The Nevada men’s basketball team has undergone some changes since last season, with the transfer portal being a big part of those.
But Jay Bilas, an ESPN college basketball announcer and analyst, says the Wolf Pack will be one of the top teams in the Mountain West again this season despite the roster changes.
Bilas is playing in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe. He has 15 points after two rounds.
He said the transfer portal in basketball is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
“It’s become part of the game now, that you’re going to have transfers in and players are going to leave,” Bilas said. That’s not a reflection on the program or the coach or anything, that happens everywhere now.”
Bilas said he is a huge fan of Nevada coach Steve Alford and he has known him since college.
He said Alford will use the transfer portal to his advantage.
“I know fans don’t like it. And coaches don’t like it,” Bilas said of the portal. “But you can’t get too wrapped up in it.”
He said the Wolf Pack will good this season and should be strong on defense.
“They’ll guard. They’ll defend because Steve, even though he’s a great shooter, he was brought up on defense,” Bilas said. “I don’t have any doubt about that program.”
Bilas said coaches have to be active in the transfer portal, but should also have a blend of incoming high school players to mesh with older players to build a program.
“Sometimes, why they leave is important. You want somebody who is going to be in with both feet when they get there,” Bilas said. “But Steve’s been through this forever. He’s coached for a million years.
“And he’s got the best hair in America.”
Leaders: John Smoltz had a strong finish to his round Saturday, with an eagle on No. 18, and retained his spot atop the leaderboard with 26 points Saturday and 51 points after two days.
Vinny Del Negro is in second with 49 points, after also putting up 26 on Saturday, Jack Wagner is third with 47 and Annika Sorenstam equaled her first round with 23 points to sit in fourth place.
Smoltz said he wants to win at Edgewood more than anything, but he’s trying to keep his mind calm.
His caddy, and long-time catcher with the Atlanta Braves, Greg Olson, is helping with that.
“Back in the day when he would catch me, I’d shake him off and tell him I want to throw this pitch. But he knows how to keep me moving in the right direction,” Smoltz said. “I had to change something, because golf’s not a game of aggression. You can’t hit it farther by swinging harder. So that’s what I’ve done.”
The crowd is somewhat limited this year, but is still huge and full of energy, especially on holes 17 and 18, which border the beach at Tahoe.
Smoltz feeds off their energy.
“When you turn to the right on 17, you just can’t, there’s nothing like it,” Smoltz said. “And this course, with the fans, is everything, because last year was just weird. And we know why. So there’s no doubt you have to play in it a few times to come down the stretch to catch your breath, as Jack (Wagner) said, to breathe right, because there’s so much energy on 17 and 18, you’ve got to be able to hit a calm shot.”
Del Negro, who played and coached in the NBA, said pressure and nerves are a part of playing in the ACC.
“There’s always pressure, but that’s what it’s all about. We love the competition. We’re competition junkies. That’s what we love. We want to be under the heat. We’ve been under it our whole life in some capacity, whether baseball, football, basketball, whatever,” Del negro said. “But golf is a difficult sport. We know that. Every round is a little bit different: weather, greens, pin placements, things like that, your swing, mental approach.”
Sorenstam, 50, has been retired from professional golf for 13 years, but she is counting on her experience to pull her through this week.
She played with Tony Romo and Steph Curry on Saturday and said they are equally competitive, but also enjoy the raucous atmosphere at Edgewood.
She said Curry was shooting 3-pointers over her head on No. 17 while she was teeing up her ball.
“When you see other good shots and you see other good birdies and the other players doing something well, it’s like, of course, you’re going to cheer them on,” Sorenstam said. “That’s what makes this tournament so fun. Everybody’s happy to see something good.
“But it’s exciting because you can see in their eyes how competitive they are. Then I try to focus on my game playing my strategy the way I would play this course. It’s a little different than they play the course. But after several holes I said, ‘I’ll see you on the green, you can go whatever route you want but I’m playing this route.'”
For further proof of how competitive she is, after Saturday’s round she was out on the driving range practicing.
Barkley bet: Charles Barkley fared better on Saturday and is at minus-21 points for the tournament, in 77th place.
A popular wager before the ACC was if Barkley would finish in the top 70. He played with Sean McDermott and Dylan Dreyer on Saturday.
He said the bet was not on his mind.
“I played well today. I made a couple mistakes but I had a really good time playing with these guys,” Barkley said. “I wasn’t even thinking about the bet — just worried about getting tired walking four days in a row.”
Romo watch: Two-time winner Tony Romo has 42 points and is in fifth place.
Romo said he started to find his rhythm on the back nine Saturday.
“I really feel like I’ve been playing good coming in. The back nine, I started to get the understanding of what I have been doing well coming in and started to do it,” he said.
He said staying patient, but also aggressive on Sunday will be important.
Curry watch: Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry has 39 points and is tied for sixth place.
Currie said he will focus on his short game Sunday and try to get out to a good start.
“I’ll check the leaderboard by 6 or 7 and see what happens,” Curry said.
He said it can be inspiring to play with Sorenstam.
“All I did was just watch her hit fairway after fairway after fairway,” he said. “For me it’s awesome just to see the consistency and confidence. It’s just a matter if she makes putts. At that level and what she’s accomplished right here, to see it in person, where she’s at now, that putter is everything because she hits the ball so straight and doesn’t make many mistakes. It’s awesome to watch.”
Aaron Rodgers: The quarterback’s future has been a subject of much interest this offseason, as he is believed to want out of Green Bay and seeking a trade elsewhere.
He did not shed any light on his future this week.
Rodgers told the Golf Channel that he intends to enjoy his time at Lake Tahoe, then get back to working out and will decide on his future in a couple weeks.
Rodgers scored 9 points on Friday and 10 on Saturday. He is tied for 28th place.
CC Sabathia: The retired New York Yankees pitcher has a tie to Reno. His cousin, Demetrius Davis, played tight end for the Nevada football team in the late 1980s.
Davis died in 2012 at age 45 from a heart attack. He was selected by the Los Angeles Raiders with the last pick of the 1990 NFL Draft, a slot known as ‘Mr. Irrelevant.’
Sabathia paid for a renovation of a basketball court in Vallejo and dedicated the court to Davis in 2013.
Sabathia grew up in Vallejo and used to visit Davis at Wolf Pack football games.
Sabathia had minus-36 points and is in 84th place in the 88-player field.
Korbel Hole-In-One Contest: Actor Michael Pena won the annual contest that featured 13 celebrities with two shots each on the lakefront par-3, 155-yard, 17th hole. Pena put the closest shot to 16-feet, 7 inches.
An ace offered $250,000, split between the celebrity and Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a local non-profit organization. A shot within 2-feet split $25,000, and outside 2-feet resulted in a $5,000 donation. Competitors included Patrick Mahomes, Rob Riggle, Michael Strahan, Ray Romano, Travis Kelce, Larry the Cable Guy, Canelo, Roger Clemens, CC Sabathia, and Alfonso Ribeiro, and Brian Baumgartner.
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