The No. 12 seed California Golden Bears will get a chance at a rematch against the No. 5 seed UNLV Rebels in the second round of the NCAA tournament in the East region.
California lost to UNLV 76-75 on December 9 after a dramatic layup by Quintrell Thomas in the final seconds.
UNLV is 25-9 and is coming off a loss to New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament championship game.
California is 20-11 and its Pac-12 tournament championship aspirations ended when it was upset by tournament No. 10 seed Utah.
Where: San Jose, California at HP Pavillion.
When: Thursday, March 21 at 7:27 p.m. ET
Betting Line: UNLV -3 according to Wager Minds.
*All injury information via USA Today
California: Forward Christian Behrens is out for the season with a knee injury.
UNLV: No injuries to report.
What’s at stake: A showdown in the third round of the NCAA tournament against Montana or Syracuse.
What they’re saying: HOOPSWORLD is full of praise for UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, one of the top freshmen in the country.
Bennett, who frequently draws comparisons to former UNLV great Larry Johnson, has established himself as a top prospect for the 2013 NBA Draft with averages of 16 points and eight rebounds a game. While Bennett is one of the best players in the tournament, the Rebels have struggled when they’re overly reliant on him. They would be greatly aided if junior forward Mike Moser could revert back to his pre-injury form.
Here’s AOL's take on California’s main weakness: their inconsistency.
Allen Crabbe has been outstanding for California this season.
It’s hard to get a read on Cal at times. It can be utterly embarrassed by Wisconsin one day and play UNLV down to the wire the next. It is that inconsistency that defined the season. When the odds were stacked against them, the Bears answered the call. When they were favored, they disappeared.
Most important player to watch: California guard Allen Crabbe
Crabbe is a terrific player and California’s leading scorer with 18.7 PPG. He is also averaging six rebounds. When he drives to the basket, it’s hard to stop him.
Last time these two teams met, Crabbe had 18 points, five rebounds and three assists. If California is going to beat UNLV, those numbers will have to go up on Thursday.
Key Matchup: Rebounding
UNLV is one of the best rebounding teams in the country, ranked as No. 6 in the nation. The Golden Bears are No. 58, and they have quite a job ahead of themselves for Thursday.
In their last meeting, UNLV won the rebounding battle 36-26, which included 13 offensive rebounds to California’s four.
If California is to stop UNLV from dominating the boards, it has to find a way to stop Bennett who is averaging 8.1 RPG.
Prediction: UNLV 68, California 66
This is going to be another close game, but in the end UNLV will pull through.
It has dominant scorers such as Bennett, Anthony Marshall and Bryce Dejean-Jones who will take the Rebels to the next round.