Wolf Pack coach Musselman guides Nevada to pair of dramatic wins

Wolf Pack coach Musselman guides Nevada to pair of dramatic wins

March 20, 2018 3:04 AM
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Leave it to former NBA coach Eric Musselman to shake off the Mountain Worst Conference tag on his Sweet 16-bound Nevada Wolf Pack.

Musselman, standing all of 5-foot-6, proved to be one of us following UNR’s first- and second-round improbable upset wins over Texas and Cincinnati, respectively, in Nashville over the weekend.

From his profanity laced post-game locker room speech caught live on national television to his now-famous shirtless water bottle celebration following the Pack’s second-straight incredible victory on Sunday, this time against the Bearcats after being down 22 points in the second-largest comeback in tournament history, Musselman celebrated like you or I might with a bunch of young men who believe in you and vice versa.

The win for the No. 7 seed from the lowly MWC was the second miraculous rally for Nevada Reno, which came back from 14 points down to beat Texas in overtime, making Sunday’s rally seem even more improbable.

Credit to his obviously underrated crew of players, but it sure seemed like Musselman was getting outsmarted by a couple of veteran coaches once the momentum had shifted and even well before the tide had turned.

With senior point guard Kendall Stephens obviously on the mend with his 78 minutes played in the two tourney contests, along with junior twin stars Caleb and Cody Martin, and sensational junior Jordan Caroline, the Wolf Pack are the favorite to reach the regional final after colliding in Atlanta on Thursday with exciting Cinderella Loyola Chicago.

Despite the success of the Ramblers and their divine intervention from 98-year-old nun Sister Jean Schmidt, UNR can get to a place where few teams from their conference rarely go.

The Mountain West certainly takes plenty of jabs, especially of late, but for Nevada and Musselman, expect a trip to Elite Eight.

LOYOLA CHICAGO (+2, 143.5) vs. NEVADA (Thu., 4:07, CBS): The Ramblers bring a 12-game winning streak into the contest and certainly the Wolf Pack’s slow starts have to be of major concern for any coach. Still, Reno is one of the elite teams in the country at not turning over the ball and certainly has to rate as explosive against a certain comparable opponent. This is usually the end for double-digit seeds, who are just 6-26 SU and 13-18-1 ATS since ’02. UNR, 77-72

TEXAS A&M (+3, 134) vs. MICHIGAN (Thu., 4:37, TBS): Expect some type of grind-it-out battle between low-turnover Wolverines and rebounding machine Aggies. Michigan won’t get many second chances and both squads make it difficult to score, as North Carolina found out against A&M on Sunday evening. Nearly two-thirds of the early spread money was coming in on the Aggies. I’ve got Mo Wagner as my key player to make the difference in a squeaker. UM, 64-63

KANSAS STATE (+5.5, 139) vs. KENTUCKY (Thu., 6:37, CBS): The Big 12 has certainly had its share of problems in this round, while UK coach John Calipari carries a 10-2 ATS mark in the Sweet 16. Now looking under-seeded, Kentucky should have a field day on the offensive glass in this one after seeing how KSU had to grind it out against UMBC’s fun, but futile effort. UK, 78-69

FLORIDA STATE (+5.5, 156) vs. GONZAGA (Thu., 6:59, TBS): Gonzaga has covered just once in their last five trips to the Sweet 16, but the Bulldogs should be able to click from three-point range against the Seminoles with Josh Perkins and big-man outside threat Killian Tillie. The Seminoles stunned Xavier, who appeared to be counting the minutes down before it was too late. The ‘Zags have won nine of their last 11 tournament games, but covered in just four. GU, 83-78

CLEMSON (+4, 143) vs. KANSAS (Fri., 4:07, CBS): Sharps may have already sliced a point off the opener in some spots, taking the Tigers after their dominating performance over Auburn on Sunday, since more than three-quarters of the early action was coming in on KU. Clemson has been a delight to bettors this season with a 19-12 ATS mark thanks to a defense that certainly rates as one of the best in the country. Sweet Sixteen 1 and 2 seeds are on a 19-2 SU and 16-3-1 ATS run. KU, 73-66

WEST VIRGINIA (+6, 158) vs. VILLANOVA (Fri., 4:27, TBS): Bob Huggins thumbed his nose at Marshall on Sunday and the Bearcats earned the trip to Boston. Villanova is now 23-12-1 against the spread and 21-10 to the OVER with their often unstoppable offense. This should be another case where the Mountaineers will not be able to slow the Wildcats’ three-point shooting effectively enough. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges lead the three-ball assault. ‘Nova, 90-80

SYRACUSE (+11.5, 133.5) vs. DUKE (Fri., 6:37, CBS): Duke has compiled a 22-11 ATS mark this season and sweet 16 favorites of 8-points or more are on a 21-6-3 UNDER run, allowing just over 62 points per game; and consider the Blue Devils won the ACC meeting this season at Cameron by just a 60-44 count despite making just two of 18 three-point attempts. Coaches Jim Boeheim and Coach K just might get cute and see which legend knows more about the 2-3 zone in what should be a real throwback game. Duke, 69-56

TEXAS TECH (+1.5, 137.5) vs. PURDUE (Fri., 6:57): Purdue proved it could move on after big star Isaac Haas ended up sidelined with a fracture to his elbow. The Boilers filled the void against Butler and should like their big presence still to be able to connect over the Red Raiders defense. Texas Tech certainly matches up defense with Purdue’s super-efficient offense, but the Raiders also have plenty of woes at the line. Purdue, 69-65