Second-year coach Kathy Olivier wanted more success by now, so UNLV's 13-17 record entering the Mountain West Conference Tournament is hard to take.
She has to remind herself of the big picture, that her young Lady Rebels basketball team still is in rebuilding mode and that her goals -- such as eventually moving from Cox Pavilion to the Thomas & Mack Center -- remain intact.
Nearly the entire team returns next season, meaning UNLV has a chance to rise at a time other Mountain West teams suffer major personnel losses.
It's not that Olivier is ready for this season to end. She wants No. 7 seed UNLV to make a strong run through the conference tournament, beginning with today's 7 p.m. game against No. 6 Wyoming (18-10) at the Thomas & Mack.
But it's a matter of perspective.
"We're changing so many areas of this program, and it's a lot harder than maybe people think," Olivier said.
UNLV brings back its top eight scorers next season and loses just two seniors. Olivier recruited six of the eight, including sophomore forward Jamie Smith (8.6-point average, 10.2 rebounds), the coach's lone high school signee after she was hired in April 2008. The other addition was sophomore center Sandrine Nzeukou (6.4 points, 5.3 rebounds), a transfer from Texas-Arlington.
When given a full year to recruit for the 2008-09 class, Olivier signed five players, and four appeared in all 30 games this season. Freshman guard Kelli Thompson started all 30, averaging 12.2 points and 5.1 rebounds.
UNLV signed three players during the early period for the current class, and the Lady Rebels probably will land a fourth in April.
"We're on the brink," said junior point guard Erica Helms, who averages 13.5 points and 3.4 assists and was a holdover from previous coach Regina Miller's regime. "K.O.'s recruiting is really good. So I think that the program's definitely going in the Top 25 direction."
The youngsters have had their moments, playing North Carolina to within 10 points and registering victories at Utah and New Mexico and over San Diego State and Wyoming.
But they have experienced plenty of disappointments, such as shooting 19.4 percent in a loss to Utah and giving away a late lead to Colorado State before falling in overtime.
"Going into the conference tournament ... we know every team is beatable, and every team can beat us," Smith said. "We can't relax with any team, but we can also know no team is the king of the conference."
The Lady Rebels were the surprise team in last year's tournament, upsetting Brigham Young and Texas Christian before losing to San Diego State in the semifinals to finish 14-18.
UNLV would love to make a similar push this week, but there is little pressure on the Lady Rebels to do so. That could change next season.
"It's exciting to think about two, three years down the road," Olivier said. "I like to think about today, but I think in reality we have to think about next year and the year after because by the time they're juniors, they should understand this whole thing."
■ NOTES -- Helms was named third-team All-Mountain West, and Smith received honorable mention. Utah senior forward Kalee Whipple, who went to Pahranagat Valley High School, was named to the first team after averaging 17.2 points. ... In addition to UNLV and Wyoming, other games today include No. 4 Utah (19-10) against No. 9 Air Force (3-26) at 2 p.m. and No. 5 New Mexico (17-11) against No. 8 Colorado State (13-16) at 4:30 p.m.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.