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Las Vegas is a sports town. But how are the teams doing so far this year?

Oakland Raiders Owner Mark Davis, center, meets with Raiders fans after speaking at a meeting of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Las Vegas.
John Locher
/
AP
File photo.

Las Vegas has so much invested in sports these days. But aside from ticket sales, maybe boosts to the casino and resort markets, are fans getting a bang for their buck?

We have a Raiders football team with loads of talent that will not get into the playoffs.

UNLV football won a few more games this year, but not enough to get into one of the dozens of bowl games. So they fired a coach. Hired a new one. Does it even matter?

The owner of the Vegas Golden Knights promised they’d win a Stanley Cup in seven years. This is the seventh year. They’re doing well; they lead their conference. But a top scorer was just injured. Will it be a case of overpromising?

Then again … the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA won the championship this summer. And UNLV’s basketball team is doing something it hasn’t done in 32 years —it’s won its first ten games. They've opened a season undefeated for the first time since 1990.

Joining State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann on Wednesday are three sports journalists: Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review Journal; Lindsey Brown of Lotus Broadcasting; and Ray Brewer of the Las Vegas Sun.

State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann (left) with Lindsey Brown and Adam Hill at Nevada Public Radio on Dec. 14, 2022.
Kristen DeSilva
/
KNPR
State of Nevada host Joe Schoenmann (left) with Lindsey Brown and Adam Hill at Nevada Public Radio on Dec. 14, 2022.

ESPN this week wrote about how UNLV basketball, the Runnin' Rebels, were picked to play sixth in the Mountain West. Now they have 10 wins, zero losses. Only two other teams in the country, Connecticut and Purdue, have no losses of division one teams.

BREWER: They beat Washington State at the Pac-12 Conference, but certainly not a power in the Pac-12 Conference. And it's just a team that plays really strong defense. They have a few standout players, but not a superstar. And I think the team, this version, has bought into Coach Kevin Kruger's, 'we're gonna play hard defense. We're going to get every loose ball, we're going to play together.' And it's worked to the tune of an undefeated start. They've got a big game coming up against San Diego State on New Year's Eve. And if they lose that, does that take away the 10 wins that they've had to open the season? So I think time will tell; the verdict is still out.

The Las Vegas Raiders made a massive move in the offseason, gaining Devante Adams, the best wide receiver in football. They have a new coach, but in 13 games, they've won five.

HILL: I think one of the issues that they've had is something that I've been calling fool's gold. Last year, they made the playoffs, despite being a bad team. They weren't good. They were somehow finding ways to win games at the end against backup quarterbacks and teams that were in really weird situations. And everybody kind of got excited and fooled by the fact that a bad team made the playoffs. This year, every close game went their way last year … And I usually look at the end of game as coin flips, like mostly it's a coin flip, something happens, a bad call, a weird fumble, something happens at the end of games to turn them if they're very close. Last year, they all went their way; this year, they've all gone against that. They had, in their first seven losses, six times they had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to win or take the lead in the final two minutes. And they didn't. They were 7-1 of those spots. So that's what's changed, just the end of game coin tosses, and you saw it against the Rams … some fluky plays where you have a new player that you decide knocked the ball out of a quarterbacks hands when the game was over. And those things, you can say bad coaching, but I don't think you'd coach the player to do that. There's just things that have gone wrong.

The Vegas Golden Knights lost to the Boston Bruins on Sunday night, and beat the Jets in a high-scoring game on Tuesday night. Could they win it all?

BROWN: I think the potential is certainly there. Is the consistency is the big question. Last year, they ran into a lot of injuries that kind of derailed their season in the new year ,and right now they're going through a little bit of an injury bug, especially on their defensive. You're missing three of your top six defenseman … luckily, we've seen some scoring start to pop back up. They've struggled to score at home, but they have a game breaker in Jack Eichel who's also out with a lower body injury on the IR, and when he played in the team played in Buffalo a few weeks back, and he had a hat trick in the third period and a comeback victory. That's all I really need to see in terms of, 'well, do they have the ability to get there? Do they have the ability to come out of nowhere and steal one in a big time moment?' It's a regular season game in Buffalo, I get it. ... Because this team is a squad that regularly has whoever has the revenge game is leading the stretch in the middle of practice. And when you're playing for each other for that level and able to produce in a moment like that, that bodes well for them.

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Dave Berns, now a producer for State of Nevada, recently returned to KNPR after having previously worked for the station from 2005 to 2009.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the online editor for Nevada Public Radio. She curates content on knpr.org, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.