-Im not gonna talk about Idaho. I don’t care if you want to. I wont do it. Not going to talk about how our defensive line pass rush is about as daunting as a strong gust of wind. I am not going to talk about how our defensive backs can perfectly defend a pass except for the part where they just have to turn around and catch the football but instead they don’t find the football, and they grab the defender in a panic, and get called for pass interfence. I’m not going to talk about how Johnny Stanton threw two interceptions to the guy who was standing right in front of him.
There are games that are so bad that coaches say that don’t even watch the film. This was a different kind of bad. This is the kind of bad that you make your team watch. You make their families watch it. Its like when a dog poops on the floor, and to punish your dog you put him right next to it and make him stare at it. UNLV pooped on the floor, and Sanchez needs to make the whole team look at it to know to not do it again.
On to Fresno State:
-Johnny Stanton is not playing, and redshirt freshman Dalton Sneed will be making his first start at QB.
-With Fresno starting a freshman at QB and the fact that Fresno State gives up 260 yards per game on the ground, UNLV would be wise to put the ball in the hands of Lexington Thomas. The strategy needs to be about running the football.
-Our secondary is pretty skilled athletically, but the coaching staff needs to go back to the fundamentals of coverage. The moment the ball leaves the QB’s hand, the DBs needs to know, and they need to know where the football is.
-Fresno State offense relies on the passing game, and UNLV needs to get creative with the pass rush to try and change things up. UNLV defensive line is small, and they need to try and find a way to get to the QB.
-This is an important game for UNLV and especially Sanchez. UNLV is a better team than Fresno, and after a tough home loss to Idaho, UNLV can’t follow up with another stinky performance. A UNLV loss would be crippling to the rest of the season. There was hopes that UNLV would 3-2 or possibly 4-1 heading into the October, now UNLV is hoping to just notch a 2nd win.
-I think UNLV will come out and look a lot better than did last week, but I still dont know if that necessarily translates to an easy win.
UNLV fans were in midseason of college hoops season form during the rebels loss against Central Michigan last weekend. You would of thought that Tony Sanchez was Dave Rice after blowing a double digit lead against a bottom of the barrel conference opponent.
UNLV lost last week, 44-21 to a good Central Michigan team. Fans weren’t happy about it. Johnny Stanton also got the “Jerome Seagears” treatment from a lot of fans.
I don’t know what fans expected. UNLV was double digit underdogs, against a team that matched up well against the Rebels. Central Michigan went on the road and beat a top 25 team the week before. My theory on why UNLV fans are upset:
Central Michigan is in the MAC conference. The MAC sucks. Therefore, we should be able to beat them.
The truth: the Mac is a pretty solid conference, and CMU is a good football team. UNLV fans would patting themselves on the back if they lost to Oklahoma State 44-21. That’s a good team from the Big 12! (Thats also the same team that just lost to the Chippewas.)
Enough about that, and how much I hate the majority of my fellow UNLV fans.
UNLV has a good bounce-back game this week against the Idaho Vandals. Here are my thoughts:
UNLV ran the football well last week, and I think they look to do the same this week. Look for Lexington Thomas to continue to look like one of the best backs in the MWC behind Heisman candidate Donnel Pumphrey.
Idaho is 1-2 with their lone win coming from 20-17 victory of Montana State. The two losses came against Washington (59-14) and Washington State (56-6)
UNLV is favored by 13 points. UNLV is 2-1 against the spread this season, Idaho is 0-3.
Idaho’s defense might be worst than UNLV’s and that is saying a lot. Idaho is giving up an average of 44 points and 432 yards per game.
Look for UNLV to bounce back and use this game as a confidence booster heading into MWC play. UNLV wins big 55-20.
Central Michigan doesn’t deserve to be 2-0. The clock had read double ZEROS in Stillwater last weekend but the referees mistakenly gave the Chippewas an untimed down. Good for them. They threw a hail mary that was just short of the endzone, but the savvy WR was able to lateral the ball to another player who was able to convert the TD. It was the highlight play of the week, even though it technically didn’t really happen.
That result creates a level of intrigue for this weekends game against UNLV.
UNLV looks to bounce back after a tough loss at the Rose Bowl against UCLA. Down 28-21 early in the 4th quarter, UNLV’s defense was about to force a 3 and out when safety, Kenny Keys, was called for a targeting penalty which extended the drive and resulted in Keys’ ejection. That play took away the momentum UNLV had, and UCLA was able to seal the victory with a couple TDs in the 4th quarter.
Notes about the week 3 matchup:
-Central Michigan boasts a stout defense, especially against the run. Teams are averaging just 47 yds a game on the ground.
-The Chippewas offense can move the football, especially in the air. Starting QB, Cooper Rush, threw for 4 TDs and 368 yards.
-UNLV’s offensive focus this week should be on working on the short to intermediate passing game. Stanton can throw the deep ball decently, but this game will be won by the team that controls possession.
-The Rebel defense need to get after the QB. Pressure from the front 7 is main ingredient for a good defense. It throws the offence’s timing off, and gives the secondary unit opportunities to create turnovers.
My week 3 prediction:
Everything I see about this week tells me that this a bad matchup for UNLV. I hope that i am underrating UNLV and overrating CMU but I think the Chippewas win 42-34.
Last Week, UNLV made quick work of Jackson State en route to a 63-13 beat down. A couple notes from that game before moving onto preview UCLA.
UNLV IS 1/12 of the way to an undefeated season. Who says it cant happen??
Johnny Stanton and Devante Boyd look like they will be a dynamic duo after connecting for 3 TDs (all in the first half).
Keith Whitely who? The three-headed running back corp of Lex Thomas, Xzavier Campell, and Charles Williams combined for 216 yards, 3 TDS on just 33 carries.
Although only pulling in one catch, Darren Woods Jr. showed signs of a bright future.
There were a few drives at the beginning of the game where the defense struggled to get off the field, but the defense looked solid in the second half.
This week UNLV heads to the Rose Bowl to take on the UCLA Bruins. Last year these two teams met in what was the home opener for UNLV football where UCLA thumped the Rebels 37-3. That score is deceiving. Down 10-0. UNLV attempted a fake FG that failed, and then late in the first half Kurt Palendech threw a pick six. UNLV was never going to win that game, but played a respectable game for the most part.
My personal highlight of that game was when two UNLV fans got into a fight because one of them was leaving early, and the other fan didn’t like that.
This year I expect UCLA to win again, but I expect a much closer game on the scoreboard.
UCLA is favored to win by 25.5.
Rosen, UCLA’s QB, was hot/cold in week 1 vs Texas A&M. Throwing for 343 yards, but also turning the ball over 3 times.
UNLV’s offense ran wild against Jackson State, but how will they look against a bigger, more talented defensive squad.
If you watched UCLA’s game vs Texas A&M, it really felt like UCLA was the better squad, but they weren’t able to turn any red zone opportunities into touchdowns.
The key for UNLV this week is avoid stupid plays. Beating UCLA is hard enough as it, but it is near impossible if you give up points to them.
This will be the first chance we have to see if UNLV has made any progress into becoming a better football team. Last week was fun, but it is these games where we can see the development of UNLV.
Year 2 of the Sanchez era begins this Thursday when UNLV opens up the 2016 campaign against Jackson State University. Here are all the things you NEED to know about UNLV’s season opener:
-Jackson State is a Historically Black College that is more known for its marching band/drumline than their football team. Poor football players… could you imagine living in an alternate reality where the band geeks get more love than you. But if you’ve ever seen the cinematic masterpiece Drumline featuring America’s host, Nick Cannon, you might be more understanding of why a marching band can be cooler than a 3-8 football team.
-Late Sunday night, Coach Sanchez named Johnny Stanton as the teams starting QB. Putting an end to the QB competition between the former Nebraska QB, and Kurt Palandech. Johnny is best name ever for quarterback so expectations are understandably very high.
-After some very intense research, I can confirm that Jackson State is not even a state. Somebody messed up.
-Jackson State went 3-8 last year, but they return 17 starters. Which is a good thing if you think about it. The team that was pretty bad last year is all returning, so we can realistically expect more of the same.
-Luckily UNLV has some depth as the running back position because the team kicked last year’s top runner, Keith Whitely, off the team for violating team rules. ExpectLexington Thomas and Xzaviar Campbell to both see lots of carries along with incoming frosh Charles Williams.
-The challenge for UNLV this upcoming season is to do a better job keeping opposing teams out of the endzone. UNLV gave up 30 points or more in 6 of their last 7 games. In most of those of games, UNLV was able to move the football… just not as much as the other team.
UNLV is expected to be heavy favorites against Jackson State. The betting line for the game has not been released yet, and may not be released but UNLV is probably be favored by 25-31 points. I have UNLV getting the win. 47-24.
Let me start out by saying what everyone has been saying.
Dave Rice is a great guy. He wanted to bring UNLV back to the glory days. We all wanted it work out… but it didn’t. I feel bad for him, but I am confident he will land squarely on his feet. He will have several options for himself moving forward. I appreciate his effort, and I will look back on his tenure fondly.
Todd Simon has been named the interim head coach. I personally would have given the job Ryan Miller, but for some rea$on, Tina Kunzer Murphy didn’t ask for my opinion.
The UNLV athletic department (along with the boosters) have two months to get started on their head coaching search. I’ve composed a few lists of my own. One for the candidates I like, and another for candidates I don’t like and a third for candidates I’m on the fence about.
I’ll start out with the guys I don’t like.
-Tim Floyd (currently HC at UTEP): Floyd is popular name among basketball fans. He enjoyed marginal success at Iowa State before coaching in the NBA for Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets. After five years in the NBA he returned to the college basketball world by taking the head coaching position at USC where they were able to land some big recruits but never had any maintained success. He came under investigation by the NCAA and ultimately, resigned in 2009. The next year he took the HC position at UTEP. BOTTOM LINE: In his last 13 seasons coaching college basketball, he has lost 10 games or more in 12. UNLV fans don’t care about winning as much as they care about not losing
-Steve Lavin (former UCLA & St Johns HC): Steve Lavin is well-liked guy. He took UCLA to 5 sweet sixteens in 6 seasons. The wheels fell off in his final season and he was let go. After spending seven years as college basketball analyst, he became coach for St Johns. His tenure with the Johnnies was marked with inconsistency and he was fired at the end of 2015. BOTTOM LINE: Not a bad hire on paper, but I don’t think he would be a good fit for UNLV.
-Mike Brown (former HC for Cleveland Cavs and Los Angeles Lakers): Brown has been a name linked to UNLV in the past. After Lon Kruger took the Oklahoma job, Mike Brown, who had been let go by the Cavs a year before was a rumored candidate. After being fired by the Lakers in 2014, Brown was spotted at a few UNLV games. BOTTOM LINE: Brown has never coached college basketball at any level.
-Reggie Theus: Stop… just stop.
Guys I’m on the fence about:
-Josh Pastner (current Memphis HC): Pastner was the future of college basketball when he was hired by Memphis at only 31 years old after having served as an assistant in Arizona under Lute Olsen and in Memphis under John Calipari. After making the NCAA tournament four straight years from 2010-2014, Memphis has faded fast and has missed out on several big time recruits. Bottom line: Big name recognition. Bit potential, but Memphis has faded in recent years.
-Steve Henson (current Oklahoma assistant): Henson has been an assistant for Lon Kruger dating back to Kruger’s Illinois time. Everywhere Kruger has gone, he has brought Henson along with him. He is familiar with the Las Vegas but TKM is much different Jim Livengood. Some guys are also better as assistant coaches. Bottom line: Henson knows the game, he knows Las Vegas, but can he be the head man? If brings on Kevin Kruger… I’m all in!
-Frank Martin (current South Carolina HC): I was surprised to hear him name mentioned by CBS. Given that he is in a power 5 conference, and currently one of two undefeated teams in the country. Martin is a good coach… but I am literally scared of him. Have you seen how intense this guy is? He is the anti-Dave Rice on the emotional spectrum. Bottom line: His glare could melt steel.
-Leon Rice (current HC at Boise State): Leon Rice has been a success at Boise State. As long as they keep up the recruiting, they should remain one of top 4 teams in the conference. I think he could succeed at UNLV. The only real problem I have with Rice is that he just kind of irks me. Bottom Line: This guy has proven that he can coach in the Mountain West but he seems like a jerk sometimes.
Guys I like:
-Randy Bennett (current HC at St Mary’s): Bennett has turned St Mary’s into winners. Bennett may be ready for a new setting that doesn’t include Gonzaga. He is great at identifying & developing talent. The price tag is also reasonable as he is currently making around $400,000/ year. Bottom Line: Best bargain for UNLV and we know they are pretty cheap.
-Joe Pasternack (current assisant at Arizona): UNLV fans have been drooling over Archie Miller all season, but I just don’t see it ever happening. Pasternack is the next best thing. When Archie left for Dayton, Pasternack replaced him. Pasternack is a great recruiter, and other coaches who used to coach under Miller have been really successful. Bottom line: He could be the next Chris Mack or Archie Miller.
