What those who remained home didn’t see: A team in UNLV that, while hardly perfect at either end, made more winning plays when arriving at the critical juncture of five minutes remaining.
A few things are undeniable: UNLV is likely a few recruiting classes from being NCAA Tournament worthy, and yet its fan base expects a nonconference schedule littered with high major opponents.
UNLV’s basketball team has ensured itself a winning record in the non-conference portion of its schedule, news that wouldn’t make headlines for countless programs across the country, but significant for the Rebels.
MW officials want you to believe this is merely a momentary downturn in what is a cyclical process that will soon rebound to a time of multiple NCAA bids. That’s a huge stretch.
Duke and UNLV have taken separate, very different journeys through the college landscape since that Final Four game in 1991, when Bobby Hurley as the Blue Devils point guard helped guide his team to an upset that was viewed as improbable as it was historic.
Most of a 10-point lead had vanished over the previous five minutes and UNLV stared at a 66-65 lead with 8:40 left against Southern Utah. For this particular Rebels team, it was the perfect test.
The struggles most expect from the inaugural season of the Marvin Menzies Era showed in several forms for the Rebels, who opened with a 76-68 loss to a South Alabama.
How much — and early — a UNLV fan base that can be as unrealistic as it is passionate buys into the newest version of the Rebels is anyone’s guess, but never underestimate how a team might respond to the perception of those who watch it.
We can confirm UNLV has a men’s basketball team this season, as the lights officially were turned on when first-year coach Marvin Menzies was forced to bring the Rebels out of hiding for the first of two exhibitions at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Kathy Olivier knew of the challenges, of convincing enough Division I talent that UNLV basketball didn’t begin and end with the men’s program.