Nevada, and the rest of the Mountain West, put eyes on its 2017-18 conference schedule for the first time last Tuesday.
Due to the 18-game non-balanced schedule, the Wolf Pack will play a home-and-home series with everyone except for New Mexico and Air Force. Nevada is scheduled to host New Mexico on December 30 and play in Colorado Springs on January 6.
That means no return trip to Albuquerque when anyone with any interest in the game would’ve been reminded myriad times about last year’s 25-point comeback (or blown lead, depending on your perspective) for a 105-104 Nevada overtime victory.
There also isn’t a New Year’s Eve game, which doesn’t mean much to anyone other than the team and local media that covers it.
The slate is bookended with two significant road contests. Nevada opens at Fresno State on December 27 and ends the regular season March 3 at San Diego State. The Bulldogs swept the regular season from the Wolf Pack last year and the Aztecs, following a down year and the retiring of iconic coach Steve Fisher, won’t stay out of contention long.
Nevada needed to win the final game of the regular season last year at home against Colorado State to clinch the regular season title. It may require another win in the finale to once again take the No. 1 seed to the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
If you’re looking for a possible season-defining stretch, it rests at the conclusion the first half and the first four games of the second half. Nevada starts the five-game maze with a home contest against Fresno on the last day of January. Fresno was the only team to win at Lawlor last year, sending a crowd of 10.236 home disappointed in a 81-76 contest.
Nevada then goes to Colorado State on February 3. The Rams will take a step back next season, but it will the two team’s first time seeing each other since the Mountain West Conference Title game. A new-look UNLV and its nationally ranked recruiting class comes to Reno on February 7 for the first game between the intrastate rivals. San Diego State follows three days later.
The labyrinth ends February 14 at perennially tough Boise State in the always raucous and tastily named Taco Bell Arena.
Muss inks big man at the buzzer
Coaches rarely are adding talent in the second week of June.
Nevada’s third-year coach Eric Musselman isn’t like most coaches. That’s how he landed the largest contract in Nevada athletics history, which pays him $1 million annually over five years with a generous $1 million buyout.
After reports last Friday, the school confirmed last Wednesday that St. John’s senior grad transfer Darien Williams has committed.
Williams is a 6-8, 235-pound center who will be eligible immediately and adds needed depth to the Pack’s frontcourt.
He’s battled injuries most of his collegiate career and his numbers reflect that, but he will provide a defensive presence on a team that doesn’t boast much size. Immediately, Williams becomes the tallest player on the team and will be among the heaviest.
He would’ve competed with Damonte Ranch walk-on forward John Carlson for tallest on the team. However, Carlson, who played in nine games a season ago, is no longer displayed on the team’s online roster.
Nevada transitioned into an offensive team last year, so it’s likely Elijah Foster’s offensive tools will earn a spot back in the starting lineup over Williams. This was a move about depth.
And now Musselman has it in the front court with Jordan Carline, Foster, Caleb and Cody Martin, and Williams.
Spanish Springs product drafted by Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers called a familiar name in the 26th of the MLB Draft on Wednesday afternoon.
Carson McCusker, a 2016 Spanish Springs grad, set the Big 8 on fire at Folsom Lake Community College this spring and earned the attention of scouts from across the league. He told them he wanted to go to school, damaging his stock, which was evaluated in the 6th-8th round range.
When he spoke to The Sparks Tribune hours later, he did everything but exclusively say he’s not signing with the Brewers. McCusker sees the value in an education, and a free education at that. He committed to Oklahoma State on Sunday.
Its always been my dream to play D1 baseball and its surreal that I’ll be able to make this dream come true at Oklahoma State University⚾️🔶 pic.twitter.com/GL4J65sbNg
— Carson McCusker (@carson_mccusker) June 19, 2017
Also on that 2016 Spanish Springs team were pitcher Ryan Anderson and catcher Josh Prizina. Anderson, a lanky southpaw, just completed his freshman season at Nevada. Prizina, a catcher who may play some corner infield as well, is also on his way to Nevada.
Both have legitimate potential to get drafted once they turn 21 or complete their junior season.
Add it all up and that 2016 Spanish Springs team could have had as many as three future professional baseball players on it. That team finished 21-14, 13-9 in regional play.
Nathan can be reached via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. His weekly column, ‘Shoup Shots,’ was named the best column in the state of Nevada (community division) by the Nevada Press Association. It runs in the hard copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday morning. Nathan’s weekly radio show airs Fridays at noon on ESPN Radio 94.5 FM.