What you are witnessing is Dave Rice’s prophecy coming true, and within it will be these sorts of close losses to an experienced team. But as the games and weeks and possessions pass, UNLV basketball improves.
Say what you want about those tools used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee when determining at-large berths each March, the opinion about a Mountain West ranked 11th among conferences nationally in RPI today is fairly consistent.
Immediately after beating Arizona, Rebels coach Dave Rice looked ahead to Saturday’s game and called it “the biggest of the season.” In college basketball, there is no such thing as a night off any more.
UNLV beat No. 3 Arizona at the Thomas & Mack Center by playing with a level of emotion and desire not seen yet this season. For once, Rice can say it following a win and the notion more than holds up. UNLV beat a terrific team.
UNLV’s overtime win against Portland on Wednesday night was important for one reason: The alternative would have been dreadful.
This is what they don’t write about in those lavish recruiting profiles. These are the things you don’t hear about when a prep basketball star signs with your favorite college.
There are different kinds of wins in sports. Ones when you outplay an opponent. Ones when you don’t and still succeed. Ones when you make your owns breaks. Ones when the other guys break down. UNLV’s basketball team had another kind Saturday. “This was a character win,” Rebels coach Dave Rice said.
Is there such a thing as a season-defining moment for a college basketball team in just its fourth game? For UNLV, it will find out Saturday.
History is pretty clear on this: You can’t begin listing the greatest Final Four games and not mention many — Magic vs. Larry in 1979, Texas Western and its all-black starting five vs. Kentucky in 1966, Jim Valvano looking for someone to hug in 1983, Villanova slaying Georgetown in 1985 — before reaching games between UNLV and Duke in 1990 and 1991.
It’s a difficult thing, almost impossible at times, to preach freedom as a coach one minute and urge discipline the next.