-Russell Turner (current HC at UCI): Turner was on the hot seat 4 years ago, but has since turned out 3 straight seasons of 20 plus wins. Turner once served as women’s coach. I think that any person who has coached women’s basketball, has a high basketball IQ. Women’s basketball depends a lot more on fundamentals and strategy than it does brute athleticism. Bottom line: He can coach, and maybe he can bring a guy who is 7’6.
-Gregg Gottlieb (current assistant at Oregon State): Gottlieb was part of the Steve Fisher’s rebuild at SDSU. He helped get the Aztecs to who they are today. He has helped identify and recruit great talent while he was as SDSU and at Cal. He might be ready to make that next step. Bottom line: HE IS DOUG GOTTLIEB’S BROTHER!!!
It is worth noting that UNLV’s biggest concern is to not overspend. Some of these guys may be demanding more than UNLV can offer… unless boosters are willing to shell over a lot more than have in the past. There are probably a dozen other candidates that I didn’t mention, but these seem to be the names I hear about the most.
The dudes talk about the Fresno State Debacle of 2015. They also talk about what it will take for UNLV to change their head coach. Then they talk about the upcoming road games vs Colorado State and Wyoming. Lastly, they make wages on what they’ll do IF the Rebels win the conference.
A lot of things have happened since the last time I wrote about UNLV basketball.
-Chris Wood was tweeting photoshopped pictures of himself and Big Zimm.
-Rashad Vaughn declared for the NBA draft with a bad knee.
-Like 9 people committed or transferred to UNLV
-Thomas and Mack got a facelift.
-Chris Wood threw the most awkward NBA draft party in the history of the world and no one knew how to feel about it.
-Anthony Bennett joined his 3rd team in 3 years.
-Dantley Walker decided to transfer…. to Chaminade of all places.
-Derrick Jones viciously & savagely dunked the basketball.
-Chris Wood sort of disappeared in the middle of summer league, and we all thought, “welp, at least he will make decent money in Europe.” Only to then end up on the 76ers training camp roster and eventually make the team.
-Tony Sanchez painted the cannon the most glorious shade of red.
-Donald Trump happened….
-Another Fast and the Furious movie came out.
And just like that, another season of UNLV basketball is upon us and this one feels… different than last year? or does it feel the exact same?
The rhetoric from last year hasn’t change at all.
“Dave Rice needs to prove he can do more than just recruit.”
“The talent we have is off the charts, but we are inexperienced.”
“Anthony Bennett will be fine! A new team will be great for him.”
Regardless, after Friday night’s exhibition against Whittier High School College, it is time for me to express my mindless thoughts, and predictions on how UNLV fare this season and test out a few new nicknames.
-Projected starting five:
PG: Jerome Seagears: Jerome “the Leader” Seagears was a team captain last year when he was red-shirting. So yeah.
SG: Ike Nwamu: Captain Nigeria was on a team that beat Duke. Enough said.
SF: Pat McCaw: He already has an awesome nickname. Inspector Gadget. He can play almost every position on the floor. For variety sake, I will throw out a new nickname to see if I can make it stick… St Louis Army Knife
PF: Goodluck Okonoboh: The Sultan of Swat is going to hit basketballs out of the sky. It is what he does. I think Dave Rice sleeps better at night knowing that he has Goodluck protecting the rim.
C: Stephen Zimmerman: Big Zimm has been working on his intimidation game. Rumor has it this Whittier player went on to fake his own death and flee the country after receiving this nasty stare down.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the starting five change throughout the year. UNLV is DEEEEEEP this year. Pretty much any player in UNLV’s rotation could start at some point in the season.
-Jordan Cornish: Jordan the Cornish Hen is to UNLV what Fulton Reed was to the Mighty Ducks… He will beat you up and man… can he shoot.
-Dwayne Morgan: Captain Morgan is going to thrive under UNLV’s full court press defense. His length is going to bother a lot of teams trying to pass the ball up the floor.
-Ben Carter: I read an article on Runrebs.com this week that descriped Coach Carter as “not an elite raw athlete”, “high basketball IQ” “little things guy”… Basically he is the Sheldon Cooper of the Rebels.
-Derrick Jones: Derrick “the Drone” Jones is going to be circling the open airspace around the Thomas & Mack thowing down hellfire missiles (dunks) on enemy combatants who are standing too close to the rim.
-Jaylen Poyser: Maple Syrup cause his game is smooth, sweet and from Canada.
Best case scenario for UNLV: Thanks to great team chemistry, the Runnin’ Rebels win the MWC league for the 1st time ever and follow it up with cutting down the nets in the MWC tournament. They ride the momentum into the NCAA tournament and make their first final four since 1991.
Worst case scenario for UNLV: The rebels fail to win any marquee non-conference games. Inconsistent play haunts them during the Mountain West play and after failing to secure a top seed, the rebels are bounced from the conference tournament. Then Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump come to campus for the 2016 presidential debate.
Twitter was on fire this evening after the RJ columnist decided the best way to reach the local readers of the RJ was by literally blocking them from seeing his tweets. It is an interesting strategy for a journalist in 2015 to shun the very people who are buying his newspaper. I am curious as to how it will work out.
Not that Graney would care if he got fired because if worse came to worst he could put his degree from San Diego State to good use by becoming Steve Fisher’s pool boy.
And not that UNLV needs any extra motivation, but tomorrow is a chance for them to silence their biggest critic… at least for one night.
For the 3rd time this season, UNLV has an opportunity to take down the Aztecs. They came up short in their previous meetings despite leading at halftime in both of those match-ups.
I think UNLV is going to win, and I will tell you why:
1. We have better players.
2. We are a desperate team that has been playing pretty good recently.
3. Of course, they are motivated to win the conference tournament, a feat that no one on their roster has accomplished; however, SDSU is pretty much guaranteed a spot in next week’s NCAA Tournament.
4. UNLV has all the motivation. It is fair to say this season has been a disappointment. After beating Arizona, the last thing I thought would happen is UNLV finishing 7th in the conference. But if you take a deeper look, you realize UNLV had an opportunity late in the second half to win every game they played in, except one. UNLV has led at halftime of every conference game this season, except for 2 (vs UNR, @ Boise St), including their last 15 games. The Rebels are a much better team than their record indicates and this is their last opportunity to show that.
Now for my official prediction (you already know it is UNLV moving on to the semifinals):
-The Rebels get off to a hot start. SDSU will be double teaming Chris Wood, and Chris will be savvy enough to kick the ball out to Pat McCaw and Cody Doolin. The Aztecs will adjust, and Chris will start going into attack mode. On the defensive end, Goodluck Okonoboh will be shadowing JJ O’Brien. UNLV will force SDSU to take jump shots, and hopefully, at least 4 players will crash the boards, limiting the offensive rebounds for SDSU. UNLV will be up by 6 at halftime. In the first five minutes of halftime, my friend Brett Parry will tweet about how important the first five minutes of the second half are, but because UNLV is playing their game, they don’t see his tweets, and they let SDSU crawl back in the game. Darn. UNLV makes an adjustment, gets more patient on offense, and regains control of the game. UNLV hits some FTs late, and walks away with a 66-61 victory.
Then Rashad Vaughn grabs the microphone WWF style, and calls out Colorado State and announces his return to the ring court then does the throat slash gesture leading to a technical foul, but we don’t care.
Okay, so that last part probably won’t happen….but maybe it will.
Jerry Tarkanian passed away this morning at the age of 84.
UNLV and Las Vegas has lost one its most influential and beloved figures over the past 40 years. The legacy of Tark “the Shark” cannot be measured. There are too many stories, and too many lives touched. What can be said though is that Jerry Tarkanian embodied the rebellious soul of Las Vegas.
I don’t think that it is stretch to say that most of us wouldn’t be UNLV fans if it wasn’t for Jerry Tarkanian. There was no pride, prestige or history in the UNLV program before his arrival, and only fleeting moments of glory since his departure.
I can remember when I became a UNLV fan. Don’t get me wrong. I was born a rebel. My own mother was born and raised in Las Vegas, scarlet and grey pride coursed through my veins. I’ve attended games most my life, but it wasn’t until learned a little about the man who built UNLV that I became locked in.
I was sitting on a school bus on my way to Disneyland for a broadcasting field trip in 2006. I wasn’t much of a reader in high school, but my dad suggested I read the book on 4 hour trip. I tossed it my bag with no intention of opening it. While on the bus, I pulled out my discman, probably tossed in a Blink 182 album and leaned against the window to take a nap. Sleep eluded me so I reached into my bag, and dove into page 1.
Just as we pulled up to our hotel parking lot, I had finished it.
I wanted to make my way to the nearest LIDS and put on a UNLV hat. The book gave me the insight on Tark that I had never known before. The renegade who loved his family, and his players and nobody else. He wanted to win, and he wanted to do it his way. A true rebel in every sense of the word.
I read about about the “Hardway 8” team that averaged 110 points a game with players like Gondo, Eddie Owens, Robert Smith and Reggie Theus. I learned about his battle with NCAA, and what he would refer to as his “greatest victory” when the NCAA settled in a civil court case for 2.5 million dollars. I learned about the guy who would drive a Bentley to recruits house, and while Tark visited with the family, he would ask one of his assistant coaches to go in the other room and take the phone of the hook. John Wooden, Dean Smith, and Lute Olsen knew Tark the Shark was in the living room of one their recruits.
After the trip, I went home, and I made my first and last purchase on E-bay, a VHS tape recording of the UNLV’s 1990 championship game against Duke. I was kid who had always loved sports, and I had always liked UNLV, but it wasn’t until I became familiar with the legend of Jerry Tarkanian that I became the UNLV fan I am today. I began to appreciate the Thomas and Mack as the historic venue it now is. Before then, Larry Johnson was the guy who came from UNLV, played in the NBA for a little, and appeared in a movie called “Spacejam. After that, LJ became LJ.
Jerry Tarkanian took a program that played their games in a convention center, and turned it into a community. Las Vegas is now widely considered the basketball capital of the world. The Thomas and Mack center hosts USA basketball’s training camp, and the NBA summer league. 4 different conferences host their conference tournaments in Vegas, and countless AAU teams visit the desert each summer to play in competitions.
None of these things would have happened if Tarkanian didn’t turn Vegas in a basketball town and it all started with UNLV.
Before Tarkanian rolled into town, Vegas was a city devoid of an identity. As a city founded by Mormons and raised by the mob, it needed something to latch onto, and it needed to be something homegrown. Tarkanian’s UNLV basketball squad became the pillar that our community could gather around.
Who knows where the UNLV athletic program would be without Tarkanian? I can only speak for myself. I can tell you I wouldn’t have ever become a manager for the program for a year. Would the Thomas and Mack Center even exist? Even if it did, I probably wouldn’t be there if it weren’t Jerry Tarkanian.
UNLV losing at Wyoming isn’t a surprise; neither is losing at Kansas. In fact, there was a lot of positives to take away from those two games.
-Christian Wood scored UNLV’s first 19 points against Wyoming and he did in the first 10 minutes of the game. He continues to raise his NBA stock. He and Larry Nance Jr are the two most feared players in the league.
-Pat McCaw is continuing to develop as one of our most reliable players.
-The offense is really meshing. The rebels have the ability to get hot. Something that will come in handy during conference play when in tight games.
-Dave Rice is showing more emotion than usual and this is a good thing. The rumor is that after the Utah game, Dave Rice went off on the players in the locker room. Since then, UNLV beat Arizona, blew out SUU, and delivered strong showing against Wyoming and Kansas.
Despite two consecutive losses, things seem to be looking up. The conference seems to be wide-open with Wyoming appearing to be the early favorite, followed closely by several other teams, including UNLV.
UNLV has a great opportunity to gain ground in the conference race this week as they host two of the bottom-feeders in the conference.
The first of those two match-ups is against UNR. The Wolfpack’s 5-8 record is deceiving. Yes, they had a nasty 8 game losing streak, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that UNR was only blown out in one of those games. Now, UNR is coming off three straight victories where they won by an average of 20 points per game, and scored more than 80 points in each.
After Reno, UNLV faces San Jose State, who nearly upset Wyoming last Saturday. Yes, SJSU is having some real difficulties in their program, but anything can happen in conference play.
If UNLV wins these two games, they are back in the conference race. Which is a race that UNLV has NEVER WON. How on earth has UNLV never won the Mountain West league?
Before the season started, I decided that I wasn’t ready to give any sort of predictions about UNLV’s season since there were too many unknowns. Today, I am dusting off the old crystal ball to take look into the future the rest of UNLV’s regular season.
December 31, @ Wyoming: I think it is pretty messed up that the Mountain West Conference scheduled us to be in Laramie, Wyoming on New Years Eve. What kind of joke is this? UNLV will have their hands full in this one. Wyoming is a very experienced team, and arguably the most athletic team in the conference. The Cowboys will want to slow down tempo, and make UNLV play at a slow pace. To beat Wyoming, you have to beat Larry Nance, Jr. Much easier said than done, but with the way UNLV has been defending the post lately, I think they should do it. Expect Wood and Vaughn to provide the offense again. UNLV 66 Wyoming 58.
