The Bullet Points
- Nevada basketball completed its most rigorous road stretch since November with opposite results in two nearly identical games at Fresno State and Air Force. The first consisted of just about everything you can imagine going wrong in the first half doing just that, with the Pack unable to make any shots, corral any rebounds or generally do anything positive with a basketball to the tune of 85-63. Couple that with multiple long scoring runs from a Bulldog team seemingly making shots with their eyes closed, and their fate was all but sealed ten minutes in. Talk of Nevada’s poor play on the road once again flared up, and unlike at Wichita State and New Mexico, a raucous crowd couldn’t easily be blamed for it (there were maybe 2,000 people at the Save Mart Center, putting Lawlor’s slowly increasing crowds in a much better light). But Musselman got on the team’s case for the better part of two days, and the result was getting on the right side of a 44-27 halftime deficit before cruising to an 86-63 win at the Academy (seriously, the number of similarities between these two games is spooky). A fire lit under young behinds paired with the eighth different starting five of the season produced far better results, with ball movement (16 assists to 9 turnovers), shooting (47.8%) and rebounding (42-40) all improving from Wednesday’s efforts.
- Speaking of rebounds, the bad news from this road swing is that it appears Nevada will continue to struggle on the boards for the rest of the season. But the good news is considering how the rest of the Mountain West has looked so far, that’s not an automatic game-breaker. Out of the three teams currently unbeaten in conference play — the Broncos, Aztecs and Lobos — Nevada plays three of its four remaining games against them at home. In the middle, 2-1 Colorado State is two points away from being 0-3, while Utah State has the Spartans to thank for their one conference win so far. And another team expected to contend at the top — Nevada Southern — has resumed its usual January to March face-plant. So far, year one of the Musselman era has been a season of obvious flaws, shortcomings and imperfections, but luckily, most of the rest of the league can say the same. And barring a mass infusion of talent on par with what the Pack have waiting in the wings, that bodes well for their title chances next year.
- Turning to football, new offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey is getting justifiable buzz for the high-flying-but-still-grounded scheme he hopes to bring to town. But as Chris Murray very fairly points out, this is the same kind of buzz that preceded the RoloPistol, which never came to be in the previous four seasons. And whether Nevada actually has the personnel to fully realize his vision remains to be seen — Butler will be Butler, but what about the quarterback play? Or the receiving corps? Or the offensive line and their still-undetermined coach? As far as my personal questions go, I’d like to know why we should expect next year’s defense under Scott Boone to be any better than 2015’s was. After two seasons with the same defensive coordinator for a change, the improvement of Boone's defense has been marginal, going from 102nd in the country in yards allowed per game in 2014 to 73rd in 2015. No Ian Seau, no Lenny Jones, no Rykeem Yates, no Jordan Dobrich, no Matthew Lyons and no Brian Lane, Jr. does not fill me with confidence, and it’s not like that bunch yielded great seasons to begin with. My default setting with defensive greatness at Nevada is “I’ll believe it when I see it,” and even a secondary that exceeded expectations — and admittedly deserves credit — won’t change that.
Lagunitas Imperial Pils (Petaluma, California) ~ This week I played a game called Drink What’s In My Fridge Before It Dies Just Like My Worthless Freezer. My old ice box has, in fact, shuffled off this mortal coil (or compressor coil, in this case), and while my fridge is still barely plugging along until my new one gets delivered next week, I used it as an excuse to finally try this admittedly older bottle. Even with that age, it poured a very clear, golden yellow with a big, foamy white head. Its smells were light, and included bread, crackers, pilsner malts and floral notes. The taste started orange citrusy, then bready, and finished with a crisp, lightly bitter hop bite. Its body was medium, and hid its alcohol content (8.6%) really well. This is a good balance of drinkability and kick, “like an Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove,” as its web site boasts. A fresher bottle probably would’ve tasted better, but as it was, I’d still have another one. I give it three and a half tipsy Wolfies out of five.
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