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Lon Kruger will be smiling in March if UNLV battles its way to a bid.
The Rebels have now lost a pair of nail-biters to San Diego State this year, nearly pulling a huge upset despite shooting the ball as haplessly as blind squirrel. UNLV has shot a stupefying 6 percent (2-for-33) from long range against the Aztecs.
Nonetheless, the Rebels are in great shape. The RPI and SOS are very solid. They have a huge win over Wisconsin and solid wins over Kansas State and Virginia Tech. The seven losses look bad at first glance, but six came to teams currently among the RPI top 40; the only really damaging result was the stinker at home to UCSB.
UNLV still has to play at Colorado State and New Mexico and could get another crack at BYU and/or San Diego State in the conference tournament, which just so happens to be played on their home floor.
The Rebels are capable of going on the road and knocking off both New Mexico and Colorado State, but it seems unlikely. I say they shoot poorly and add two more road losses to their body of work, which would leave their at-large resume looking a little dicey. I hope I’m very wrong.
I do think that UNLV will play well at home in the conference tournament with their backs against the wall. I like their chances in a third meeting with the Aztecs, so I’ll go out on a small limb and pick the Rebels to advance to the MWC Championship game.
23-10 overall, 9-7 in conference, MWC Tournament runner-up and an at-large NCAA Tournament berth as a No. 9 seed.