PS: Never forget
January 7, vs UNR: Deonte Burton is gone. This SHOULD be easy. UNR is shooting a disgusting .388 from the field (319th in the country). Hopefully this one is a cakewalk. UNLV 80- UNR 63
January 10, vs SJSU: Does SJSU even have a basketball team? Against Washington state last week, they added football players to their team to give them enough bodies to play. 5 players were suspended indefinitely on December 14. If this isn’t a win…. heaven help us. UNLV 82-50
Janury 13, at Boise State: The Broncos looked like they were a legit contender in the MWC until they lost to Loyola Chicago, and announced that second leading scorer, Anthony Drmic would miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury. They still have a terrific player in Derrick Marks, and there is no such thing as an easy road win in the Mountain West. UNLV 72, Boise St 67
January 17, at SDSU: Steve Fisher is an evil wizard. However, his team has shown some major flaws this season. They can’t score. They make up for that with a swarming defense. I think if any team in the conference can beat SDSU, it is UNLV. I don’t think that will happen at the Viejas Arena. SDSU 70 UNLV 66
January 21, vs New Mexico: It is unfair to judge New Mexico this year after they lost Kendall Williams, Cameron Bairstow, and Alex Kirk. That kind of productivity is difficult to replace. Plus the Lobos have been dealing with injuries. However, this is a team that is well coached, and aren’t intimidated in the Thomas and Mack. UNLV wins, but it won’t as easy as people think. UNLV 75, New Mexico 70
PS: What is up with how Cullen Neal wears his shorts?
January 24, vs Utah State: This is a special game for me, because it marks the return of the best hair in college basketball….
But his tremendous hair isn’t enough to come into the Thomas and Mack Center pull off the upset. UNLV 80, USU 66
January 27, @ UNR: Chris Murray, beat writer for UNR at the Reno Gazette said it best:
Biggest problem with only 1,000 fans being at Lawlor right now is when a player yells "F@ck" after missing a shot, everybody can hear it.
January 31, vs Air Force: There is no such thing as “easy” game against Air Force. The Dave Rice era has its share of embarrassing results, but one of the worst was in February of 2013 in Colorado Springs, when the Falcons took a team with Anthony Bennett, and Mike Moser, and made it look like they had never played basketball before. I happened to at the Thomas and Mack that same night watching the Harlem Globetrotters. I followed the game on game cast, and I remember thinking to myself. “This Harlem Globetrotter game is more competitive than UNLV at Air Force.” They aren’t as talented as the Rebels, but they will make our freshmen look like freshmen. UNLV 72, Air Force 70.
February 7, @ Colorado State: Last year was a massacre. Our team is better this year, but that still doesn’t inspire too much confidence. I expect a better showing, but the same result. Colorado State 72, UNLV 65.
February 10, vs Fresno State: The Bulldogs are the one team that I know nothing about besides their current W-L record. It should be an easy win for UNLV as long as they don’t fall asleep at the wheel. UNLV 77, Fresno St 68
February 14, @ Air Force: See above (January 31), but instead of it being played at home, it being played in a frozen arena surrounded by a bunch of dudes who could fly a drone into your living room. Air Force 68, UNLV 62
February 18, vs Boise State: We’ll know a lot more about every team in the conference by the time that February comes along. Will Derrick Marks be able to make up for Drmic’s absence? Will UNLV suffer a late season morale collapse like last year? I’m hoping for a team that is healthy, happy, and hungry. UNLV 73, Boise State 65
February 21, @ New Mexico: Can UNLV win at the pit? Yes. Will they do it? Probably not. But this is my blogpost, and if I want to be a homer, than I will. UNLV 71, New Mexico 70.
February 24, @ USU: It is kind of sad that in their first few seasons in the MWC, Utah State hasn’t had a great basketball team. When they have a good team, the Utah State student section is as good as anyone in the country. UNLV 74 Utah State 70
February 28, vs Wyoming: I don’t remember the last time that Wyoming beat UNLV in the Thomas and Mack? Anyone know? I don’t get paid to write for Runnin Ramble, so I’m not going to look it up. UNLV 75, Wyoming 60
March 4, vs SDSU: As I mentioned earlier. We’ll know a lot more about how the conference is going to shake up once we are in the middle of it. San Diego State has had UNLV’s number for a long time, with the exception one year where we swept them. Until I see evidence that year will be any different, I’m sticking with SDSU. SDSU65- UNLV 62
March 7 vs SJSU: It will be interesting to see if San Jose State even has a team by the time March rolls along. For a team though that is not allowed to play in the post-season, this game could be their biggest of the year. If so, expect them to be up for it. UNLV 75 SJSU 66.
Final record: 21-7, (14-4). That should be good enough to be first or second in the conference.
The best thing about this prediction is I know I’m wrong. I know I’m biased. I only hope that I am right.
Cody Doolin, D+: So Cody didn’t have his best game, big deal. He still was an important leader for UNLV last night. Arizona’s length, and half court pressure gave him some trouble, but we won’t run into very many teams even capable to defend like that. Cody is, and will continue to be the rebels’ floor General.
Jelan Kendrick, B: If you look at the stat sheet, it wouldn’t seem like Kendrick had any impact on the game. (0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists), but in the second half, when UNLV was using the zone defense, his length frustrated Arizona’s Stanley Johnson. Kendrick has done a great job identifying ways he can help UNLV, even if it means he doesn’t fill up the stat sheet.
Christian Wood, A+: Christian Wood used to be “young KD”, but last night he looked like “young Kareem”. He hijacked the game from Arizona, and he wasn’t going to give it back. Key stat for wood? 4/4 from the charity stripe.
Goodluck Okonoboh, A-: The best thing about Goodluck’s defense is that he isn’t just a shot blocker. He is strong and has good feet. Arizona’s bigs could not get anything going all night because he flat-out would not let them. His offensive game might have been more important than his defense. His aggressive play forced Rondae Hollis-Jefferson into foul trouble.
Rashad Vaughn, A-: Some players at UNLV have their trademark moves. Carlos Lopez Sosa had the pass fake. Anthony Bennett had those thunderous dunks. Wendell White had that baseline jumper. Rashad Vaughn has the floater in the lane. It is a beautiful shot, and it displays why he should be in the NBA next year. He can also attack the rim, has a midrange game, and can knock down contested 3s.
Pat McCaw, A-: The freshman continues to surprise. With Doolin struggling, McCaw was able to step into the PG role, and really control the game when it mattered most. In the postgame interview, Rice talked about how clutch McCaw was running the pick and roll in the second half; making the right read on almost every single play.
Dwayne Morgan, B: He didn’t play that many minutes but he was a key figure in a call that changed the game. Kaleb Tarczewski pulled down a rebound, and in effort to create space, he elbowed Morgan hard in the face. Hope he is alright, and ready to go against SUU on Saturday.
Jordan Cornish, B+: What Jordan Cornish did last night will never be seen on a stat sheet, but it was as important in this game as anything. After Stanley Johnson picked off a pass and was going the other way for an easy bucket, Cornish raced to the defend the rim, and in doing so, committed a hard foul on Johnson. Cornish didn’t back down, and let Johnson know that he had to earn his points. Refs had to separate the two, and handed out double-technicals. Cornish set the tone of the game on that play, and in the process, got into the head of Arizona’s elite freshman.
Coach Rice, A: Everyone associated with UNLV is happy about last night’s win, but I doubt anyone is more pleased than Dave Rice. Beating a top ranked team is always a good thing. When that team is regional recruiting rival, it is even better. I know a lot of Dave Rice skeptics who will still find ways to point out Dave Rice’s flaws, but a result like last night will keep the critics quiet at least for a little while. Rice had a gameplan for tonight, and it was executed well by the players.
Who hasn’t seen Miracle on 34th street? The beloved Christmas classic where Santa Clause gets put on trial being accused of being a fraud, but his savvy attorney proves that he really is Santa Clause by convincing the jury that he isn’t not Santa Clause.
Segway into to UNLV Basketball…..
Tonight UNLV proved that they aren’t not a great team.
Up until tonight, there have been a lot of naysayers about this program and this team. In some ways it felt similar to last year’s team all over again. Too much inexperience, and not enough coaching. It has been the same song and dance for Dave Rice now for 3 years but tonight, even if it may be short-lived, there is no criticism stirring, not even a mouse (Another Christmas reference!)
In case you live under a rock, and don’t know what I’m talking about:
UNLV upset #3 Arizona tonight. The Thomas & Mack Center was loud, and to my surprise, relatively full of UNLV support.
The game got off to fast-paced start. Both teams played wanted to get out and run on offense. The Wildcats were able to grab an early lead, but credit UNLV for never letting UofA get out of reach. When they needed a basket, they got a basket… When they needed a stop, they got a stop.
In the second half both teams traded blows to start. The message at halftime appeared to be the same for both teams… Feed the post.
UNLV switched to a zone, and with the length of Vaughn, McCaw and Kendrick, Arizona wasn’t able to get very many clean looks.
Christian Wood and Rashad Vaughn were in attack mode offensively. They weren’t afraid to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. It paid off, as the two players combined for 27 points in the second half.
When the dust settled, UNLV walked away the victors; handing Arizona their first non-conference regular season loss since 2011. Recap and highlights here.
-Jordan Cornish plays a very important role on this team. He is the dude that dances in the players huddle right before the game. A very understated role, but an important one nonetheless. Not to mention, his hard foul, and stare down rattled Stanley Johnson. The play resulted in a double-technical foul. We can’t know for sure, but that play may have been the most important play of the night. Cornish set the tone, and was able to get a reaction out of Arizona’s elite freshman.
-I don’t know who gave Patrick McCaw his nickname, but whoever did, deserves some sort of prize. “Inspector Gadget” continued to be UNLV’s “do it all” reserve off the bench. 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. If you count his swarming defense, it really is becoming clear why he is quickly becoming a UNLV fan favorite.
-Christian Wood has been scapegoat lately for UNLV. Fans seem to love to criticize him, but they only do that because they see so much potential in him. Tonight he met those lofty expectations of him.
-Speaking of Christian Wood. He spent most the evening matched up against his former Findlay Prep teammate, Brandon Ashley. Remember how skinny Christian was as an in-coming freshman last year? Look at him this year… He is bigger than Ashley. Jason Kabo deserves a Christmas bonus.
-Cody Doolin had rough night, but before we throw him to the wolves like UNLV fans tend to do from time to time, lets remind ourselves that Arizona is a great defensive team who loves to put pressure on the ball handler. Even when he isn’t playing well, he still seems to be a key leader for UNLV.
-Stanley Johnson vs Rashad Vaughn. Both players were the most highly sought players from the west coast. They ranked Johnson ahead of Vaughn, and I have slightest feeling that maybe Vaughn remembered, and didn’t like that. If you were an NBA scout, and tonight was your only body of work in observing the two future-NBA talents, you walked away talking about Vaughn, not Johnson. Not only did Johnson go 3/11 from the field, but he also turned the ball over on Arizona’s final possession, down by 2 points. Not clutch Stanley. Classic Mater Dei.
-The dreaded “elbow rule” worked in favor of UNLV tonight. In the second half, Kaleb Tarczewski pulled down a rebound, and in an effort to create space for himself, swung his elbow across his body, hitting Dwayne Morgan hard in the face. While this rule is a stupid rule in my opinion, it was called correctly by the refs and resulted in two free throws for the Rebels, along with possession of the ball. That was a big turning point in the game.
-Anyone who thinks there were some controversial non-calls by the refs late in the game needs to hush. Watch the video of the alleged goaltend. I don’t think Kendrick touched the rim, let alone the ball. According to NCAA rules, a goaltending is only when a player touches the ball while it is in or above the cylinder, or if they create contact with the rim or backboard causing it to move. See for yourself.
There is also some people saying that UNLV should have been given a techinical foul with .7 seconds left when Johnson turned the ball over, and then fouled McCaw. With time still on the clock some fans apparently had entered the floor (I didn’t see it), and some UNLV players were on the floor. (This i did see). I have three guesses as to why a technical foul was not called. 1). Nobody prematurely rushed the court. 2). Play was dead. No harm, no foul. 3). It is a stupid rule that should only come into effect if it has an actual impact on a live play.
-Dave Rice did a good job coaching this game. I don’t know what he has done different lately, but the energy from the Rebels since late in the Portland game has been amazing. It seems the Rebels have finally found an identity. Something that has been missing for UNLV for more than a season.
UNLV faces Southern Utah this upcoming saturday before opening conference play at Wyoming on New Years Eve. (Does the MWC think they’re funny or something sending UNLV to Laramie on NYE?)
Picture a UNLV athletic team that has been struggling for years. They have poor attendance and poor community support, and the on-field results of said team have been disappointing for more than a decade. There are talks around the athletic department that this program is going to be cut.
Then out of the blue, a local UNLV supporter makes a generous donation that keeps the program alive.
A few years later the team has improved, the community support has also increased and the program is as healthy as it has ever been.
This is not a fairy tale. This is what actually happened with UNLV soccer.
In 2011, when UNLV was considering dumping the men’s soccer program, the Engelstad Family Foundation donated $1,000,000 to UNLV. Then athletic director, Jim Livengood,when asked about the future of UNLV men’s soccer said, “It’s not a question anymore. UNLV is going to have men’s soccer.”
Just recently, that UNLV soccer team that was on the brink of being cut three years earlier, just won the WAC championship, and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1988.
