Posts Tagged ‘NCAA’

wade and tarkanianBy W.G. Ramirez

This April will mark the 28th anniversary of my first published article after high school.

Less than a year after graduating from Clark High School, my exclusive interview with then-UNLV point guard Mark Wade was splashed across the front page of the Las Vegas Sentinel-Voice, the state’s only African-American newspaper.

That was 1987. Little did I know the next time we’d do another exclusive 1-on-1 interview, it would be under somber circumstances.

But sure enough, less than 30 seconds after texting my ol’ buddy Mark, he replied with one simple word: “Yes.”

The question: “Mark, you available for an interview about Tark?”

Mark Wade 2Just as he was UNLV’s loyal floor general who helped lead the Runnin’ Rebels into the 1987 Final Four, and was an extension of the coaching staff on the court, he was loyal to his former coach on Wednesday, roughly three hours after we were all saddened by the news that Jerry Tarkanian had joined his friend and former North Carolina coach Dean Smith in the afterlife.

Mark, understandably shaken, spoke about a number of things with me, talking about how much Tarkanian meant to not only him, but the program, university and city of Las Vegas. Much of what he said, I knew. The broad strokes, of course I knew. I’ve been here since 1972, and used to watch the Runnin’ Rebels play inside the Las Vegas Convention Center’s famed Rotunda, which resembled a spaceship.

From Sweet Lew Brown, Eddie Owens, Sudden Sam Smith, Robert Smith, Reggie Theus and that high-flying bunch from the 70s, to Wade’s crew that included Armen Gilliam, Freddie Banks, Eldridge Hudson and Gary Graham, I had seen them all. Yep, long before the 1990 National Championship – with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt and George Ackles – we were all bleeding Rebel Red.

Including Mark.

Which is why his phone began blowing up shortly after the 84-year-old legend died at Valley Hospital, just minutes from his home. So many people knew what Tarkanian meant to Mark, who might have been diminutive in size, but who had as big a heart as any other Runnin’ Rebel in the history of the program.

Which is why, to this day, he defends UNLV to the core.

“There was always this misperception that we were this undisciplined, crazy, helter-skelter uncontrollable basketball program,” Wade said. “But as chaotic as it looked, it was unbelievably disciplined basketball. To us, we had a plan and it was directed toward what we were supposed to do. Even on the championship team, they all had roles on the floor en route to winning the championship. Us, that 1987 Final Four team, we had a plan and we knew what we were doing and what we had to do to get as far as we did. We had a plan that was set forth in practice.”

And boy did the Runnin’ Rebels execute it.

They finished 37-2, averaged 92.5 points per game, allowed 75.5 points per contest and lost in the National Semifinal, 97-93, to eventual champion Indiana.

But it was the game before that, against Iowa in the West Regional Final that Mark wanted to talk about. It’s the one game he remembers absolutely everything about, and the one game he believes epitomized the life and soul of Tark the Shark.

“The eternal fight of telling one another we weren’t going to lose that game, that’s what I remember,” Wade said. “We were getting out butt whipped out there, I got my fourth foul and Gary (Graham) came in the game. And no matter how far down we got, we just always had the mentality it was us against the world and we were going to fight ’til the clock said zero.”

Just like Tarkanian. In real life.

“The Iowa game epitomized what Coach Tark was all about; it epitomized what college basketball was all about,” he said.

Wade_MarkWade remembers one intangible being the culprit allowing Iowa to open a 16-point halftime lead on the Runnin’ Rebels. That culprit, in a sense, was Tarkanian, who had Gilliam throwing the ball in each time Iowa scored.

“Our best finisher was taking the ball out of bounds, and that wasn’t working,” Wade said. “So at halftime, rather than him telling us what we were doing wrong, a couple players went to coach and we told him to switch Jarvis Basnight with Gilliam, putting the team’s best scorer into frontcourt, rather than the backcourt.

“And that is what essentially changed the flow of the game.”

UNLV outscored the Hawkeyes 42-23 in the second half and advanced to its second-ever Final Four.

“Coach and I never had any serious battles, what we had was a meeting of the minds on the basketball court,” Wade said. “We found a happy medium and that’s what made me enjoy being a point guard for that team.”

It was that kind of relationship that taught Wade to trust a coach, taught Tarkanian a lot more about the point guard on his team and displayed the type of coach who wasn’t afraid to learn from his players while teaching them how to win.

“He taught his players to fight through practice ’til they had nothing left, and in games, the model was to play ’til the game was over,” Wade said. “In life, his journey was the same as what we stood for on the basketball court. You fight until you have nothing left, to the very end.”

University of Washington women's soccer team plays Oregon State University

Former Arbor View standout McKenzie Karas is now a junior, starting for the University of Washington.

