UNLV: In Familiar Territory
The Rebels won the last 4 games with a +20 points margin of victory. This was, of course, expected. However, even dominating New Mexico beat Air Force over a week ago only by 2 points. It proves that anything can happen in the Mountain West Conference. But, could a team beat the Rebels three times in one season?
If you ask the Rebel fans this question, the answer is: Yes. Unfortunately, in recent Rebel memory, the 2008-2009 squad lost to SDSU twice in regular season play and in the first round of the conference tourney. The 3 time loss solidified UNLV's post season play in the NIT.
In this year's MWC tourney, the Rebs have the chance to play Utah for the quarterfinal game and finally beat them. But what if things go wrong? The Rebels are undoubtedly in a better place this year than last, but can a squad (with a good record) that loses to the same team 3 times make the NCAA tournament? Hopefully, the Rebels will not have to find out the answer.
Since the last time these teams met, the Rebels demonstrated more consistent and team-play. Today's shooting performance was not as dominant as the last couple games, but they've played with a spark that was certainly missing a couple weeks ago against SDSU, UNM, and Utah.
The Rebels will play Utah on Thursday night. The keys to the game? Tre'Von Willis MUST BE ON HIS GAME! There is really no room for error. Defense and aggression will be the second most important part. The Utes are traditionally rough and will aim to frustrate the Rebs on offense. Lastly, Willis' supporting cast must show up; including Stanback, Wallace, and Shaw having good shooting performances.
This will be an exciting first round game and the Rebs should come out on top. If not, they and Reb fans will bite their nails on selection Sunday.