Today, UNLV football find itself in a similar predicament. With the resignation of Bobby Hauck, the head coaching job is vacant once again. The leading candidate to replace him is Tony Sanchez, the Head Coach of local high school juggernaut, Bishop Gorman. But that is not all. The Fertittas are allegedly endorsing Sanchez, with a report that the Station Casinos, and UFC owners are willing to donate 30-50 million dollars to the lowly football program. The Fertittas are denying this report, but where there is smoke, there is fire.
There are some rebels fans that argue that UNLV is “selling” the head coaching position to the highest bidder. Luckily, those fans are in the minority. UNLV finds itself at crossroads in college athletics. While the rich keep getting the richer, the programs that struggle continue to find themselves in deeper and deeper financial holes. For a few programs around the country, dismembering the football team is an option being floated around. University of Alabama-Birmingham has already decided to take that step, much to the disappointment of their fanbase.
To those UNLV fans that argue that UNLV athletics would be “better off” without football; name a college basketball program besides Gonzaga that has been consistently competetive in college basketball? Football is the cash-cow; that for most colleges, helps to feed the other athletic teams. Ohio State and Texas basketball wouldn’t be as consistently good if they didn’t benefit from football programs that bring in a giant revenue. Even schools more known for their basketball like North Carolina and Kentucky benefit from having football program.
To those UNLV fans that say that handing over the reins to the Fertittas is a “slippery slope”; There is some truth that. Handing over a defunct athletic program that loses money year in and year out to a couple of local billionaires who have done more for the local Las Vegas economy than anyone might open the door to other local philanthropists willing to do the same (GASP). Look at what the checkbook of Phil Knight and T. Boone Pickens has done to Oregon and Oklahoma State. I’m sure the athletic departments at those schools regret selling their soul to their local fan and supporter.
To those UNLV fans that say Tony Sanchez “isn’t the right person for the job, and has no experience”; if finding the right person for the job is so easy, how come UNLV has been so inept in finding a head coach that could stick for more than 5 years? Fact, there has never been a head coach at UNLV to last more than 6 years. UNLV has tried every other type of coach: The former nat’l champ (John Robinson), the highly touted coordinator (Mike Sanford), the up and coming head coach (Bobby Hauck). Nothing has worked up to this point. A high school coach is the one option UNLV hasn’t tried yet, Not only is Sanchez familiar with the local football landscape, he is also a close colleague to the top high school programs across the nation. If Sanchez can convince parents to let their teenage sons leave home and come play football at Bishop Gorman, why wouldn’t he able to do the same for UNLV.
Of course, there is the possibility that Sanchez might fail. It wouldn’t be a suprise to anyone if 5 years from now that UNLV was once again trying to find a head coach to right the ship for UNLV. But at least UNLV will have some deeper pockets then and hopefully, a program that is self-sufficient financially. That is what you would call “failing upwards”.
If you still believe that big-time college athletics isn’t a slave to the mighty dollar sign, then you are mistaken. Not only is money the byproduct from high-level college football, but it is also its fuel. The rich get richer, and the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” widens every season. If money can’t save UNLV football… the nothing can.
Here is a cool story. My wife and I had been planning a trip to NYC for a long time, and it just so happens that at the same time we were in the Empire state, UNLV was playing in the Barclay Center in the Coaches vs Cancer Classic.
Confession time: I knew we were going to lose against Stanford, and I hadn’t been to New York since I was 17. I didn’t go to the game. I went and saw a play with my wife. Sue me. I did however follow the game on my cellular device.
This GIF shows my reaction to UNLV vs Stanford.
How could we let those nerds from Palo Alto make us look so stupid. Check out this exclusive footage of UNLV’s locker room at halftime.
We lost badly… 89-60.
UNLV had to bounce back quickly before playing Temple the next night. (My wife and I went to that game. Okay. You can stop making me feel so bad about abandoning the team the night before, but we had 3rd row seats to watch Idina Menzel… yeah, the Let It Go lady)
Something changed in that small window of time between Stanford and Temple. I like to think that Coach Rice took the team to see a matinee showing of Wicked or Lion King on Broadway to boost morale.
On Saturday night, UNLV played like a team that had a very short memory. It was a new game, and while I wouldn’t say that UNLV played good against Temple, they did play with some toughness, especially in the second half.
For the most part, UNLV was in control of the game, but whenever UNLV would gain some momentum, Temple would resist and fight back <Thinking of a Bill Cosby joke I could put here>
While his stat-sheet was rather modest, Patrick McCaw (7 points, 4 rebounds) made a huge impact. All three of his baskets came at pivotal moments, and came as result of a little extra effort and hustle.
There were moments against Temple that Christian Wood took over. He would get the ball and realize that he was bigger and stronger than the guy guarding him. Instead of trying to pull off some Kevin Durant inspired fadeaway, he backed down the smaller defenders until he got close enough to basket to just turnaround and go to window.
We might look back at the second half of that game as the moment when Christian Wood realized that his advantage is his size, strength and athleticism, not his outside shot.
Another thing worth noting about UNLV’s trip to Brooklyn was the band. It was clearly not the same band that plays in the Thomas and Mack, and that is a good thing. The band must have been from a small nearby college, and they were 10 times cooler than the weird, bowling-shirt-wearing band we’re used to at the TMC. They had a drumline with step dancers and everything! (Who else remembers that Drumline was best movie of the summer in 2002? NIck Cannon was never cooler than he was in that movie.)
After the Coaches vs Cancer Classic, UNLV made their way home, and faced the Great Danes of Albany.
Rashad Vaughn impressed those in attendance at the Thomas and Mack, dropping 29 points on 11/18 from the field.
It is worth noting that Rashad Vaughn is averaging 24.3 PPG at home but just a measly 7 PPG on the road (4/19 from the field)
Early December Preview
UNLV now finds itself beginning the meaty part of their season. December is an important month for the rebels to boost their non-conference resume’, with games against Arizona State, Kansas, Utah, and Arizona.
Tomorrow night, UNLV takes on the Arizona State Sundevils in Temple.
Good news: Jahii Carson is no longer there. Last year he scorched the Rebels for 40 points in the Thomas and Mack Center en route to a 86-80 ASU win.
Bad news: Our group of inexperienced freshman are making their first visit into hostile territory.
ASU is the new home to former Rebel, Savon Goodman. In that case, I am hoping that UNLV can “STEAL” a win on the road. Hopefully our defense can “handcuff” the sundevils offensively.
Have you ever had one of those naps where you fall asleep when it is light out, and then when you wake up its dark.
You wake up thinking you’ve slept for 10 years, or that you woke up on another planet.
Thats what the UNLV Scarlet and Grey Showcase felt like for me. At the end of last season, I drifted into a UNLV basketball hibernation.
Walking up those steps into the TMC, it finally hit me that college basketball season was upon us.
I made a promise to myself that I’m not going to make any sort of predictions about UNLV until conference season. There is just way too much turnaround on the Rebels roster this year. Here are a couple of my observations from last nights “First Look”.
– I liked all the music that the players chose for their introduction, but part of me was hoping that Dantley Walker would come down the red carpet to “This is how we roll” by Florida Georgia Line
– UNLV may be picked to finish 4th overall in the conference for basketball, but I think we are preseason MWC favorite for dancing.
– On that note, you have to respect Dantley Walker, Charles Rushman, and Cody Doolin on playing it safe, and not dancing. There is only one white college basketball player that can dance, and he is at Mercer
– Dwayne Morgan is looooonnnnnggggg. (see what I did there.. I made the “long” longer. Symbolism.)
– I know alumni games are pretty much required to happen, but is there anything that can be done to liven things up? What if they lowered the rims to 8 feet, and we let the big fellas dunk?
– I’m not a fan of Christian Wood’s hair. He looks like one of those troll dolls that were big in the 90s.
-While watching the intra-squad scrimmage, I found myself trying to guess which player on UNLV would win in a tournament of FIFA on Xbox. I’m thinking Ben Carter would be the favorite, but Daquan Cook is the dark horse.
– Do you think that Kendall Smith and Christian Wood secretly refer to eachother as Russ and KD? (If you don’t get what this is referring to, here is a photo of these two looking overwhelmingly happy to be standing next to their idols.)
-Cody Doolin could be the Troy Bolton that the Rebels need.
We’ll know a lot more about this team when the season actually gets started. One thing that looked promising in the intra-squad scrimmage was that every once and a while, it looked like an offensive play was being run. It was incredible.
The Runnin Rebels open up their season with consecutive home games November 14 (Morehead State), and November 16 (Sam Houston State) before heading out to Brooklyn to play in the Coaches vs Cancer Classic.
Deep within the bowels of the Thomas and Mack, Dave Rice took the UNLV 2014 recruiting class hostage.
On her desk, Tina Kunzer-Murphy had a list of demands, and if she didn’t come through, he would be leaving, and murdering the future of UNLV basketball.
Okay, so maybe that isn’t exactly what happened, but that is how it felt.
Friday afternoon was an intense day of emotion. When it first got reported that Dave Rice was given an offer from South Florida, I didn’t think that much of it. I was thinking he would graciously decline, and CDR haters would will complain that he didn’t leave.
Then things got real as it was reported that Dave Rice was highly considering the job. Following the events on twitter was torture. It was like being in quicksand. Each new tweet brought more bad news. It felt like seeing the next 2-4 years of UNLV basketball evaporate slowly.
As the reports were coming in that Rice was considering taking the USF job, the UNLV recruiting class appeared to be at a breaking point. A few media outlets were reporting that the UNLV commits would likely seek a release from their commitment and reopen their recruiting. Unofficial Louisville and Indiana twitter accounts began to stir the pot as well that Vaughn and Morgan were up for grabs. Even Dwayne Morgan’s own twitter count hinted that he was “back to the drawing board.”
By 4:00 in the afternoon, it felt like Dave Rice to USF was all but done. Fortunately for UNLV, that wasn’t the case, and Dave Rice and UNLV were able to come up with a contract resolution to keep Rice here through 2019.
Now, it can be argued that this was Dave Rice’s plan all along. I don’t buy that. I think that if UNLV was not going to give him and extension and improved contract he would have left. South Florida was desperate to hire somebody, especially since the Masiello hiring fell through. Regardless, in a stare down between Dave Rice and the UNLV Athletic Department, Tina Kunzer-Murphy flinched first.
Two days since this whole ordeal went down, and its starting to feel like things are back to normal. If there is anything to gain out of this as Rebel fan, its that, for better for worse, Dave Rice is our coach. I am of the belief that it is for our betterment. Ironically, the same people that have been calling for Dave Rice’s head were the ones rejoicing the most when it was announced he was staying.
The “offseason” for UNLV has been anything but quiet the last few years, and this one is no different. While we know that Christian Wood and Dave Rice will be back. A large question mark looms over the future of current Rebels, Khem Birch, Roscoe Smith, Kendall Smith, etc.
But for UNLV, the future does look promising. While success is not guaranteed, we’re more likely to find it with Dave Rice at the helm then having to essentially restart our basketball program from scratch with a new coach, new staff, and new players.
Today for selection sunday I was glued to my couch playing FIFA 14 on Xbox, not caring about the big reveal of the tournament that UNLV isn’t playing in. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still fill out a a few brackets, and be glued to the TV on Thursday and Friday, but the word “Madness” in March Madness has a different meaning when UNLV isn’t involved.
Flash back to a year ago (or 2, 3 or 4 years ago in a row).
Watching selection sunday thinking about how UNLV, a 5 seed, could play what is essentially a road game against a team that they needed a buzzer-beater to beat earlier in the season?
Back to this season.
I remember when UNLV lost their preseason exhibition game to Dixie State. We laughed it off, and convinced ourselves that it “didn’t mean anything, it was just embarrassing.”
Now draw a line from that game to today, and you realize that this season was doomed before it started.
Us UNLV fans are naive. Every fanbase is. But what were we thinking?
Of the 7,025 minutes of basketball UNLV played from 2012-2013, only 1,829 of those minutes were accounted by players who returned for the 13-14 season. (74% of the last year’s production left.)
We took last year for granted. How foolish were we to think that Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins could be easily replaced by Deville Smith and Jelan Kendrick? That the void left by Mike Moser and Anthony Bennett would be filled so easily?
Deep down we had to have known what we were in for, but we didn’t let that stop us.
UNLV’s season had its lows:
-Losing to Dixie State
-Losing at home to UCSB, Air Force and UNR
-The way we crumbled in the final minutes against SDSU, Arizona State, and Illinois
-Even some of our wins didn’t feel good. (Nebraska-Omaha, Fresno State, Wyoming)
Beating New Mexico at the Pit. The list ends right there.
UNLV’s turbulent season is now over. But there is still no relief for UNLV fans.
Less than 48 hours after the end of UNLV’s season, it has already been confirmed, the dismissal of Bryce Dejean-Jones. The futures of other Runnin Rebels also remain unclear, and the upcoming weeks will give us a lot of information to digest.
Here I sit tonight. Nearly 10:00 PM and I still haven’t looked at this year’s bracket.
Flashback to a year ago. I had already filled out 4 brackets, all of them penciled in with UNLV getting past the first round.
