My buddy is a big New York Giants fan. He has this thing about Eli Manning. He says there is a Good Eli and a Bad Eli, meaning there are days when the quarterback is the best player on a field and days when he, well, isn’t. Days when he is the difference and days when he disappears. Days when you can’t believe how good he is and days when you don’t even realize he’s there.
It’s sort of like watching Chace Stanback play basketball.
When he is good, as he was Wednesday night, Stanback can lift UNLV onto his shoulders and help shoot it to wins, much as he did in a 101-78 laugher of a Mountain West Conference victory against Texas Christian at the Thomas & Mack Center.
I have no idea how TCU beat Virginia earlier this season and have a pretty good idea how it will fare when reaching the Big 12 Conference (ouch), but there weren’t enough good players on the visiting bench to make this at all competitive.
The Horned Frogs are, in spots, brutal.
Stanback made his first two shots — both 3-pointers — and the rout was on not three minutes into things. He scored 21 on 7-of-11 shooting, including 5 of 7 on 3s.
He was the Good Chace.
“He is a go-to offensive player for us,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “He is a guy we have counted on to make big baskets and big plays in big games. It’s an advantage to have a fifth-year senior doing what he’s done. Chace is a huge key for us and a guy we count on.
“Chace has been good for us all year long.”
On most nights.
He was terrific against North Carolina and his 3-pointer forced a second overtime at UC Santa Barbara in a game the Rebels won. He has scored 29 points twice this year and has 16 or more nine times.
But for a player who leads UNLV in scoring with a 14.7 average, Stanback and his shot can vanish for long stretches. He can shoot 2 of 8 against Texas-El Paso and 0-for-4 against Illinois and 2 of 12 at Cal State Bakersfield and 3-for-9 at San Diego State, where Rice had to sit Stanback late during a loss on Saturday due to a lack of execution.
He wasn’t making shots at one end and wasn’t guarding at the other, a combination that most often earns players a seat on the bench. Most all of the Rebels needed a boost of confidence following that loss to the Aztecs, Stanback included.
UNLV needs him. It needs Good Chace to have an opportunity at winning a regular-season title. It needs him to stretch defenses and rebound and make plays for others, to draw defenders and find teammates like junior Anthony Marshall, of which there are few better guards in the country today.
It needs Stanback not to dissolve when a team like New Mexico visits on Saturday, when the loser between the Rebels and Lobos could be two games behind San Diego State in the league race at night’s end.
“(Stanback) looks to be playing with more confidence this year and looks more comfortable playing without the ball,” TCU coach Jim Christian said. “He can still shoot it and it looks like (Rice) has given him a little more freedom than he had with Lon (Kruger).”
Rice has given everyone more freedom. I’m guessing whoever washes the team’s uniforms has been given the freedom to change detergents weekly. Stanback has for the most part thrived in such a setting, but not everyone has created the feast that has been his jumper against TCU.
He is now 37-of-57 shooting for his career against the soon-to-be-Big-12-cellar-dwellers, including 10 of 16 from 3.
Such numbers haven’t always translated for him against better opponents. In tight games against people near or above UNLV’s ability, it’s a mystery as to which Stanback might show up.
“I’ll do whatever my teammates need me to do,” he said. “Hit big shots, rebound. Whatever we need.”
They need him to be Good Chace, because Good Chace usually means lots of Good Wins.
Not that there is such a thing as a Bad Win.
But there are Bad Teams. Hello, TCU.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday on “Monsters of the Midday,” Fox Sports Radio 920 AM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.