By W.G. Ramirez

Washington women’s soccer coach Lesle Gallimore remembers recruiting McKenzie Karas, the standout soccer player who starred at Arbor View and was named Nevada’s Gatorade Player of the Year her sophomore season.

In fact, she remembers her when she was a goalkeeper for her 14-and-under club team, not to mention when she filled in as a placekicker for Arbor View’s football team, which needed someone with a strong leg who could drive the ball.

Karas was quite the diverse athlete leading up to her college career.

But more than anything, Gallimore knows her as a “funny, outgoing, loose kind of kid you want on your team.”

“She makes the atmosphere she’s around that much better,” Gallimore said Tuesday during a phone interview from Seattle.

Gallimore and the Huskies are hoping the lovable junior defender affectionately known as “Jammer” will help make the environment a winning one, when Washington hosts Rider in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s College Cup, Friday night at 7 p.m.

For college soccer enthusiasts, call it November Madness.

And Karas has found a productive role that helped the Huskies earn the No. 4 seed in their region this year.

“Over the last month and a half, two months, she’s shown us what a great college player she can be and has worked her way into a starting role,” Gallimore said. “We’re excited about her progress and she is finally seeing and feeling her progress. She’s been resilient, worked hard and earning significant time now.”

University of Washington women's soccer team plays Oregon State University

Washington defender McKenzie Karas was named 2010 Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year.

It hasn’t been easy, though, as Karas overcame a torn ACL and nagging injuries since her senior year at Arbor View. Just days before signing her national letter-of-intent, she went down in a game and was finished for the season. Gallimore said she never flinched, and never even though about reneging on Karas’ scholarship offer. One, because she knows the type of individual she was dealing with, and two, because she has a conscious.

“I have to sleep with myself at night,” Gallimore said. “At the end of the day, it’s an injury. We recruited her hard and we stuck by her. The timing … there was just no way we were going to flip flop on our offer. That’s not the way we operate.”

In exchange for that type of loyalty, Karas worked her way back on to the field, battling tougher, better and more experienced players in front of her the past two years and eventually proving herself and not only earning the respect of her coaches, but her teammates as well.

University of Washington women's soccer team plays Oregon State University

McKenzie Karas will help lead Washington in the opening round of the 2014 Women’s College Cup, at home vs. Rider. The game can be seen online, beginning Friday at 7 p.m.


Karas said the transition from high school to college was already going to be difficult, but acclimating with a torn ACL didn’t help.

“The first year was tough because with the injury, I couldn’t prove to them what I could do on the field,” Karas said. “Being comfortable and being myself on the field is really tough in college, it’s a whole different ball game. Being able to be a voice on the field, without people knowing who I was, I was timid and tense my freshman year. But you have to come in and make a whole new name for yourself. Nobody cares you’re the Gatorade Player of the Year. You have to work for that spot on the field in college, nothing is guaranteed.

“Now I feel really comfortable with my team. I’ve grown not only as a woman, but as a soccer player at this level. My mindset has been at getting better every day. The transition was hard, but it being challenging, has made me the player I am today.”

Gallimore said ‘that player’ is someone she can put on the field and count on being extremely formidable, one that gives her goalkeeper confidence while she’s prowling in front of opponents.

“You can’t have a great team without great training kids, and Jammer fits right in there with that,” Gallimore said. “She’s always been a great and enthusiastic person both on and off the field. There’s just something about her personality that stands out and makes her a winner.”

NOTE: Karas scored the lone goal in Washington’s win over Rider on Friday, leading the Huskies to the second round of the Women’s College Cup. UW plays Missouri next, as the Tigers knocked off Kansas 3-1 in the first round.

By Jesse Granger

Another week in college football, and another top-four team went down. Early in the year, without much evidence to go off of, things are fluid and a big win can cause a team to soar up the rankings.

College Football Playoff Teams

1. Oregon Ducks (4-0) AP #2, Coaches #4Oregon

Oregon remains at the top, despite having its poorest showing of the season. The Ducks struggled in Pullman, Washington, and escaped Martin Stadium with a 38-31 win. Marcus Mariota was spectacularly efficient, completing more touchdown passes than incompletes. He finished 21-of-25 for 329 yards and five touchdowns, but was sacked a season-high seven times.

The offensive line was bad throughout, allowing all those sacks and limiting Royce Freeman to a pedestrian 3.8 yards per carry. That is a troubling sign considering Washington State is not a great defense. This performance would have dropped the Ducks out of No. 1 if any of the other top-four teams did anything of note.
2. Texas A&M Aggies (4-0) AP #6, Coaches #7

TX_A&MThe Aggies beat up on a winless SMU team that has lost its three games by a combined score of 146-12. Not much of a statement, but the Aggies high-flying offense has proven to be consistent. They currently rank second in the nation in scoring at 55.3 points per game, and fourth in passing at 405 yards per game. Maybe more impressive, is the play of the defense. They currently rank eighth in points allowed at 11.8 per game, and have allowed only one touchdown since week one at South Carolina.

