It was no secret from the very beginning.
UNLV is supposed to good. The Runnin' Rebels were picked first in the Mountain West Conference.
They have the conference tournament on their home floor.
They have a preseason co-player of the year and two other all conference players.
So why are they in the middle of the pack of the Mountain West?
Expectations were high for UNLV this season. This was supposedly the best Lon Kruger-coached team in the five seasons since Kruger took over the program.
They had Wink Adams (pictured), a senior who was a Rivals five-star recruit out of high school.
They had a Memphis transfer, Tre'Von Willis who was supposed to be the man starting at the point guard.
They had a 7-foot five-star prospect, Beas Hamga, playing in his first season.
They had two other senior starters who had earned conference recognition the season before, and they had depth at every position with youth and experience.
But like what Ben Parker told Peter Parker in Spider-man—"With great power, comes great responsibility."
The Rebels were no longer, the underdogs. The hunters. They were, please excuse the cliche, the hunted and people wanted to beat them to prove a point.
Red flags were raised early on with each game that wasn't decided by double digits. Fans were told not to worry, wins are wins and working out the kinks is part of the early season jitters.
But then January rolled around, and the jitters were still there. There were flashes of how much potential the team had with a big win over Louisville in Freedom Hall, but after back to back losses to Texas Christian and Colorado State, it hit the Rebel fan base—there is a chance for a major let down.
How could a team win in Freedom Hall but lose to the worst team in conference?
A question to this day, that bothers UNLV fans. Add the recent victory over Brigham Young in the Marriott Center, where the Cougars are invincible, it just further adds to the confusion of the team.
The wins over Louisville, Arizona and Brigham Young are not shocking. The Rebels have enough talent to win those games.
Rene Rougeau told the Las Vegas Review Journal, that the team was a complacent. Something just as deadly as speed, talent and conceit, and hopefully for Rebel fans, they've gotten over that level of complacency.
UNLV will not be creeping up on people this year. They're expected to succeed. No more surprises. It's simple for the Rebels—win or disappoint the fans who expected them to make a third straight appearance in the NCAA tournament.