The Wolf of Virginia Street, Week 32

A look back on Nevada's CBI championship and thoughts on just what it means for the program moving forward.

The Bullet Points

  • In a season which has come to be defined by exceeded expectations and growing optimism for the future, the present Nevada basketball team cemented its place in the program’s history with an overtime win in the CBI championship game against Morehead State. Every sign of the program’s resurgence we’ve come to celebrate was present in the hard-fought and emotional victory: the fiery coach who backs up his emotional displays with obvious wisdom; the passionate crowd filling most of the seats — and all of the auditory space — at Lawlor; the electrifying freshmen who will go forward knowing nothing of mediocre expectations or disappointment. It was as unqualified a success as circumstances could’ve allowed, and it has the potential to do immense good for an athletic department and city increasingly hungry for it.

  • But first, the storm cloud: all of the things we’ve previously pointed out to put this CBI experience into perspective still apply. The format favors home teams to a troubling degree, the overall quality of its participants isn’t great, and a CBI banner hanging at Lawlor will never have the same cache as a conference championship or NCAA Tournament banner. And I respect Morehead State as much as the rest of you, but getting a trophy for coming in second place leaves the CBI open for some justified criticism. Heck, I couldn’t even use any photos from the game for this week’s cover shot, since USA Today doesn’t bother sending any photographers to cover the tournament. But here's the silver lining to it all: this run provided Nevada basketball fans their first opportunity in a long while to feel unambiguously good about the direction the program is headed in, and there’s tangible value in that. Look no further than the only other program whose coach won the tournament in his first season as a college head coach: VCU. The very next year after their run in the 2010 CBI, the Rams landed in one of the NCAA Tournament’s “first four” play-in games and rode a streak of torrid play all the way to the Final Four. That run, in turn, helped catapult VCU from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Atlantic 10, and its head coach, Shaka Smart, to a much bigger gig at Texas a few years later.

  • While not directly tied to their CBI performance from the year before, it’s hard to envision any team on a deep run in the NCAA Tournament doing so without the support of a fan base already rabidly engaged with them. And that’s what this tournament can potentially do for Nevada: show casual fans who’ve either fallen out of love with the team or never fell in love with them at all that they’re doing alright for themselves, and seats on the bandwagon are waiting to be filled. It wasn’t just diehards snatching up tickets for the last four games at Lawlor — there were fence-sitters and looky-loos in that bunch, and they were treated to an experience which fulfilled that most important rule of stand-up comedy: leave them wanting more. The key for the program moving forward will be translating that excitement from a fun one-time experience to higher season ticket sales every year that will incentivize Eric Musselman to put down Nevada roots. And that’s a challenge this fan is eager to take on.

  • Further solidifying this week as “pretty great” for Wolf Pack fans was the continued great play of the Nevada baseball and softball teams. After sweeping UNLV on the road, T.J. Bruce and company came home and extended their win streak to six games, beating UC Davis and San Diego State 3-1, 6-5 and 3-2, respectively before the end of Sunday's game was postponed. Following an afternoon tilt with Saint Mary’s on Tuesday, the Pack will play an exhibition game at Greater Nevada Field against the Reno Aces later that evening before hitting the road for a three-game series at Texas State. Continuing in the vein of Pack softball players doing amazing things in the batter’s box, sophomore outfielder Aaliyah Gibson hit for the cycle in a win at San Diego State before the team returned home to take two out of three from New Mexico. They’ll remain at home for three games against Niagara on Friday and Saturday.

The Beer

Firestone Walker Anniversary Ale XIX (Paso Robles, California) ~ I’m going full-on Beer Snob for this week’s review, because why the heck not? It’s not every week your favorite team wins a postseason basketball tournament (CBI or not), and an occasion like that calls for a “special occasion” kind of beer. From the roman numeral in the name to the $23.99 suggested retail price to the note from brewmaster Ryan Brynildson included in the box, you know you’re in for something classy and sophisticated when you crack one of these open. Like their other Anniversary Ales, XIX is a combination of several different barrel aged beers, the result of collaboration with Paso Robles winemakers versed in the craft of blending (I told you it was fancy). This one is one third Parabola Russian imperial oatmeal stout, one third Stickee Monkee quad, one sixth Bravo imperial brown ale and one sixth Velvet Merkin barrel aged oatmeal stout. The result is black heaven in a glass with a nearly nonexistent head, and where do I even begin with the smells and tastes? Brown sugar, vanilla, figs, dates, charred oak, coconut, fruitcake, raisins, caramel, bread crust, molasses and bourbon were all present in both, and there’s probably much more I couldn’t pick out. This is a beer that demands to be sipped slowly by itself with nothing else commanding your attention — it really is that good. It’s an unapologetically snobby beer for snobby people with a special occasion to celebrate, and I give it a perfect five tipsy Wolfies out of five.

All fan mail (burning or otherwise) can be sent to:

Andrew Maurins
c/o North RV Lot
Campus of THE University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557

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