Now Texas A&M’s schedule gets real tough, real quick. The Aggies will host Arkansas (3-1) before taking on three straight ranked opponents.
3. Mississippi State Bulldogs (3-0) AP #14, Coaches #16MississippiState

There are three things that are certain in life – Taxes, Death, and losing to LSU in Death Valley at night.

Mississippi State defied one of those on Saturday, going in and beating the Tigers 34-29. It was the statement win of the season, for any team in college football. It was Mississippi State’s first win in Baton Rouge since 1991, and it was in front of 102,321 Tiger’s faithful.

The polls jumped them from unranked to the top 16, but that isn’t high enough. An undefeated team with the most impressive win of the year deserves to be in the top four no matter what logo is on the side of the helmet. The Bulldogs’ front-seven is nasty, and quarterback Dak Prescott has vaulted himself into the Heisman race with is 268 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 105 yards and a score on the ground against LSU.


4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0) AP #9, Coaches #9

notre_dameNot much to say about the Irish. They had the week off, and therefore didn’t move up or down.

This week they take a trip to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse (2-1), which is one of the softest games on their remaining schedule.
Just Missed The Cut

Baylor Bears (3-0) AP #7, Coaches #6

The Bears’ vaunted offense continues with machine-like precision. They once again lead the nation in scoring, with 59.3 points per game, and are 3rd in passing despite Bryce Petty missing time. The defense has looked great, but anyone’s defense would look great against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. Baylor remains on the outside, for now.
Oklahoma Sooners (3-0) AP #4, Coaches #3

The Sooners escaped Morgantown, West Virginia with a hard-fought 45-33 win over the Mountaineers. The defense did not look good, allowing 513 yards, but the offense came though. Freshman running back Samaje Perine had a career day, carrying the ball 34 times for 242 yard and four touchdowns. Maybe most importantly, Oklahoma showed it can win when Trevor Knight is off.

South Carolina Gamecocks (3-1) AP #13, Coaches #15

South Carolina didn’t look great against Vanderbilt. The game came down to the wire, when the Gamecocks should have walked right through the Commodores. But every week South Carolina’s early-season wins just keep looking better and better.


Dropped Out

LSU Tigers – Lost to Mississippi State 34-29

No. 4 UNLV (20-12, 11-8 Mountain West) vs. No. 1 San Diego State (28-3, 16-2)

WHEN: Friday 6 p.m. TV: CBS Sports Network RADIO: ESPN Radio 1100/98.9 FM

SEASON SERIES: San Diego State swept the regular-season series, winning by 11 on Jan. 18 in San Diego, 63-52, and on March 5 in Las Vegas, 73-64.

RoscoeKEY PLAYERS: UNLV: Dejean-Jones (13.7 ppg.), Birch (11.7 ppg., 10.1 rpg., 3.7  bpg.) and Smith (11.2 ppg. 11.1 rpg.)  SDST: Thames (16.9 ppg., 3.1 apg., 39.6 3FG%), Davis (8 ppg., 10.0 rpg.), Shepard (12.3 ppg., 5.2 rpg.)

KEY FACTOR in this game for UNLV: Bryce Dejean-Jones rose to the occasion in the quarterfinals against Wyoming, coming off the bench to score 22 points, to lead the Runnin’ Rebels to a 71-67 win. The Rebels will need their star guard to upstage San Diego State’s star guard, league player of the year Xavier Thames.

KEY FACTOR in this game for San Diego State: Cleaning the glass is essential for the Aztecs, as they’ll want to limit the Rebels’ second-chance opportunities. San Diego State’s aggressive defensive nature could force the Rebels to make poor shot selections, so it’s up to Josh Davis to bang with Roscoe Smith and Khem Birch to get rebounds.

NOTABLE: UNLV, which has an all-time record of 56-17 (.767) in conference tournament play, improved to 13-1 all-time in the quarterfinals of the MW Tournament. Its lone loss, ironically, came in 2009 to tonight’s opponent – San Diego State. The Runnin’ Rebels, who are 2-5 against the Aztecs all-time in MW Tournament play, have lost four straight to San Diego State in the event. And while the Aztecs are 2-0 versus UNLV in the MW semifinals, the Runnin’ Rebels are 8-4 all-time in the semifinals.