Fans streamed out of the Thomas & Mack Center in a bad mood. A midweek late game collapse had fans seething – many congregated near the new Jerry Tarkanian statue to lament how far things have fallen since the Hall of Fame coach roamed the sidelines. The comparison to current coach Dave Rice was often not a kind one. This was in November, after either loss to Arizona State or Illinois, or in January after UNR or even last week after SDSU.
Often times the media will poll the public on “right track/wrong track” for presidents, governors, etc. Let’s assume Dave Rice’s approval ratings are not high at the moment, and separate that from momentary displeasure to a larger question on the program – is it headed the right direction or wrong direction? I am not having this debate with the Rice haters/Theus stalkers – this is for reasonable fans who are not happy with Coach Rice and/or the program. Let’s have it out…
Is UNLV on the right track?
If you believe it is on Wrong Track you might use these points (skip this section if you don’t want to be depressed):
The most home losses in the storied 30-year history of the Thomas & Mack Center. 9 total if you include pre and post season games. That’s awful.
Fewest field goals assisted since the 1980s for a program built on sharing the ball offensively.
Fewest turnovers forced since the 1980s for a program built on pressure defense.
The worst 3-point shooting UNLV team since the 2001-02 season
A 6-year low in overall attendance, including no sellouts for the first time in four years.
A year after a losing two rotation players to transfer, the Rebels might see several more depart early including juniors Bryce Dejean-Jones and Roscoe Smith (can’t rule out others of course)
A season sweep by both SDSU and UNR – I don’t know if that sets any records, but it’s never good, particularly coming in the same week.
Rebels lose to Air Force for just the third time ever at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV ends a four-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances, and may even end a run of 7 straight post-season appearances ( I do not personally believe an NIT bid is likely).
The Rebels consistently struggle to score in the half court, particularly against zones (in some games), and are widely inconsistent offensively even within games
As more players recruited by Dave Rice have entered the program, results have not improved on the court at all.
Rebels have failed to win the MW tournament for six consecutive years despite hosting the event.
Late season meltdowns within the locker room and on the court have contributed to a feeling of the program being rudderless. Rice’s miscalculations with certain guys in recruiting have cost him dearly.
I personally believe the answer is Right Track, and the program will be on stronger footing going forward. This is my argument why…
1. Every program not named Kansas or Duke experiences down years, making the NCAA tournament is extremely difficult to do, and the Rebels have frankly done so with teams that were not particularly special, but just good enough. Programs like UConn, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA and Indiana have very recently missed the tournament or will do so this year. UNLV has had disappointing seasons every year since the 2008 Round of 32 loss to eventual champion Kansas.. Rebel fans don’t consider any year without March wins a success, but the fact is, making it into the dance is hard to do, let alone win there.
2. Dave Rice is learning on the job – that sounds like a negative, but when you hire any first year head coach, it’s almost impossible for this not to be the case. I believe some first year coaches look better when they have older, high IQ players particularly in the backcourt. A true measure of a coach is how the respond when they have to reload the program – and that is a learning curve. I believe Rice’s reloading needs to be complete in 2014-15 and we will see what happens.
– Coach Rice has shown growth in the types of players he recruits, going from taking just the most talented he could get (to build UNLV up as a destination for more talent) to zeroing in on recruits who are more skilled, more well rounded and more stable (i.e. fewer transfers). He is also bringing in more guys who like to play defense and focusing on the right kind of point guard to bring it all together.
– Rice has also taken an increasingly tougher stance on discipline, again something I think was needed earlier, but he has evolved in terms of what he will tolerate. Suspending Dejean-Jones may or may not have cost the Rebels a win in Reno, but a message was sent to the entire team in showing that he was willing to take a loss. I think issues will be dealt with sooner in the future – Rice is too smart to not have learned that lesson this season.
– Finally to continue his growth, I would like to see Coach Rice bring in a veteran coach to help advise him. Again it would be setting ego aside and I really hope that he does this – to set the staff up as well as possible for 2014. With Schroyer likely leaving (per media reports) this is the time to create a staff that shores up Rice’s weaknesses.
3. Dave Rice is still the right guy for the job. If you run a business as I do, you know that sometimes you hire cheaper and less experienced people not JUST to save money, but also if you believe the ceiling is much higher than with someone with more experience. I strongly believe the ceiling is higher with Rice than any other coach UNLV could’ve actually procured then and probably now. Coach Rice understands at a deep level what Runnin’ Rebel basketball is supposed to be, while most coaches see the Kruger level for the program as an acceptable place to be (regardless of what they might say). Rice knows this is a program that should be a national one, and competing for the best recruits and playing against the best competition.
4. The argument that “Dave Rice can’t coach” is simply not true. The fact is he went 51-19 the first two years, including out-coaching some of the best in the game in some games. Coaching and recruiting cannot be separated in college basketball, and it’s just disingenuous when people try. Some coaches are perceived as better because they do more with what their inferior recruiting provides. Others, like Rice, recruits at an elite level, which creates elite expectations (and more issues to deal with) – and requires more adjustment. Coaches like Scott Drew, Rick Barnes, John Calipari and even Steve Fisher have at times been criticized as weak on Xs and Os, but ultimately when they have players they win games. Rice’s weaknesses are in putting faith in the wrong guys more than schematic. You have to have a strong sense of who fits your program and who doesn’t. I think Rice has learned that the hard way.
5. A coach never looks good when he doesn’t have a point guard. Rice didn’t go get one on day one, and it was a mistake in my opinion. The poor play against a zone, the lack of execution down the stretch, the inability to contain guards or make critical free throws – all comes down to a floor leader/coach on the floor/point guard. Have to have one to be good in basketball.
6. The 2014 class is the best freshman groupin UNLV history. And more over it’s an excellent mix. A true point guard with experience who makes people better. An explosive scorer with size who can actually make the long ball consistently, and is a good defender. A versatile forward who can score and has the potential to be an elite defender. An elite shot blocker and above the rim athlete. All good teammates, and bringing diverse skill sets to the table. The Rebels need to get Khem Birch back and at least a majority of the back court to maintain some continuity and develop players for the future.
7. The schedule is finally getting back to the UNLV level. Kansas. Duke. Arizona. That’s all in one year. Plus a trip to Maui coming up and potentially more high level games – the staff has sold recruits on playing in the bright lights and we will see very quickly beginning with November’s trip to Brooklyn. UNLV’s 2012-13 schedule was too weak and allowed no margin for error after early stumbles.
Day 2 and the MW quarter finals are completed. With 6 seeded Boise advancing it can’t be called chalk anymore, but in reality there have been no upsets in the Mountain West tournament to date. 7 total games in two days. 7 favorites have won (though not all covered). New Mexico handled Fresno as expected, UNLV played a fairly predictable contest vs Wyoming (collapse included) and SDSU hammered Utah State (albeit by an unexpected margin).
I expect the trend of no upsets to continue for the rest of the tournament – culminating with a favored New Mexico beating SDSU on Saturday.
What about UNLV?! I am by no means writing off tomorrow, but it’s just hard to find any backing for an argument in favor of a Runnin’ Rebel win. Historically SDSU has dominated UNLV in this event (four game win streak), the Rebels were swept by the Aztecs this season, SDSU is a better team than UNLV in most statistical categories, and SDSU has proven it can win away from home while UNLV struggles to win at the Mack. UNLV’s guards have struggle mightily against SDSU’s size and length to out the ball in the basket.
Another issue for the Rebels is the “it” factor or “x” factor, or whatever you want to call it. Some teams simply can rise to the occasion and win the games they absolutely have to. UNLV this year is just the opposite of that. Outside the UNM road win, every critical game on UNLV’s schedule was a loss, regardless of where it was played. It’s this habit that has most sucked the wind out of the sails of Rebel fans (culminating in a small home crowd today for a critical game).
Guys like Roscoe Smith, Kevin Olekaibe and Bryce Dejean-Jones have to play like this is their last game in college for the Rebels to advance (because it might be). Really UNLV needs at least one guard to have a big game in my opinion, and we all know Bryce Dejean-Jones is most capable of doing so. He was excellent against Wyoming – always at his best when he’s as a playmaker instead of shot taker. I will maintain my feeling from last week’s game – BDJ needs to score his average 14+ points but more importantly needs to get 5+ assists and 5+ rebounds for the Rebs to win. He had 4 assists today but made a few other great plays that a teammate couldn’t finish with a bucket. Can we get today’s BDJ for a second straight game? However likely or unlikely that is in your judgment – those are UNLV’s chances
Khem Birch is a warrior – he will find a way to hold his own as long as he can walk, but this year’s SDSU-UNLV series is all about the guards. UNLV’s guards must take the responsibility of boxing out, especially if the Rebels zone. Protect the ball, move the ball with the pass, space the floor, and perhaps most importantly, make open shots. SDSU guards so hard that teams rush open shots too. UNLV’s guards have to be poised in this one. I would love for these Rebels to prove me wrong – buck the trends, break the cycle, rise up …. and win.
– UNLV reached the 20 win mark for the 8th consecutive season
– Some history to not repeat … The last time UNLV missed the NCAA tournament – the Rebels were beaten three times by SDSU including twice in a week to end the season
– Dave Rice is now 4-2 in the Mountain West tournament
– 4 seeds are 5-4 all time in the MWC semi finals, and UNLV is 7-4 with any seed in the final four of the event.
– 2 of the first 4 games of the MW tourney set records for largest blowouts ever in the event
– If Friday’s semi finals sell out as expected, it will mark the fourth time in five years the league sold out the Friday night games (18,500 tickets)
All chalk as expected to launch the first year of a new format. For the first time, the league featured multiple “play-in” games to the quarter finals.
Despite the expected results, we were treated to some nice moments, including consecutive great comebacks (or incredible meltdowns) depending on your perspective.
In game 1, Utah State took control early over Colorado State, then CSU took control for much of the game from mid first half until almost the end. The Aggies stormed back to erase a 9 point deficit with 90 seconds to go. It was Boise State-like collapse by CSU, which included multiple turnovers, USU timely threes and, worst of all, a horrendous technical by Daniel Bejarano.
For the Aggies they enter Thursday’s matchup with No. 1 seed (and 8th ranked) San Diego State with the best chance at a true upset (6 seed Boise should be favored over 3 Nevada). Utah State pushed SDSU to the brink in Logan and will come in “hot” (having just won a thriller), desperate and capable of knocking down threes. The Aztecs are safely dancing and with a high seed – it wouldn’t be shocking to see them maybe overlook USU a bit. To be clear I am not calling for an upset – I just think this is the likeliest one to occur.
For CSU (16-17), a brutal ending caps a difficult transition year. A returning core of players and promising newcomers should allow the Rams to contend for the NCAA tournament next season.
In game 2, Fresno State came out dead flat. The Bulldogs struggled to finish at the rim, guard the Falcon’s cuts or execute offensively (vs zone or man) for much of the game. Guerrero’s foul trouble in the second half keyed a huge 16-0 run by the Falcons that seemed to put the game out of reach with 10 minutes to go.
Down 56-41, Fresno started turning over Air Force with their press, and the Falcons (who hadn’t led anyone by much of a margin in months) lost their poise when the lead began to shrink. They turned it over for layups, missed numerous critical free throws and Tyler Johnson made back to back threes. Air Force scored just 4 points in the last ten minutes. Ballgame.
For Air Force – I really like Tre Coggins (how does the Academy get talents like him and Lyons in recent years?) and they should be much improved next season. For Fresno, they looked very shaky in this one, and shouldn’t pose much of a threat to No. 2 New Mexico on Thursday.
In Game 3, it was Boise State 25, San Jose State 0 about 8 minutes into the game. Essentially, Boise got a glorified practice while the Spartans got a trip to Vegas. I like Dave Wojcik but he is two years away from even being competitive in the MWC. He’s decided to build a program instead of patching something together with JUCOs and transfers – and this is what that looks like.
A quick look at the numbers for the Runnin’ Rebels in the 15-year history of the Mountain West Championship tourney are a mixed bag. While the Rebels boast the all-time best winning percentage in the event (20-8), they have only actually cut down the nets three times – last in 2008. Overall there are several long-term trends the Rebels will have to shake up in order to pull out a magical run to a league title (and the NCAA tournament).
Some numbers for you on UNLV’s history in the Mountain West Championship:
– UNLV’s 8 championship game appearances (most recently 2013) are the most among any prior or current member of the Mountain West.
– UNLV has never won a MW tournament seeded lower than 2nd.
– Good news for optimists – the Rebels have only lost once in the Mountain West quarter-finals. Bad news is that was in 2009 – UNLV’s last NIT year.
– The Runnin’ Rebels have defeated BYU in the title game in all three of their victories (2000, 2007, 2008).
– The Rebels last won the MWC championship in 2008, behind an upset of top-seeded BYU and tournament MVP Wink Adams
– UNLV has actually lost a remarkable seven consecutive tournaments of any kind held at the Thomas & Mack Center. Those include the last five MWC tournaments and the 2008 and 2012 Global Sports Classic Thanksgiving events. Ironically, the Rebels have won the last two tournaments held four miles away at Orleans Arena – over a No. 1-ranked North Carolina and Mississippi State.
