The Bullet Points
- The Eric Musselman era finally tipped off on Friday night with an 82-52 exhibition win over Division II opponent Dominican. While some of the same mistakes that plagued last year’s team reappeared — turnovers, several misses close to the basket and many more misses from beyond the arc — frequent fouls and first game nerves likely temper the harshest of whatever criticisms can be levied after one game. On the upside, those same constant trips to the line yielded an always-pleasing 82% of free throws made on 41 of 50 attempts. Some individual performances, like those of Tyron Criswell and Cameron Oliver, stood out, while another player previously confined to the bench — the suddenly svelte and 25 pounds lighter Elijah Foster — earned himself a place in the front court’s rotation. Although the team’s shooting deficiency from the field remains its biggest weakness going forward, the quicker pace promised by the arrival of Mussketball (get that hashtag trending, kids!) can help compensate for it. How so? With a greater number of overall scoring opportunities, some of them are bound to go in and result in higher scores. It’s unreasonable to expect the team to hit 82% of its free throws every night, but if their aggressiveness continues to be rewarded with trips to the stripe, it might represent their best chance of beating some of the Mountain West’s better teams come January. The question now shifts to how many opponents Nevada can impose this faster tempo upon.
- Hopefully seeing the team struggle to shoot in their first game tempered some of the expectations for Musselman this year. Yes, his resume is extensive, his former players often speak highly of him, and as far as we know, he can’t NOT turn water into wine. But expecting the team to magically start shooting better under a new staff is not only putting the cart before the horse, but putting the stone wheel and axle before the horse. It doesn’t mean they can’t, or won’t, improve the team’s shooting; only to be patient in hopefully watching them do so. Overhauling the only shooting stroke you’ve had for most of your life in one offseason is only slightly easier than legally changing your first and last names on a whim. And come March, you can bet that Hercules Rockefeller will still be here to tell you the same thing.
- I’m coming to you a day earlier this week thanks to the football tilt at Fresno State coming on a Thursday night. If Nevada’s season has been frustratingly underwhelming to date, the Bulldogs’ season has been completely intolerable. Their defeats have come by an average score of 48-17, including a 73-point curb-stomping from Ole Miss. Their quarterbacks have withered faster than the Central Valley’s drought-stricken produce. The impotence of their offense is rivaled only by the timidity of their defense. Their players have appeared in the police blotter almost as often as the sports section. Even their lone FBS win over UNLV somehow managed to look every bit as pathetic as those six losses. Like Hawai’i before them, they’ve fallen a long way down from the dizzying heights they once climbed, and there’s no joy in Fresnoville this year. All of this, of course, means they have a fighting chance against the Pack. Nevada hasn’t won back-to-back games since a three-game streak against BYU, Hawai’i and San Diego State last October, and the Bulldogs are their best chance remaining to “achieve” that feat this year. Even with bowl eligibility and their slim chances of winning the division (ha!) on the line, which Nevada team shows up is anyone’s guess. If you do nothing else this month, Polian, please win this game. Beat these clowns like you should have last year: like a dusty rug on a clothesline. Preseason prediction: Fresno State 31, Nevada 28. Revised prediction: Nevada 24, Fresno State 17.
- The NFL’s worst-kept secret was finally made official yesterday, as the 49ers benched Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert, a player even Blaine Gabbert is surprised to learn was an actual first round draft pick at one time. I can’t even be bothered to make a “deck chairs on the Titanic” joke here on a count of it being so incredibly obvious. Even Virgil Green’s status with the Broncos is up in the air after they acquired Vernon Davis from the Niners that same day. Send Kap and Virgil all of your virtual hugs, and tell Jed York to eat a dump truck full of glass.
Firestone Walker Pivo Hoppy Pils (Paso Robles, California) ~ The “pils” is short for “pilsner” here, a pale lager that takes its name from the Bohemian city of Plzen, where it was first brewed. In America, they’re sometimes lumped in with cheap domestics because of their similar color and appearance, but a truly good pilsner stands on its own. Pivo pours a clear, bright, straw yellow with a really nice head, and looks especially good in a tall pilsner glass. Sweet lemongrass and floral smells start things off, and continue with the taste, supplemented by citrus, bread malt and pepper. Like the name suggests, this is a pilsner with some bite, with two kinds of hops in the first stage of brewing and a third, German varietal dry-hopped later on. The pleasant hoppiness of a west coast pale ale finishes with the crisp dryness of a pilsner, representing a successful combination of seemingly unalike styles. None of it is especially aggressive, meaning you might be disappointed if you were expecting hops upon hops. Even so, this is a craft pilsner that stands apart from its peers in a very positive and memorable way, and your need to try it goes up if you think all pilsners taste the same. I give it four tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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