Of course there is a conspiracy but more on that in a little bit.
First off I am not what you call a "conspiracy theorist". Well maybe a little bit. Like, sure there wasn't another shooter on the grassy knoll. Like, Amelia Earhart really lost her way. Like all the disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle can be explained. Like Elvis is really dead. Now that one I know is not true. Here in Vegas I see Elvis at least three to four times a day, sometimes even in two places at once.
You tell me what dead person could do that. Oh and by the way here's two more I'll let you in on but don't spread the word or I might be found just outside of town in an area called The Valley of Fire. Tupac's alive for sure plus sports players never bet on games and know that Jeb Bush had nothing to do with the results of the 2000 election results in Florida. Duh, the guy with most votes lost.
With the 2010 NCAA Tournament on the verge of sending sports fans everywhere into March Madness, my 20-year-old nagging conspiracy that the powers that be in the NCAA land continues it's life long vengeance against the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
This body of old, decrepit individuals really can hold a grudge. Geez!
Lets go back a little more than a generation ago. If you think of the city of Las Vegas to be "Sin City" now try to imagine when the town was run by the Mob, known in some circles as the Cosa Nostra, the Mafia, the Godfathers, that thing of ours, and my favorite, the Little Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Hell our current Mayor, Oscar "I was not a mob lawyer" Goodman was THE mob lawyer for Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Seigel. No he wasn't, but it sounds good, doesn't it?
The last thing the NCAA old farts wanted to see were the criminals in waiting, those UNLV students to become a perennial power and dominate the little sisters of the poor on the hardwood.
Remember in the 90s when the University of Miami ruled the college football world and when they played Notre Dame it was billed as the Catholics vs. the Convicts. The press loved it but the NCAA called in the special opts unit of the CIA to find some dirt to discredit the Hurricanes.
They tried to do the same thing to the Runnin' Rebels. They were coached at that time by one of the most beloved and well liked men to ever coach a group of players. Jerry Tarkanian was given the moniker "Tark The Shark", not because he could coach a hell of a basketball game but because his teams were winners and the NCAA just couldn't have that. Tark took his team to three Final Fours and won it all 20 years ago this month by destroying the Dukies by a mere 30 points in the most lopsided, decisive win in a final championship game in NCAA basketball history.
For years the NCAA went after Tarkanian in the worst way. He was accused of recruitment violations, payoffs to players, and other scandalous activities. Nothing to this day has ever been proven about UNLV and the so called infractions, and they have never been sanctioned by that sanctimonious, holy institution called the NCAA.
It, like most conspiracies never end. Over the past six years that Lon Kruger has taken over the coaching duties the Rebels have put themselves back in the national spotlight by having 20+ game win seasons and making it to the Big Dance, along with this year's bid, three times in the last four years.
Keep in mind that for their previous two appearances, UNLV won the Mountain West Conference Tournament earning the automatic bid that comes with that victory. This year they make to the final game of the Mountain West Tournament only to lose at home to NCAA tourney bound San Diego State.
So what then is the conspiracy you say? OK, here it is. In 2007 the Rebels upset it's first two opponents and found themselves in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 1991. If some Oregon demon possessed player, whose name escapes me for the moment, didn't hit about 25 three-pointers the Rebels could have easily found themselves in the Elite Eight or even the Final Four.
The 2008 team was better still but the NCAA had a plan that surely couldn't fail. If you think top rated Kansas is a great team today and will surely be playing this year in Indianapolis, I'm telling you the 2008 version was even better and when they cut down the nets in the final it was certainly no surprise for me.
You know what the "death seed" is in the NCAA tournament. It's not 15 or 16. They are expected to be one and done and that has held fast with very few exceptions over the years. In fact, in case you didn't know, a 16 has never defeated a No. 1 seed ever in this tournament. It's the eight or nine seed that has the coaches leaving lambs blood on the lockers doors after they've won their opener only to have to face certain defeat less than two days later.
Now you know how the Christians felt like going into the arena against the Lions and I don't mean the Detroit Lions either. Back to my conspiracy. I could make a very respectable argument in 2008 that UNLV was a far better team than an eight seed. They had a better record than most of the six and seven seeds, a higher RPI, with wins over top 25 and top 50 teams, and they won a tournament championship already. So what did the NCAA Selection Committee do? They put them in the same bracket as Kansas and waited for the slaughter to begin.
The Rebels, to their credit, played them pretty evenly through the first half but with Kansas playing it's game so close to home they could hitch a ride and be back on campus by nightfall, the Jayhawks pulled away to a relatively easy victory. They then went on to win the National Championship.
So here we are. It's 2010 and UNLV with five wins against ranked teams this year gets an invite to the Big Dance. Yea! They are once again placed in the Midwest Region. They are given an eight seed again despite yadie yadie yada, and if they should win against another ranked team this year, Northern Iowa, who has about as much to complain at their nine seed with 28 wins and a championship in the Missouri Valley Conferenc,e plus winning their conference tournament as well, guess who the Rebels will have to get by to advance?
If you said the overall number one seeded team in the tournament,the Kansas Jayhawks, you'd win a Kewpie doll. I'd prefer a naked Barbie, and be the winner of the "conspiracy tournament".
No Rebels fans, the NCAA will never forgive the Runnin' Rebels, Jerry Tarkanian, Grandmama Larry Johnson, and the fine students and faculty at UNLV. It's a conspiracy, I tell you, a conspiracy.
Of course there is a conspiracy but more on that in a little bit.