– UNLV has upset a higher seed in the tournament semi-finals in 2 of the last 4 years, but fell in the title game both times.
– UNLV is undefeated against Wyoming in this event, and has lost to the Cowboys only twice ever at the Thomas & Mack Center.
-#8 Utah State vs #9 Colorado State: The Aggies first year in the MWC was a disappointment. I expected them to come in and be legitimate contenders right away. I think they’ll eventually turn the corner as they get more familiar with teams in the conference. Colorado State also had some growing pains this year. They were in complete rebuilding mode, but they had some talent with Avila, and Bejarano. If Utah State can knock down some outside shots and stretch out the CSU defense, they should win. I’m going with the Aggies, 68-62
-#7 Fresno State vs Air Force: Fresno has shown glimpses of brilliance. After a slow start to conference play, they finished the season winning 8 of their last 10. Air Force just doesn’t have enough weapons to keep up with the Bulldogs. 71-65
-#6 Boise State vs San Jose State: Remember back in October when Boise State was hovering around some preseason top 25 rankings, and the question was if this was the year Boise State broke through? Yeah, that didn’t happen. But at least for them, they have SJSU to open up the conference tournament. Boise State 72-58
*I refuse to call this the “first round”. These are play-in games to get into the real tournament.
-#1 San Diego State vs #8 Utah State: Earlier this year, these two teams played a great game up in Logan. If Utah State plays well, they can hang with anyone in this conference. However SDSU is coming off two huge wins (@UNLV and vs UNM to win the conference). The Aztecs’ defense is too good. SDSU 68-58
-#4 UNLV vs #5 Wyoming: BDJ and Roscoe Smith will be back for UNLV. Unfortunately for Wyoming, they are not the same team since Larry Nance Jr. was injured. I will be surprised if UNLV loses this one. UNLV 72-62
-#2 New Mexico vs #7 Fresno State: San Diego State may have won the outright conference championship, but the general consensus around the league is that UNM is the best team in the conference. Kirk and Bairstow dominate in this game. UNM 74-66
-#3 UNR vs #6 Boise State: Deonte Burton has a legitimate argument for conference player of the year. He has carried the Wolfpack to a 3 seed but the MWC tournament is a different animal. I don’t think he can do it by himself. Ladies and gentleman, we have our first upset of tournament. (But is it really an upset? Do any of us actually feel like UNR is the 3rd best team in the conference?) Boise State 75-63
-#1 SDSU vs #4 UNLV: Call me an optimist, but I think UNLV will win this game. Why? Because Roscoe will be back. Because we won’t turn the ball over 20 times again. Because Deville and BDJ won’t combine for 1-12 shooting again. San Diego State has already punched their ticket to the tournament, so I could see them coming into the tournament flat. I honestly think UNLV will win this game. UNLV 68-62
-#2 New Mexico vs #6 Boise State: Is there a better trio than Williams, Bairstow, and Kirk in the entire conference? I’d venture to say that there aren’t many trios better than those 3 in the entire country. However, Boise State’s trio of Marks, Drmic, and Watkins can be potent. If Marks and Drmic are knocking down shots, Boise State could be unstoppable. The only problem is that I haven’t seen Boise have a game all year where both Drmic and Marks play well. UNM 80-75
#2 New Mexico vs #4 UNLV: A rematch of last year’s championship. Confession: I have never been more sad about a UNLV loss than I was after last year’s loss to UNM in the tournament. Unfortunately for Rebel fans, I expect the same result this year. New Mexico is too tough, and even though we did beat them in the Pit earlier this year, I’m beginning to think that was more of fluke than an indication of how good UNLV actually is. New Mexico 74-70
Overall, this MWC season was kind of a bummer. UNR finished 3rd in the conference, and they have an overall losing record. Even the leagues top two teams, SDSU and New Mexico would have struggled against last years team. While I would argue that this season of MWC hoops has been weaker than most years, it has still had its share of crazy finishes, wacky calls, and big plays.
-Roscoe Smith, PF, UNLV
-JJ Avila, C, Colorado State
-Winston Shepard, SF, SDSU
-Anthony Drmic, SG, Boise State
-Tre Coggins, G, Air Force
MWC Player of the Year: Cameron Bairstow, C, UNM Defensive Player of the Year: Khem Birch, PF, UNLV Freshman of the Year: Paul Watson, SF, Fresno State Newcomer of the Year: Josh Davis, PF, SDSU Coach of the Year: Steve Fisher, SDSU
The MWC All Hair team:
-Sean Harris Flattop, Utah State
-Jalen Moore Afro, Utah State
-Josh Davis Cornrow, SDSU
-Cameron Bairstow Thor look, UNM
-Khem Birch red swoosh, UNLV
MWC Dunk of the Year: Any Deonte Burton dunk, but I don’t think anything tops this baptism that took place against Ryan Watkins.
MWC Game of the Year: That is a tough one. I’ll go with SDSU @ Utah State over UNLV @ Boise State.
I respect San Diego State. I really do. They’re talented, well-coached, and play with energy and poise. That being said, I also hate San Diego State. I hate everything about them. I hate how Xavier Thames and Winston Shepard’s names sound like turn of the century British detective names like Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I hate Josh Davis’ cornrows. I hate the fact that Dwayne Polee II snubbed UNLV twice (once coming out of highschool, and once when he decided to transfer from St Johns). I hate the fact that Steve Fisher knows exactly what he is doing, and I hate that his players execute his gameplan.
Last night UNLV did so many things right. They shot the ball well, they played good defense. All in all, it was one of their best performances of the season. However, it was the inability to bring the ball up the court that killed us.
At the end of the day, its important to remember that this game had very little implication on UNLV final standing. Last nights game had more do with pride then it had to with UNLV’s postseason. It was however, a good test to see where UNLV is heading into the MWC tournament.
Khem Birch, A: I felt like the Khem played one of his best games of his career. It has happened later than when I would have liked, but Khem Birch has finally taken the role of leader. He had a great night defensively, as usual, but his biggest impact was on offense. He played the most aggressive he has played all year. He wanted to score on every touch, and if he wasn’t going to score, he was going to draw the foul. He was able get Josh Davis and Skylar Spencer in foul trouble, however, the Rebels weren’t able to capitalize with those two on the bench.
Carlos Lopez Sosa, B-: When Carlos was on the floor last night, he played with more energy and fire than anyone else in the whole Thomas and Mack. He played efficiently on both ends of the floor. Really, when he was on the floor, he was one of our best players. But Carlos struggles to stay on the floor. Whether it is poor footwork or bad decisions, Carlos always seems to find himself in foul trouble. If he avoided fouling so often, he would get more time on the floor.
Deville Smith, D-: It just wasn’t there last night for Deville in any way. 0 for 5 from the field, and 7 turnovers. The only reason I don’t give Deville an F is because he did do a decent job defending Xavier Thames and Winston Shepard. Deville just isn’t a PG, and I hope he knows that is the reason Cody Doolin is coming in next year. I hope that Doolin being here next year takes some pressure off Deville.
Bryce Dejean-Jones, C-: I know some people would disagree, but I don’t think that Bryce played that bad last night. His shot was off, but his shot has been off all year with a few exceptions. I would have liked to see Bryce play a little more aggressive, but the problem with BDJ sometimes is that aggression turns into recklessness. When he is clicking, he is impossible to stop. But against those long guards that SDSU has, it was difficult for him to find space.
Kevin Olekaibe, B: The one negative last night for KO was that he shot poorly. Besides that he had a pretty efficient game. I also loved the touching tribute to his Dad.
Christian Wood, C: The good: Chris is no longer playing like a freshman. He defended well, and rebounded well. The bad: Chris was a little overzealous offensively and took a few too many bad shots. All in all, if you’re a rebel fan, you have to be excited about the future. Think about next year. How will anyone ever score on us between Goodluck, Khem and Chris?
Jelan Kendrick, B+: Last night Jelan played the best I’ve ever seen him as Rebel. 4 of 4, 10 points, 2 steals, and 0 turnovers. I would have liked to see him take few more shots since he was feeling it. The only negative, and it wasn’t much his fault was he was late on a couple of screens which freed up Shrigley to knock down some big shots for SDSU in the 2nd half.
Daquan Cook, B-: I wouldn’t mind seeing Daquan as our the starting point guard for the rest of the season. Daquan just doesn’t make very many mistakes, and it has been mistakes that have killed the Rebels this season. Daquan shot the ball well last night, with the exception of a weird floater he took midway in the second half.
Coaching Staff, C: I felt like the gameplan was very good last night. In fact, I think UNLV did everything right last night except one thing… dealing with the full court press. How did that happen? It is no secret that SDSU presses. I know our guards aren’t the best ball handlers and decision makers, but it looked as if there was never even a discussion with our team about what to do in a press.
Who would have guessed that Matt Shrigley would be the most important player tonight for the Aztecs?
Matt Shrigley went on a stretch midway in the second half that erased a 5 point UNLV lead, and kept the Aztecs in it.
Some clutch shots in the final stretch by Xavier Thames and Winston Shepard was enough to the put the game away.
Early in the first half, SDSU took an early 12-5 lead by capitalizing on some clumsy turnovers by UNLV’s guards. UNLV responded with a 10-0 run to take a 15-12 lead.
Turnovers continued to plague UNLV in the first half, but a couple of very clutch 3 pointers from Daquan Cook kept the game close.
SDSU went on a small run and had a 6 point lead with 2:47 remaining in the first half. UNLV responded with back to back baskets, to cut the lead to 1. Kevin Olekaibe was able to draw a foul on a 3-point buzzer beater attempt. After going 2/3 from the line UNLV somehow went into the locker room with 1 point lead despite committing 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
UNLV came out strong in the beginning stages of the second half and took an early 5 point lead.
Then Matt Shrigley happened.
At the 14:54 mark of the second half Shrigley knocked down his first three.
Then he hit another one at 12:52. He followed that with a driving layup on the next possession.
He then splashed in back to back threes. These 3’s were especially frustrating because UNLV was making their shots as well. Every single time it seemed like the Rebels were going to extend the lead. Shrigley answered.
At the 8 minute mark of the second half, SDSU led 56-55. BDJ went 2/2 at the FT line to give the lead back to UNLV.
Khem Birch knocked converted a free throw with 3:29 left to give UNLV a 62-61 lead. That would be the last time UNLV saw the lead, as SDSU was able to grind the game away.
At 2:34, Winston Shepard knocked down a huge three to extend SDSU lead to 5.
-No matter how bad he is playing, Xavier Thames always plays with so much confidence. It isn’t a question of “if” he will turn it on, but when.
-Khem Birch had a great game tonight. He ended with 16th double of the season. 16 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.
-UNLV never looked comfortable bringing the ball up the court. SDSU press is good, but there is no excuse for the sloppy play from our guards.
-Christian Wood no longer plays like a freshman. That being said, he had a few too many bad shots tonight.
-Carlos Lopez-Sosa biggest problem his whole career is staying out of foul trouble. When he was on the floor tonight, he was very efficient. However, he can’t go more than 3 or 4 possessions without committing a foul.
-At the end of day, this game had very little implication on UNLV’s seeding for the MWC tourney, especially with Boise St losing to UNR. My feelings about UNLV has not changed. UNLV has just a good a shot as any other team heading into the MWC tourney.
I know Carlos. He probably doesn’t remember me personally, but I’ve spent more time around Carlos than the average UNLV fan.
In May of 2010, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. I was offered a student manager position for UNLV basketball. Being born and raised a UNLV rebel fan, it was an easy decision.
Being a student manager was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. From October to March, I spent just as much time at the Thomas and Mack Center as I did in my own house. Each manager was given their own unique role. There were general things that we all helped with, but for practice, we had our own assignments.
I filmed. My job was to literally sit at half court and film practice. Once practice was over, I would burn the recording onto a disk, and give a copy to UNLV’s video coordinator.
Before most practices, the court was open for us managers to shoot around. Imagine that. A lifelong rebel fan. Taking shots on Tarkanian court at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Eventually some of the players would emerge from the tunnel. Carlos was usually one of the first players out. Now, let it be known that none of the players were mean to the managers, but Carlos was one of the nicest. He would joke around with us, occasionally would school us in a game of HORSE.
(Photo Credit: LVRJ)
So today, it bothers me when I feel people unfairly go after Carlos. The key word is “unfairly”, because all players are subject to some amount criticism, but sometimes Carlos is treated as the punching bag in which fans take their frustrations out on.
Among UNLV fans, you seem to either love Carlos or hate Carlos. I love Carlos. Now sure, he isn’t the most talented player on the roster, or the most athletic, but Carlos seems to always play hard, which is more than I can say for alot of UNLV’s player.
We all know Carlos’ signature move. Face up on the defender, pass fake, when the defender gets lost on the pass fake, Carlos slips underneath and finishes. His victims include but are not limited to Billy White, Drew Gordon and Noah Hartsock.
I feel like defensively Carlos is underrated. At times his footwork is little slow, but he has a strong upper body.
Offensively, Carlos’ impact is huge. It seems like every time he scores, it comes at a big moment, and it gets the crowd on it’s feet. **Unofficial Stat Alert** Carlos leads the team in “most times an opposing coach has called a timeout after making a FG” stat.
