Please, no postseason tourney for this Rebel team

It’s like the puppy who is struck by a car.

He’s barely hanging on. He’s not going to make it. His wounds are too severe.

Do the humane thing. Put him out of his misery.

End. This. Now.

I’m no longer talking about the dog.

UNLV’s basketball team might over the next 24 hours be given the opportunity to continue a season that has delivered more disappointments than not, but the Rebels should deny any and all such inquiries.

They lost for a third time this season to San Diego State on Friday night, falling 59-51 in a Mountain West Tournament semifinal where the Aztecs again exposed every wart the Rebels owned in 2013-14.

UNLV’s streak of four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances officially ended with the defeat.

The Rebels should now euthanize any desire to play again this season.

Or, as one UNLV official put it before the loss to San Diego State: “No way to the CBI, the RPI, the BPI, the CIT, the BLT …”

I say none of it.

UNLV is 20-13 with a Ratings Percentage Index of 104, which means it’s far from certain those who choose the 32-team National Invitation Tournament, annual bridesmaid to the NCAAs, have even thought about the Rebels as a possibility.

The leading online NIT bracket projector doesn’t have UNLV included in the field. It doesn’t even have the Rebels among 10 additional teams that were considered but didn’t make the cut as of late Friday.

It’s for the best. Really.

Dave Rice’s team needs a makeover, both in attitude and execution. He needs to improve his coaching staff. He needs a point guard. He needs to get tougher. He needs an offense, or at least players who can run whatever the offense is UNLV offers on a consistent basis.

Which isn’t much of an offense.

What he doesn’t need is more games with this specific team.

“I think you know me well enough and the competitor that I am, I always want to keep playing,” said Rice, his third season as head coach coming to an end. “But whether we’re playing in the post-season or we are just doing individual workouts, weight lifting, all the things we need to make us a better team next year, we’re going to be in the gym.

“We’re going to figure out the guys, and it’s not a threat, it’s not a leading statement, we’re just going to figure out the guys who truly want to be here and give us the best opportunity and chance to win moving forward.”

It absolutely is a threat.

And, for the sake of the program and his own future, hopefully a promise.

His best player (junior forward Khem Birch) is ailing with a hip pointer, although he looked far better in 39 minutes Friday than some pre-game comments from UNLV’s side suggested he might.

Birch had 15 rebounds and five blocks. That must be one crack training staff the Rebels have …

There is also this: Reports afterward said UNLV junior Bryce Dejean-Jones, suspended for a game last week due to conduct detrimental to the team, had another outburst following Friday’s loss.

It is a conference policy that the losing team first takes the dais for a post-game press conference. The league had even set up name placards for Rice and two players Friday. Then those were taken down and replaced with ones for San Diego State, which instead spoke with the media first.

A Review-Journal reporter was also stopped before reaching UNLV’s locker room and delayed before being allowed to enter and interview players. Once inside, with just 14 of the allotted 30 minutes remaining in the availability period, Dejean-Jones already had departed.

Something happened. Something that again points to the fact UNLV can’t get to its off-season workouts and all the changes Rice has hinted at making soon enough.

The Rebels would accept an NIT berth and there are countless examples of teams using such an appearance as springboards for memorable seasons the following year. It’s one thing to decline the CBI. Teams don’t snub their noses at the NIT.

But this is also the second straight year that Rice’s locker room has been defined by dysfunction. Why force the issue any more at this point?

“I’m disappointed with many of the outcomes of games and that we weren’t more consistent during the course of the season,” Rice said. “I’m proud that we always bounced back from adversity, but I’m disappointed there was as much adversity as there was to bounce back from.

“But I am convinced as ever we are going to have a terrific program. We’re going to learn from the things that took place this year and be much better for it.”

That’s all well and good and it could happen. The process should begin today. Now. This very minute.

It’s a team that, while not mortally wounded, needs to be put out of its misery.

End it. Move on. Hope for brighter days.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.