UNLV COACH DAVE RICE: On San Diego State – As soon as the Wyoming game ended, we started thinking about San Diego State. They’re a fantastic offensive rebounding team, they’re so well balanced. They’ve got a group that’s experienced. I’ve got so much respect for Xavier Thames and Josh Davis – two fifth-year seniors that provide leadership. They’ve got guys who come off the bench who understand their roles and do their jobs.

Biggest Concerns – Their offensive rebounding is a huge factor, making sure we handle their backcourt pressure. But the biggest thing is the health of Khem Birch because you know how important Khem is to our team.

Biggest Confidence – The fact we’re a resilient group that has always bounced back from adversity. Just like the adversity of last week playing without Roscoe Smith for the entire week and then having the Bryce Dejean-Jones suspension and losing two games and coming up against a team that we knew would be difficult to play against in Wyoming, but we bounced back and fought our way to a victory.

By Jesse Granger

Fresno State Bulldogs (11-1) vs. Southern California Trojans (9-4)

Where: Sam Boyd Stadium (capacity 36,800)

When: Saturday, Dec. 21, 12:30 pm PT


Why to watch

Las Vegas is always awarded with a quality matchup in the annual Vegas Bowl, but this year brings two powerhouse programs with star-studded lineups. The 20 combined wins by USC and Fresno State are only second amongst non-BCS bowls to the Cotton Bowl. This year’s bowl game also pits two teams from the same region against each other. The two campuses are only four hours from each other, so recruiting battles could be only the line when the Bulldogs and Trojans take the field Saturday afternoon.!cid__2_11C6C1EC11C65F38002293FA88257C40

For those who watch for elite caliber athletes, there will be plenty of NFL talent on display. USC is always stacked with a roster full of future-NFL players, and this year is no different. The Trojans pro-prospects are led by junior wide receiver Marqise Lee, who ESPN draft expert Todd McShay is projecting as the No. 1 receiver in next year’s draft. For once, USC doesn’t have the biggest star on the field. Fresno State signal caller Derek Carr has wowed scouts all year with mind-boggling numbers and, according to McShay, could be drafted in the top-10.

Then there’s always the Hollywood drama surrounding the Trojans. USC has found itself in quite a scenario, under the third head coach just this season. After firing Lane Kiffin on Sept. 28, Ed Orgeron did a great job as the interim. But upon the hiring of Steve Sarkisian, Orgeron abruptly resigned. Sarkisian will obviously not coach the team on Saturday with the ink still wet on his brand new contract, so offensive coordinator Clay Helton will lead the Trojans against Fresno State.

Fresno State Keys

The Bulldogs threw the ball all over the gridiron this year at a record breaking pace. Carr threw so many passes the team may have needed to consider a pitch-count. The senior quarterback threw a Mountain West record 605 passes for 4,866 yards. That broke Carr’s own record for passing, by more than 700 yards. Carr also broke Kellen Moore’s Mountain West record for touchdown passes in a season with 48 touchdown tosses. Carr’s number one target, Davante Adams, caught 122 passes for 1,645 yards. Adams led the nation with 23 touchdown grabs, which was eight more than the second best. Fresno State moved the ball on opponents at will, racking up 572.4 yards per game, but the Bulldog’s third ranked offense will face the most talented defense of the year in USC. But the Mountain West has owned the Vegas Bowl recently, winning the last four, and six of the past seven. Will Fresno State’s unstoppable aerial assault be grounded against the Trojans talented secondary, or will it finish its record breaking year with a bang?

USC Keys

After USC’s 62-41 loss to Arizona State, the season seemed lost. But the Trojans rallied, and won five straight before falling to cross-town rival UCLA to end the year. Even with the lack of stability around the program, the defense remains one of the best in the nation. Led by linebacker Hayes Pullard, the Trojans finished 16th in the nation in total defense; that’s a feat even more impressive in the offensively stacked Pac 12. USC will look to shut down Carr and Adams, with the Pac 12’s first ranked pass defense. The Trojans allow only 214.5 yards per game through the air, close to half of Fresno State’s average. In today’s college football, stopping elite passing attacks is nearly impossible. But the Trojans will gladly surrender yards between the 20’s if they can hold the Bulldogs to field goals. USC’s red-zone defense is 3rd in the nation, only allowing 26 scores in 41 red-zone opportunities for their opponents. As good as Fresno State’s offense was, it did struggle in the red-zone, ranking 48th in the country. If USC’s seventh ranked red-zone offense can punch the ball in the end zone while holding Fresno to field goals, USC could run away with the game.

Final Note

Despite the announcement by Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Executive Director Dan Hanneeke that the game is sold out, there are still a small amount of tickets available.

According to the Fresno State Athletics site the ticket offices are closed, but tickets can be purchased for $55 at the Hard Rock Hotel on Friday Dec. 20 from 10 am to 4 pm.