Archive for November, 2012

Just because the Associated Press dumped the UNLV from 18th to No. 24 in this week’s Top 25 poll doesn’t mean anyone should be giving up on the Runnin’ Rebels. I’ve seen them play three of their first four games, and I can tell you this much, the ‘fever’ in “Runnin’ Rebel Fever” is certainly back in the Thomas and Mack Center.

It doesn’t appear the oddsmakers are giving up on the Rebels either, as they’ve opened up 15-point favorites tonight against UC Irvine. It’s the fourth time in five games they’ve been installed as double-digit favorites this season.

It’s been awhile, but once coach Dave Rice arrived last year the hope was he would bring back that lovin’ feelin’ from the Jerry Tarkanian-era he played in, and resurrect a program that once lit up the city brighter than the neon up and down Las Vegas Boulevard.

Mission accomplished, as the Rebels earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. And though they were shown the door in the first round after losing by four to Colorado, word spread quickly and everyone was put on notice.

UNLV was back. It is back.

This year, with one of the most talented freshmen – Anthony Bennett – joining the roster and junior All-America candidate Mike Moser returning, the Rebels were ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press’ preseason Top 25, the first time they were in the preseason Top 25 since they were No. 22 to begin the 1992-93 season.

I’m not sure if it’s ironic, or coincidence, the star of that team two decades ago resurfaced at the Thomas and Mack Center this past weekend for the Global Sports Classic, but it’s no surprise that everyone is coming out of the woodwork to catch a glimpse of the 2012-13 version of Runnin’ Rebel Fever.

Just talking with Isaiah “J.R.” Rider was a delight, as I personally hadn’t seen him since he was drafted 5th overall in the 1st round by the Minnesota Timberwolves. But in catching up with Rider, seeing Tarkanian at home games and watching the excitement up and down Gucci Row – the T&M’s courtside seating – it’s crystal clear how much Las Vegas is excited about Runnin’ Rebel Fever.

Heck, forget about the loss to Oregon in the semifinals of the Classic, the most disappointing thing I’ve seen thus far was the bleak turnout for the consolation game the following night against Iowa State.

Are you kidding me Las Vegas? Are you that shallow?

You want a winner? You got one, believe me. The Rebels were never going undefeated, so let’s erase those thoughts. But they are going to be exciting to watch.

They’re averaging 82.5 points per game, which ranks 19th nationally, and they’re 3-1 (2-2 ATS) with a win over a Big 12 foe. Tonight they host UC Irvine and Saturday Hawai’i is in town before the Rebels hit the road for a couple of games in the Northwest, as they’ll visit Portland, and then Berkeley to take on Cal.

The home game you may want to be in attendance for – if you’re a local reading this blog – is on Dec. 19, when Northern Iowa comes to town for a rematch from March 18, 2010, in the Big Dance. Ali Farokhmanesh’s 3-pointer with 4.9 left snapped Northern Iowa’s tournament drought and ended the Rebels’ hopes of making a run deep into the tournament.

I personally thought the oddsmakers might have been a bit overzealous with the Rebels in their season-opener, against Northern Arizona, but laying -27 was nothing for Rice’s troops, who trounced the Lumberjacks by 38 points. The followed that with a 19-point win over Jacksonville State, and just missed covering -20.5 points. After almost one week off, UNLV laid -12 to an underrated Oregon team that outplayed and out hustled the Rebels for much of the game to score the upset win, 83-79. In the consolation against Iowa State, the Rebels pulled away late and covered the -9 points with an 82-70 victory.

I’m not so sure on the big number tonight, as the Rebels come off a tiring weekend with bigger-named opponents, and might be a little less inspired for the Anteaters. Then again, you just never know.

Due to their uptempo game, and the plethora of scorers they have, you can expect the Rebels to lay near-double digits during non-conference play.

Due to their uptempo game, and the plethora of scorers they have, Runnin’ Rebel Fever is back in the Thomas and Mack.