(Photo Credit: Las Vegas Sun)
Finally, let me end with one last point. In a generation of college basketball dominated by selfish players who jump ship at the first sign of trouble, Carlos stayed loyal to UNLV.
As a Freshman, Carlos averaged 11.7 minutes a game. He has seen that number get smaller and smaller each year. Let me remind of you recent UNLV freshman who averaged 29 minutes a game last year and decided that UNLV didn’t offer him enough to get him to the next level.
Loyalty is a rare trait in today’s college basketball. If you don’t think that Carlos had multiple opportunities to leave UNLV for a program that would play him more, you’re crazy. The fact that he stuck with UNLV despite given a decreasing role speaks volumes of his character. His frustration with his playing time is no secret to UNLV insiders, but that frustration isn’t selfishness. It comes from a real desire to help his team.
Senior night is tomorrow night and Coach Rice has announced that Carlos will start in place of injured Roscoe Smith. Good for him. We’re going to need some senior leadership if we expect to beat San Diego State.
Regardless, I hope that UNLV fans take a moment to remember what Carlos gave to our program, himself.
Do you want to know what bugs me most about SDSU? They over achieve. This year was supposed to be “rebuilding” year. Same with last year. I keep on thinking that “this year is the year that they come back down to earth.” But it never happens. I’m beginning to think they aren’t overachieving, but that they are legitimately a top 20 program. *Gasp*
Louis CK and I are both very upset about it.
Tomorrow night the Aztecs come into Vegas. Here are some tips for locals. Avoid these locations unless you actually want to deal with 4Loko fueled douche bags.
-Hard Rock Hotel
-The east side of Las Vegas Blvd. You know, the side the street with Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and the random crappy casinos.
As for the basketball Wednesday night, it could be a good one. For those that don’t remember our game with SDSU earlier this season, it was a pretty entertaining game. I would even argue to say that UNLV outplayed SDSU, but the Rebels couldn’t get anything going offensively.
Tomorrow night’s showdown should shape up to be a pretty good game as well. UNLV and SDSU boaster the most athletic players in the conference and the last few times the Aztecs have visited the Thomas and Mack Center, it has gone down to the wire. The last two games at TMC were decided by 2 points.
Here are some things to look out for:
-Will UNLV play zone defense? Against Colorado State and Air Force, UNLV featured a zone defense which worked really well. Since SDSU is not a great shooting team, the zone could be effective in limiting high-percentage shots. Force Thames and Shepard into missing shots, and let Khem, BDJ, and Christian clean up the glass.
-Roscoe Smith is out with a concussion. Expect to see Christian Wood and Carlos Lopez-Sosa to play extended minutes. I think Christian getting a major minutes will be a game-changer. His ability to stretch the floor offensively really opens things up for the rest of the offense. Defensively, he isn’t great when being posted up, but his help defense, and shot blocking ability is second only to Khem Birch.
-Deville Smith has shown moments of brilliance throughout this season, but the key stat about him that nobody is talking about is ball security. He has been very good about not turning the ball over. This will be huge against an SDSU defense that use a press.
-Josh Davis is the key player to watch from SDSU. He was biggest impact player for SDSU in the last matchup with his 8 offensive rebounds. PS, will somebody tell Josh Davis it is the year 2014, and cornrows haven’t been cool since 2005.
-UNLV is one win away from its 20th win of the season. A benchmark that every UNLV team should achieve.
My prediction: I know that I am usually a homer, and I always give UNLV the benefit of the doubt, but not this time. I hope I’m wrong. SDSU 72 UNLV 66
I walked out the Thomas and Mack last night. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t surprised. I was confused. I was perplexed. I just walked, silently staring into space in front of me. It was when I was almost struck by an oncoming car that I stopped my zombie-esque walk. If it wasn’t for that, I’m pretty sure I would have walked right onto the tarmac at McCarron.
The whole game felt weird. The refs called fouls on plays that shouldn’t have been fouls, and then swallowed their whistles on obvious calls. My favorite was when Cullen Neal committed a charge (uncalled), got his own rebound, traveled (uncalled), dribbled, traveled again (uncalled), and then UNM knocked down a 3 pointer.
UNM got off to a quick start and offensively, they were getting whatever they wanted. Especially Kendall Williams, who backed up his trash talking with 8 points in the first ten minutes of the game (17 at the break).
Things were the exact opposite for the UNLV to start off. UNLV could not score from anywhere, and when I say anywhere, I mean anywhere. Missed layups, shots from the elbow, wing, beyond the arc. Even free throws. If I’m not mistaken, at one point UNLV missed 6 FTs in a row. (8-18 at Halftime). In this weird 1st half, where their didn’t seem to be any ebb and flow, UNLV somehow found itself down by 9. They were fortunate not to be down by more.
The second half was a lot like the first half. It got off to this weird pace, and the officiating was just as bad but instead of UNLV being the victim, it was New Mexico.
(Photo Credit: Las Vegas Sun)
After a couple missed calls in a row, UNLV turned a uncalled mugging of Alex Kirk into a fast break dunk on the other end. A frustrated Craig Neal was called for a technical foul. UNLV was able to pull within 7 points, but Kendall Williams was able to essentially put the game on ice with back to back baskets.
-What is Cameron Bairstow’s secret? He went from being a mediocre big man, to being the most dominant big man in the conference.
-Christian Wood showed some flashes of brilliance tonight. If he could get more consistent on his jump shops, he will be a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses.
(Photo Credit: Las Vegas Sun)
-New Mexico outplayed UNLV, but I feel like if the game got off to a more standard start officiating wise, and UNLV knocked just a few more FTs, that it would have been a much more competitive game.
-Demetris Morant showed why he hasn’t been getting much run in games. In the two minutes he played, he a had +- of negative 8.
-I was right about one thing; Cullen Neal is a terrible basketball player.
-UNLV is inconsistent, but I think the blame falls more on the players than the coaching staff.
-Brent Musberger stared at the Rebels Girls during their dance.
-All of the Lobo fans in the crowd (not as many as I expected), fit the cliche of UNM fans. Old, and if they weren’t old, they looked like Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad
-Kendall Williams is certified douche-bag whose face resembles a cartoon devil.
“Everyone’s a ‘Buzz’s girlfriend’… Woof woof woof”.
I like that version better than New Mexico’s stupid chant.
Now I won’t lie. I respect New Mexico’s fans. They are loyal to their team, and loyal to the conference, and they aren’t all meth heads. In fact, most of them are just old grandma and grandpas.
Tomorrow night the Lobos come into town, which means two things for the Las Vegas economy:
1). Casinos will make a lot of money off New Mexicans.
2). KOA Campgrounds and Circus Circus will see a boom in occupancy.
It also means that there will be a very entertaining basketball game at the Thomas and Mack.
These are what to look out for:
-The most important matchup with be Birch/Smith vs Bairstow/Kirk. It isn’t necessarily about which duo will outplay the other, but which duo will do a better job staying out of foul trouble. Smith and Bairstow are both very efficient players. Birch and Kirk are the two best shot blockers in the conference.
-All I want, more than anything, is for Cullen Neal to be on the floor as much as possible for UNM. He cant guard BDJ or Deville. What does Cullen Neal, and my favorite breakfast food have in common? They are both toast.
-Craig Neal inherited the head coaching job at New Mexico and, apparently, everything that comes with it. I’m talking about his hair cut. Is it in his contract that he needs to have a dopey middle part like Alford? And what is up with the grey hair. He is only 50 years old.
-Kendall Williams has somehow put together a better season than he did last year, and no one is talking about it. He didn’t deserve the POY last year but somehow got it based off one game against Colorado State. It’s like the Johnny Manziel of Mountain West basketball.
-BRING YOUR BROOMSTICKS AND SWIFFER WETJETS! IT’S GONNA BE A SWEEP!
Have you ever seen the Bachelor? It is okay if you haven’t. It is this show that white girl’s love where a some dude picks between a group of women who he wants to marry. I know, us white people be crazy.
Well, you’re kind of like the Bachelor. You have your choice between a pretty large group of schools. You’ve narrowed down your choice, and the final rose ceremony is coming up and its time for you make a decision. So let me make a case for why you should choose UNLV.
Let me start off by saying that I have nothing bad to say about Iowa State, Kentucky, or North Carolina. The only negative things about those schools are that they aren’t UNLV.
So why should you choose UNLV:
-Because Dwayne Morgan, Goodluck Okonoboh, and yourself would be like the Three Musketeers of freshman basketball players. (The three swordsman, not the delicious chocolate bar)
-Khem Birch, Roscoe Smith, Deville Smith, Bryce Dejean Jones, Kendall Smith, Daquan Cook, Jelan Kendrick, Christian Wood, Etc.
-Because Vegas is a nice place to live. But you already know that. While back east they are digging themselves out of snow all winter, here in Vegas you can go golfing.
-Because we need a scorer. Not just a shooter, not a slasher. But a person who is capable of scoring wherever, whenever, and however. You’d have an immediate impact and role on the team.
-Because UNLV is bound to make a big run. Lets face it, UNLV has disappointed in March Madness. We’re bound to breakthrough eventually, and you can be the catalyst to make it happen.
-Because it worked for Anthony Bennett, who was in a very similar circumstance as yourself.
-Because the Thomas and Mack Center is a great place to play basketball. Rupp Arena, The Dean Dome, and Hilton Magic may have its luster, but we have fireworks. Indoors.
-Because that game you came to, the Dixie State game. That was an exhibition game, and it was a fluke. I promise.
-Because the Rebellion. Have you seen Khem Kong? If you play your cards right, you could get your own monster replica. Maybe something like Count Vaughncula, Rashadnado or Wreck It Rashad. (It only took me two minutes to come up three potential nicknames.)
-Because if you stay in Vegas, you don’t have to move cross-country. Which is probably really annoying.
The bottom line is that UNLV is good fit for you. It is a win-win for both UNLV and for you. UNLV wins game, adds another legend, and you become part of the rebel family.
And if in the end, you don’t think UNLV is the right place for you. Thats okay. We’ll wish you success in your collegiate and professional career, and hope that you can always think of Vegas as your home.
We’ll be waiting patiently until Tuesday when you announce.
Roscoe Smith, C: It was clear from the beginning of this game that Boise State’s gameplan was to limit Roscoe Smith’s impact on the glass. They were able to get him into foul trouble, and off the floor.
Khem Birch, A: Birch did it all tonight for UNLV. 15 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks, and 2 steals.
Deville Smith, B: Deville is the anchor for the rebels. We do as good as he does. In the first half when he struggled, we struggled. In the second half when he found a way to make plays, everyone else made plays.
Kevin Olekaibe, A: KO was a portrait of efficiency tonight. He struggled at times defensively, but he made plays on offense; none bigger than the two late 3-pointers he hit late in the second half.
Bryce Dejean-Jones, B: Another night that Bryce struggled shooting from the field, but his impact was big defensively. He spent a large portion of the night matched up with Anthony Drmic. BDJ limited him to just 4 points, and was able to frustrate Drmic into foul trouble and eventually fouling out.
Carlos Lopez Sosa, B+: The only bad thing to say about Carlos’ night was that he didn’t play enough. Here was every play he made:
-Shot fake, drive, layup/ foul, converts the FT
-Steal leading to points off turnover
-Travel, classic Carlos.
-On fast break, KO finds Carlos trailing, and he finishes with dunk.
Everything he did last night got the TMC to go nuts
Christian Wood, C+: My mouth waters at the future of Christian. He struggled offensively, but his impact on defense was great. With Roscoe on the bench, CW was able be effective on the glass, and he had a huge block.
Jelan Kendrick, C: He has been struggling with sickness all week, which explains his limited role.
Kendall Smith, C: Kendall has lacked some confidence offensively ever since Deville switched it into high-gear. That said, Kendall Smith did a good job defensively last night.
Daquan Cook, B-: The alleged story is that Cook got more minutes to send a message to BDJ who didn’t play well in the first half. Cook was effective in his time out there. The most important thing is that he was not a liability out there and he did a good job running the offense.
Coaching staff, B: I have never seen Dave Rice as emotional as he was last night. He was yelling more, and was letting his emotions show more than he usually does. There is no excuse for the poor effort in the first half, but the game plan was good, and the play calling in the second half was great.
After the last media timeout of the game, I couldn’t help but notice the scores of fans that got up from their seats with the Rebels down by 11 and headed for exit signs.
I wasn’t the only one that noticed. Khem Birch looked around the stadium, so did Christian Wood, and KO.
For the rest of us that stayed in our seats, we got to enjoy one of the more memorable finishes at the Mack in recent memories.
The first half was a mess. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the singular problem was, but it was on both sides of the ball which leads me to believe it was more of an effort problem.
Early in the first half, UNLV caught a break when Jeff Elloriaga got injured on a drive. I’m glad the injury isn’t serious, but he had it coming to him. He was out of control on the drive which should have been called a charge, and then he came down hard on his hip.
The Broncos shot a blistering 53% from the field in the first half. Defensively UNLV couldn’t find any answers for Derrick Marks.
