UNLV Basketball: Rebels Net a No. 12 Ranking and a Khem Birch Commit

Mick AkersAnalyst IJanuary 10, 2012

Photo Courtesy pghsports.com
Photo Courtesy pghsports.com

Monday turned out to be a great day for the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV, after obtaining a No. 12 ranking in both the AP and Coaches poll and receiving a huge commitment from Pitt transfer Khem Birch.

The No. 12 ranking is UNLV's highest rank since the 1992-93 season, back when Isaiah Rider was in his senior season with the Rebels.

The Rebels have a huge chance at making an even greater jump into the rankings, as they have a showdown with the No. 22 ranked San Diego State Aztecs in their Mountain West Conference opener.

The No. 11 ranked Georgetown Hoyas fell Monday night to the Cincinnati Bearcats, 68-64, opening the gateway to the Top 10 for UNLV come next Monday.

Only one thing could have upstaged the Rebels' new-found ranking on Monday, that is landing a commitment from a former McDonald's All-American, as they did when Pitt's transfer power forward Khem Birch chose the Runnin' Rebels over the Florida Gators late Monday afternoon.

Birch will be eligible midseason next year, as was the case for Marquette transfer point guard Reggie Smith this season.

After years of losing out on top recruits, the Rebels finally broke through this year by not only landing Birch over Florida and Gonzaga to name a few of his suitors, but also with the guard Katin Reinhardt, the No. 45 overall prospect of the 2012 class, choosing UNLV over the likes of Syracuse and Texas.

With Birch choosing UNLV, there is speculation that the last scholarship UNLV has to offer for the 2012 year will belong to either local Las Vegas guard and No. 1 overall 2012 prospect Shabazz Muhammad or Findlay Prep's power forward Anthony Bennett, who is the No. 7 overall prospect for the 2012 class and a close friend of Birch.

The future for the UNLV program seems to get brighter by the day under the lead of first-year head coach Dave Rice.

The glory days of the '80s- and '90s-era UNLV teams seem to be just around the corner and it is only fitting that Rice, a member of the Rebels' sole national title team from 1990, is the one who will guide them there.

Note: Prospect ratings are based of of those from Rivals.com