surprise. Blueberg, a junior, has 62 strikeouts in 66.1 innings in his career and Whitt was one of the Pack’s best pitchers last year as a freshman with a 3.76 ERA in 24 appearances. Together they give the Pack one of the best bullpens in the Mountain West.
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Nevada Wolf Pack men’s basketball fans need to give themselves a huge pat on the back for showing up at Lawlor Events Center last Saturday night. The Wolf Pack’s biggest home crowd (10,317) since Dec. 31, 2008 (10,526 for North Carolina) showed up for the 76-72 win over UNLV and to say good-bye to senior Deonte Burton. It was the best atmosphere at Lawlor since the 2004-07 NCAA Tournament era. If the Pack had gotten crowds like that all year long there’s no way they would have lost to Morehead State, Nebraska-Omaha, Long Beach State and San Jose State at home this year. They would have had a 19-12 record heading into the Mountain West Tournament (instead of 15-16) and would have been a NCAA Tournament bubble team.
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Phil Jackson going to the New York Knicks is all about Pat Riley. Jackson and Riley have had a long-standing, heated rivalry since they both were NBA players in the 1970s. The two battled as head coaches in the 1990s when Jackson was with the Chicago Bulls and Riley was with the Knicks. Jackson also coached in Riley’s shadow when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers and never stopped hearing about the great Lakers’ Showtime era with Riley, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and friends. Riley won has won titles as an executive and Jackson wants to do the same. Jackson, you can be sure, also wants to go to New York and do something that Riley couldn’t do — win a title in New York. And don’t be stunned when Jackson steals Riley’s biggest possession (LeBron James) and brings him to New York.
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Going to the NCAA Tournament is not all it’s cracked up to be. Coaches love it because they can negotiate another big raise and players love it because, well, it beats sitting on the couch watching other teams play. But what does it really mean for the fans of mid-major schools like the Nevada Wolf Pack? Is it really that amazing just to get to the NCAA Tournament and get slaughtered in the first or second round? And what if you get one of the eight play-in spots? Are you really even in the tournament at that point? Yes, there is always the hope that you can become a Cinderella but that is merely a fairy tale along the lines of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk. Even if a mid-major can sell its cow for some magic beans and grow a giant beanstalk that reaches into the clouds, there is always a mean ogre at the top of the beanstalk who wants to grind a mid-major’s bones into bread.
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Can Wichita State become the first mid-major to slay all the ogres? The Shockers, though, still don’t get any respect. Nobody truly believes they can come out of the Missouri Valley Conference and win a national title. Heck, they don’t even believe it in their home state of Kansas, where the Jayhawks will always rule. The Shockers are unbeaten. They went to the Final Four last year. This will be their third consecutive NCAA Tournament and it’s the fourth year in a row they’ve won 25-plus games. They really aren’t a Cinderella anymore, just like the Wolf Pack wasn’t a true Cinderella by the end of their 2004-07 Tournament run. The Shockers are really one of the young ogres. But before you can sit at the ogre table and not get your bones mashed up into bread, you have to grind a few ogre bones of your own.
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The Wolf Pack, in case you forgot, beat Wichita State just four years ago in the NIT. It was Wichita State’s only home loss of that season (2009-10). It was also the last Wolf Pack victory for Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson. The two schools, though, have traveled down different paths since that game on March 17, 2010. Wichita State went on to win the NIT the next season and qualified for the NCAA Tournament the last three years, going to the Final Four last year and going undefeated this year so far. The Wolf Pack? Well, they are still hoping to grow up to be Wichita State one day.
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NFL free agency is just NFL teams conducting a garage sale. It’s sort of like E-bay for car parts. Once in a while you might find a bargain, but most of the time when the part arrives in the mail, it doesn’t fit your car. The Tampa Bay Bucs gave Josh McCown $10 million for two years and immediately named him their starting quarterback. Michael Vick can’t get 10 dollars in free agency and McCown gets $10 million. McCown will be 35-years-old this season. The Bucs are his eighth NFL team. In 2010 he played in the United Football League and in 2011 he was a high school assistant coach. Signing Josh McCown is sort of like Wofford or North Dakota State getting to the NCAA Tournament. It’s fun to fantasize for 15 or 20 minutes. But then the tournament starts.
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