As is common with UNLV, our offense begins with our defense, and we are at our best when we are forcing turnovers, and forcing bad shots. We couldn’t do either and limped int0 halftime down 36-26.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was more of the same except we were finding some answers offensively and getting to the charity stripe which kept us in it.
At the 12 minute mark in the second half, UNLV was able to tie the game up at 46 after a 14-2 run. It didn’t take long for Boise State to go on a 11-0 run and “seem” to put the game out of reach.
After the last media timeout, when it seemed like All Was Lost (Robert Redford) UNLV went beast mode (Marshawn Lynch).
Khem Birch went 4/4 from FT line and got UNLV within 7. Two defensives stops, and KO 3 pointer, and a FT later, it was 3 point game.
Then Deville Smith happened.
In a ten second sequence, BSU saw there 3 point lead evaporate after a layup, steal, layup by Deville Smith.
(Photo Credit: Sam Morris/Las Vegas Sun)
Mikey Thompson had an answer to put Boise State back up by 1 with 38 seconds left.
During a 30 second timeout, Dave Rice drew up a play for Deville Smith to drive to the basket, and kickout to KO.
Splash. That shot put UNLV up for good. Derrick Marks missed a game tying attempt, and BDJ converted two FTs to put the game out of reach (and cover the spread).
-Carlos Lopez- Sosa had some terrific minutes last night. His effort kept the team from folding and letting the game get out of reach.
(Photo Credit: Sam Morris/Las Vegas Sun)
-Deville Smith has taken the reins of this team. We go as he go.
-Khem Birch continues to wreak havoc to opposing offenses. 6 more blocks. If he doesn’t win MWC defensive player of the year, I’ll be launching a formal investigation.
-Boise State forward, Nick Duncan looked like he had spent a good amount of time at Dunkin Donuts. Ya dig?
-Mikey Thompson is looking for his wallet, if you see Deville Smith, could have him give it back. Picked his pocket.
-Hey Anthony Drmic, a 2006 emo band, they want their haircut back.
Remember how against Utah State, our perimeter defense was really good. Utah State is the best 3-point shooting team in the MWC, and we locked them down to just 2/17 from beyond the arc?
The Fresno State game was a lot different.
UNLV was able to stave off a feisty Fresno State team to walk away with a 75-73 OT win.
The bulldogs got off to hot start from deep and went into halftime with a 6 point lead.
UNLV played more assertively in the second half, and were able to takeover, but those dang Bulldogs just wouldn’t go away. Sometime after Alex Davis’ hundredth tenth offensive rebound, the game went into OT.
Now I love Bryce Dejean Jones, but he wasn’t on his game tonight. I blame it on the staples in his head.
(Photo Credit: Steve Guiremand)
He couldn’t get anything going all night. After a 3 point attempt that failed to even hit rim on a wide-open 3, I think just about everyone had given up on him.
Then, redemption occurred.
Down 72-70, Bryce knocked down a deep 3 to give UNLV the lead for good, and just like that, he became the hero.
With a 74-72 lead, Khem Kong lept up from the Empire State Building and swatted a plane from the sky swatted a Cesar Guerrero layup attempt to seal the game.
(Photo Credit: The Rebellion)
UNLV picked up the sweep against Fresno State this year and moved to 13-7 (4-3).
-Deville Smith is half man, half animal. A manimal.
-Khem Birch showed no mercy. He finished the game with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks.
-UNLV only committed 6 turnovers in 45 minutes of basketball.
-Tyler Johnson tried to take the title of worst/best dunk title away from Adam Waddell, but nothing will ever beat this:
1. San Diego State: They are the best team in the conference and a top ten team in the country. Every time they win, a part of my soul dies. Steve Fisher has to suck out the soul of UNLV fans to stay alive. Steve Fisher is a dementor.
2. New Mexico: Three road games, three wins. That is a recipe for success in conference play. UNLV exposed some weaknesses, but the Lobos have the most experience of all the teams in the conference. Also, I am putting out an APB for last year’s MWC POY, Kendall Williams. Where you at?
3. Boise State: One and two is easy. It starts getting dicey from here on out. I put the Broncos here because of Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic. By the way, anyone else think that Anthony Drmic looks like a member of boy band?
4. UNR: Who are these guys? They lose Cal State Bakersfield, but then smashed UNLV in vegas? And does anyone else feel like Deonte Burton has been at UNR for like 6 years now?
5. UNLV: The Runnin Rebels are at crossroads again. They can roll over and die, and let the calendar slip into February and March, or they can go down swinging.
Are we sure that Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins don’t have another year of eligibility?
6. Colorado State: People are not talking about how good a job Larry Eustachy has done. They lost nearly all their production from last season but they still are a very competitive team. I honestly thought CSU would be one of the worst teams in the conference this year. Easy on the diet pepsi though, Larry.
7. Utah State: The jury is still out with Utah State. Until I see them against UNM or SDSU, I am playing it safe and putting them in the middle of the pack. Also, I think everybody has a family member that looks like Stew Morrill (See below).
(Photo Credit: LA Times)
8. Air Force: Ugh. The Falcons. Nobody looks at their schedule and says “Oh sweet! We got Air Force tonight.” because everybody knows that Air Force are a bunch of nerds who play smart, play physical, and love ‘Merica.
9. Wyoming: There is not a team that I know less about than Wyoming. All I know is that no team has a worse name for their venue. Arena-Auditorium? Really, there aren’t any businesses that want to buy the naming rights?
10. Fresno State: Someday the Bulldogs will be relevant in hoops. This year is not that year.
11. San Jose State: I am throwing this idea out there: Rashad Muhammedcould have a longer NBA career than his older brother.
NOTE: After big games, I like to give out grades for UNLV. These are my opinions, and I love all the players as if they were in my own family (THAT MEANS I’LL DEFEND ALL OF THEM WITH MY LIFE!) Also note that I am not an expert. My basketball experience is limited to the occasional game of church ball, where I am usually the Brian Scalabrine of the team.
Roscoe Smith, B: Roscoe was the only rebel capable of knocking down shots early on in the first half. He also recorded his 12th double-double of the season. I wish I could have seen the ball in his hands more.
Khem Birch, B-: Another SDSU game, another game with 5 blocks. Khem made a huge impact on the defensive end. Couldn’t get much going on offense. Everytime he got the ball down low, SDSU would double him. He got into a little foul trouble that kept him off the floor midway in the 2nd half.
Deville Smith, C-: He made some big shots in the second half, but he missed a few shots that were gimmes. He did a good job defending the much bigger guards of SDSU.
Kevin Olekaibe, Incomplete: Simply put, KO was invisible out there on the floor. Credit that to the SDSU defense that never let KO find space. He just didn’t do enough to warrant discussion.
Bryce Dejean-Jones: C: BDJ left it all out on the floor. I don’t think a player for either team worked harder than Bryce. In fact, sometimes Bryce was going too hard. There were moments when it felt like Bryce was about to snatch the game back from SDSU, but the Aztec’s would stop the bleeding, and extend the lead again.
Carlos Lopez-Sosa, D-: Carlos only got two minutes to work with, and unfortunately for him, they two ugly minutes. 3 fouls. But I still carry the flag in the Carlos fan club!
Christian Wood, C+: Every time Khem came off the floor I worried. But Christian did a pretty good job as a reserve. I don’t think his stat-line really indicates his impact. Can’t wait to see Christian Wood’s career. He has such a high ceiling.
Jelan Kendrick, C-: Jelan has always had a very understated game. To appreciate how good a player he is, you have to actually look for it, because it doesn’t jump out at you. He didn’t shoot well tonight, no way around that, but I felt comfortable with him on the floor.
Coaching Staff, B-: I felt the team was well prepared. I liked the way we approached things offensively, we just missed too many shots. What was good? Defense, gameplan, composure. What was bad? Poor adjustments for Josh Davis.
I had predicted a UNLV victory. I was wrong. Very wrong. I ain’t mad though. Someone left the AC on in UNLV’s locker room, and the Rebels came out cold to start the game. UNLV could not overcome going 21/70 from the field (2/18 from beyond the arc) and dropped to 11-7 (2-3) with a 63-52.
The game was essentially won when SDSU broke open a 9-9 tie with 19-2 run midway through the first half. Even though UNLV improved throughout the game, the margin was just too much to overcome against the nations #1 defense.
Josh Davis led the Aztec’s with 14 points, and 14 rebounds (6 offensive). He clearly was causing headaches all day for UNLV down low. This caught me off guard. It was the first time all year that anybody had been able to push Roscoe and Khem around.
(Photo Credit: Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
Deville Smith and Bryce Dejean Jones had their moments, but a combined 12/44 won’t get the job done. Ever.
(Photo Credit: Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
Next up for UNLV is the return of former rival, Utah State, January 22nd at the Thomas and Mack Center.
I might be crazy, but I EXPECT UNLV to win this weekend at San Diego State. You can call me a homer if you want. You might be right.
(Photo cred: my smokin hot wife)
San Diego State comes into this game 15-1. Their lone loss of the season was against Arizona back in November. Just a few weeks ago they were able to beat Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, which is a very rare accomplishment. They are a long and athletic team that plays very good defense, and loves to play physical.
UNLV has been bipolar this season, but it has had some bright spots. The brightest being on Wednesday, when the Runnin Rebs were able to pull off a HUGE road win against New Mexico. Truthfully, UNLV has been a much better team on the road than they have been at home this year. Our lone road loss was in Tucson against Arizona in a game that UNLV was in a good position to win.
Here are some arguments to why we will win:
-Dave Rice has SDSU’s number. The Aztecs have been outcoached by Dave Rice, dating back to his time as an assistant at BYU. -Josh Davis can rebound well but he won’t be getting to as many rebounds between Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith. -Xavier Thames struggles against UNLV. Career numbers vs UNLV: 7/29, 21 total points, 12 Turnovers in four total games. -With the exception of Arizona and Kansas, they haven’t played against a team as athletic as UNLV. -Khem Birch had 5 blocks in each game last year versus SDSU. He altered plenty more than that.
(Photo Cred: Jake Roth, USA Today)
Bottom line: I think this game will look a lot like the game vs New Mexico, but the scoring will be lower. SDSU plays better defense than UNM, and while they can get out and play in transition, they mostly slow it down offensively. I expect our bigs to have a great game. Josh Davis and JJ Obrien are good players, but Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk are better. The real question is how our guards matchup with Xavier Thames and Winston Shepard. My biggest fear is SDSU playing small,and forcing Birch to leave the paint, leaving the lane vulnerable to back-door cuts, and slashes. If KO and Deville get hot, it really opens the floor up for Jelan and Bryce’s midrange game. The game will come down to how well our guards play against Shepard and Thames. Those two are capable of spoiling the Rebels trip to San Diego.
Final Prediction: UNLV 68, SDSU 65
UNLV, and I still believe this, is the most talented team in the conference. We are HUGE UNDERACHIEVERS. At this point in the season, we have to win. I think our only shot of making the tournament is to finish the regular season with 25 wins (including the MWC tournament) and I think UNLV will find win #12 tomorrow in San Diego.
I finally figured it out. Or better said, UNLV finally figured it out.
Urgency! They’ve lacked it. They found some Wednesday at the Pit vs New Mexico and managed to pull off a very impressive road victory.
They lacked urgency for the entire first half of the season. You could see it in the way they played; poorly executed offensive possessions, and a lackadaisical attitude on defense. That wasn’t the case at New Mexico. Fewer bad shot selections, and an intensity we haven’t seen on defense, especially in the second half.
The Rebels started out hot. After taking the lead 10-9 early in the first half, the rebels never trailed the rest of the game. In the first five minutes it felt like both teams were scoring at will. The rebels were really able to take over with a 20-3 run when UNM star, Cameron Bairstow went to the bench with early foul trouble. The biggest play of the first half was when Bryce Dejean Jones knocked a pass away and finished with a nasty dunk (AND 1!!).
At that point my brother sent me a text, and I’m paraphrasing, “Is this what it was like to watch UNLV in 1991.” I had to tell him to slow down a bit. It was 10 minutes of the first half. A talented, and well-coached team in UNM crawled back, and got to within four points before halftime.
The second half was a tug of war. When UNLV would pull ahead by 8 or 9 points, UNM would score on back to back possessions and keep it within 4 points. This pattern would continue late into the game. UNM eventually got within one point, but BDJ and Deville Smith came up clutch at the FT line. A desperate, baseline 3-point attempt from Cullen Neil came up short, and UNLV walked away victorious.
Photo Credit: Review Journal
Photo Credit: Review Journal
Dave Rice was very complimentary of Carlos Lopez-Sosa who played his most minutes of the season and did a great job on the defensive end of the floor. Other players who played great were Bryce Dejean Jones (11/13 from the FT), Deville Smith (10 points in the second half), Jelan Kendrick, Khem Birch (11 rebounds, 11 points) and Kevin Olekaibe (4/5 from 3 pointer).
What does this win mean for the rest of season? It could mean everything, or it could mean nothing. It all depends on how UNLV responds. They can ride the momentum and turn the season around, or they deflate, and get closer to that NIT bid. They have a great opportunity to continue to resurrect the season if they can pull off another road win Saturday, vs SDSU. We’ll see if they still have that sense of urgency.