The Dave Rice Situation

by Jake Runyon (@jakerunyon)

Some serious drama unfolded over the weekend.

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.

Goodbye 2013-2014 Season, You Will Not Be Missed

by Jake Runyon (@jakerunyon)

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)

High moments?

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.

State of the Rebels: Is UNLV going the right direction?

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):

  1. 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.
  2. Fewest field goals assisted since the 1980s for a program built on sharing the ball offensively.
  3. Fewest turnovers forced since the 1980s for a program built on pressure defense.
  4. The worst 3-point shooting UNLV team since the 2001-02 season
  5. A 6-year low in overall attendance, including no sellouts for the first time in four years.
  6. 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)
  7. 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.
  8. Rebels lose to Air Force for just the third time ever at the Thomas & Mack Center.
  9. 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).
  10. The Rebels consistently struggle to score in the half court, particularly against zones (in some games), and are widely inconsistent offensively even within games
  11. As more players recruited by Dave Rice have entered the program, results have not improved on the court at all.
  12. Rebels have failed to win the MW tournament for six consecutive years despite hosting the event.
  13. 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 group in 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.


-SC- Follow me @vegasrebelfan

MW Semi-Finals are set. UNLV-SDSU III.

by Shawn Cunningham ( @vegasrebelfan )

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.


Random stats:

– 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)



Day 1 of the Mountain West Championship

by Shawn Cunningham ( @vegasrebelfan )

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.image

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.

By the NUMBERS… UNLV in the Mountain West championship

by Shawn Cunningham ( @vegasrebelfan )

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:
  1. – UNLV’s 8 championship game appearances (most recently 2013) are the most among any prior or current member of the Mountain West.
  2. – UNLV has never won a MW tournament seeded lower than 2nd.
  3. – 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.
  4. – The Runnin’ Rebels have defeated BYU in the title game in all three of their victories (2000, 2007, 2008).
  5. – The Rebels last won the MWC championship in 2008, behind an upset of top-seeded BYU and tournament MVP Wink Adams
  6. – 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.
  7. – 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.
  8. – UNLV is undefeated against Wyoming in this event, and has lost to the Cowboys only twice ever at the Thomas & Mack Center.

MWC Bracket Prediction

Qualifying round* By Jake Runyon

-#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.

First Round:

-#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

Second Round:

-#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


My All-MWC Teams, Awards

by Jake Runyon

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.

I present to you, my all MWC teams.

1st Team All-MWC

-Cameron Bairstow, C, UNM
-Khem Birch, PF, UNLV
-Ryan Watkins, PF, Boise State
-Deonte Burton, SG, UNR
-Xavier Thames, PG, SDSU

2nd Team All-MWC

-Alex Kirk, C, UNM
-Josh Davis, PF, SDSU
-Larry Nance Jr, SF, Wyoming
-Kendall Williams, PG, UNM
-Tyler Johnson, SG, Fresno State

3rd Team All-MWC

-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
New Mexico v UNLV

-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.


SDSU vs UNLV Grades

by Jake Runyon

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.


UNLV vs SDSU Recap

by Jake Runyon

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.

In Defense of Carlos Lopez-Sosa

by Jake Runyon

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.



(Photo Credit:

UNLV vs San Diego State Preview

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