UNLV Running Rebs Nationally Relevant Again?

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Last March two college basketball documentaries premiered to remind us college basketball nuts how the game was changed in the early ’90s. Both focused on powerhouse programs that fell from grace since then, but today seem to be trending backward.

The ESPN film focusing on the Michigan Wolverines Fab 5 may have gotten all the hype and controversy, but the HBO doc on the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels was actually a much better/more informational film.

Today’s Rebels are led by a link to that glorious past in first year head coach Dave Rice, a member of the 1990 National Title team.

UNLV-cheerleaders

Rice also had 11 years of experience as an assistant at the school entering this season. His Rebs are 11-2, with a banner win over the then #1 North Carolina Tar Heels, and gave the #19 Illinois Fighting Illini their first loss of the season in Chicago yesterday.

Sure that Illini team really is nowhere near as good as their 10-1 record indicates, but the Rebs jsut completely shut down their offense.

“25% (FG for the game), 23% in the second half, we were fortunate they missed some shots, but where we were good felt like we continued to apply pressure the entire game, and a lot of times we’ll press and trap, but e had too much respect for Weber and illinois to trap them in the backcourt, and we didn’t want to give them any easy baskets.”

The last time these two teams met was in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, which Illinois ran away with early. The Illini won 73-62, but led 46-24 at the break. This was the Rebs’ first ever win over Illinois in four tries.

“We watched last year’s NCAA tournament game, we didn’t watch it for any revenge factor, it had nothing to do with that. It was because last year in the NCAA Tournament we didn’t make them earn any baskets after the first two baskets of the game. The rest were lay-ups in transition where we didnt get back, and we just felt that was the only chance we had is if we made the game as hard as we possibly could on them,” Rice said.

UNLV has two losses on the season, one was at the Kohl Center, and there’s no shame in that, very few teams win there. But they looked pretty lifeless in that loss to the Wisconsin Badgers. More troubling is the 19 pt loss to Wichita State, which dropped them from the national rankings. They’ll likely re-enter the polls this week, but be cautious UNLV fans, this team isn’t that consistent.

They do live up to their namesake though, as they push it at a fast pace. They’ve scored 90+ five times in their last ten. Four Rebs average double figures in scoring (Chase Stanback, Mike Moser, Oscar Bellfield, and Justin Hawkins) with a fifth (Anthony Marshall) at 9.8.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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