The Mountain West Conference has offered an interesting storyline for the men’s basketball season. Between UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico (despite the drop in competitiveness compared to last season) the conference still has much to offer.
The gleaming lights of Fremont Street and the strip aren’t the only flashy game from the Las Vegas area. The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have shined this season, bringing hope to the Vegas area of making it past the first round of the NCAA tournament and bringing it closer to another championship.
The Rebels have had a strong season, yet are they truly a contender for a run in March or are they a fluke team no better than previous years?
The Runnin’ Rebels of Las Vegas ripped through the conference play, only dropping two games. With losses on the road against a strong Wichita State and Wisconsin during non-conference play, the games were outweighed with wins over a No. 1 (at the time) North Carolina, Nevada and No. 19 (at the time) Illinois. The win over the fighting Illini dashed the first mark in the loss column for the Big Ten university.
With a strong run and a record of 16-2, the Rebels entered Mountain West Conference play with a loss to San Diego State. UNLV snagged the next five games in convincing fashion, even winning over the conference favorite, New Mexico Lobos.
After the string of victories, a two-point loss to Wyoming started the demise of the Vegas squad. Despite the two-point victory over San Diego, an overtime loss to TCU and a 20-point blowout to New Mexico followed which shoved the Rebels to second place in the conference.
The next step for the Rebels to regain ground is to win the remaining scheduled conference games. Only one road game against Colorado State and one home game at the Thomas & Mack Center with Wyoming remains.
After the last conference games, the task of winning the conference tournament is at stake. With the Thomas & Mack Center hosting the Mountain West teams, UNLV should remain perfect on the home court.
With a recent loss for New Mexico, the conference has turned tides going into a three-way tie for first place between UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. If everything goes as plan, UNLV could snag the top seed entering the tournament due to a home record.
Unfortunately, with the slide late in the season it is unsure what squad will show up to the games. Will the team who beat UNC early in the season strike or will the team who lost to TCU and was blown out by New Mexico return to the court?
Only time will tell, but it is safe to say that the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels will turn it up a notch just in time to compete far in March.