Winning road games in high altitude has been no stranger to the 21-7 Runnin' Rebels this season as they put on a 30-point plastering on the Air Force Academy Falcons yesterday in a one sided blow out win.
Having been previously victorious this season at Colorado State and New Mexico the high altitude has certainly been helpful for the Rebels three point shooters. The Rebels hit on a season high 13 threes with Oscar Bellfield 4-6, Chase Stanback 3-7 and Kendall Wallace 5-8. If any team can shoot at that clip they will be a dangerous force in the key conference games to come.
This game like the past two was over early as the the Rebels went on a 17-0 run midway through the first half. They pressed the Falcons into numerous turnovers and won the battle on the boards 30-17. Once again, Tre'Von Willis saw his playing time decrease going only 24 minutes as the other Rebels stepped up.
I believe Rebels coach Lon Kruger is giving his high scoring Junior Guard some much needed he said rest as they head towards the conference tournament. The rest may cost Willis his shot as the Mountain West Player of the Year but in speaking to him he said "my goal is the big dance and if the coach wants me to rest, rest I will."
Chase Stanback had a career high 21 points along with eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a blocked shot for his very best overall performance this year. He will need to play at that level in the upcoming conference tournament.
The Rebels hope to have both Matt Shaw and Derrick Jasper back for their final home game against the Wyoming Cowboys this Saturday at the Thomas and Mack Center here in Las Vegas.
It will be a "White Out" game where all Rebel fans will wear white. A close to sell out crowd of 18,000 plus are expected.
Mar. 9 starts the Mountain West Conference Tournament with New Mexico, BYU, and UNLV all picked as the co-favorites. Don't however overlook San Diego State, the fourth team in the conference that has produced a 20+ win season.
Brice Massamba, Darris Santee, and Anthony Marshall have all played very well of late and this team seems to be peaking at the right time. Right now it looks like they will face either Utah or Colorado State in the first round.
No doubt they would rather match-up with the Rams rather than the Ute's who have beaten the Rebels in their last three games going back to last season.
With a win in the first game a rematch with BYU should come next. In their first meeting at home this year, the Rebels played what I have said was the best first half of basketball I have ever witnessed as they went on to crush the Cougars.
With another victory that would set up the rubber match between UNLV and New Mexico where each team has won on it's opponent court. If that is to be the final of this tournament regardless of the winner, the Mountain West Conference will definitely place three and very possibly four teams in the NCAA'a for the very first time.
If the selection committee does it's job correctly and doesn't put the entire Big East into the tournament, we just may see some history made this year.
I don't just watch the Mountain West Conference. I follow all College Basketball diligently, and when it comes to the NCAAs, the neutral court does tend to even things out a bit.
All four possible teams from the Mountain West have a good opportunity to go beyond the Sweet 16 and perhaps even a Final Four appearance. The key, of course, will be matchups, but one thing is clear to me and that is that the top teams in the Mountain West are as good as the top teams in any conference this year.
Only time will tell.
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