UNLV is currently in the midst of a streak that has seen just one cover in their last seven. That lone win was nearly three weeks ago against Colorado State when laying14 at home. Of course, why even mention it was at home, because if we mention UNLV covering the spread, it has to be at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV has now lost their last three road games and haven’t covered away from T&M in their last seven. Without even looking at the spread, or who they’re playing, you can just walk up to the bet window when they’re on the road and say “I’ll take whoever’s playing UNLV.” You wouldn’t have lost a ticket since Dec. 17 when they beat a ranked Illinois squad as a 2-point underdog.
Granted, most of us in Las Vegas had high expectations of UNLV basketball this season after a taste of how good they could be when upsetting then No. 1 North Carolina. We finally felt like Rebel basketball mattered again in the college basketball world after two decades of play slightly above mediocrity.
We saw confidence, solidarity and toughness within the players that hadn’t been witnessed since the days of Jerry Tarkanian. Even when losing on the road to Wichita State and Wisconsin, it may have deflated UNLV’s bubble of high hopes a little bit, but it was merely shrugged off as a learning experience against very good teams that would make UNLV better down the road in conference play.
It proved right as the Rebels went on tear over their next seven games, pummeling everyone in their way, resembling how teams from the distant past did it.
The two-point loss at San Diego State was disheartening, but they battled hard and overcame a bad shooting game with physical play. Although they didn’t cover the spread at Boise State and Air Force, they fought back in overtime to get the wins.
But in the back of almost every Rebel supporter’s mind, there was less confidence when discussing how the supposed magical season would end up. The anxiety was proven right two weeks ago with a road loss at Wyoming, and then a week later with a heartbreaking overtime loss at TCU, a game the Rebels were up 17 in the second half.
Solace was taken in the fact that at least they were taken to the brink and playing well enough to win in the MWC, the fifth ranked RPI conference in the nation for a reason. Every team can ball.
However, Saturday’s 65-45 loss at New Mexico shined a light brighter on UNLV’s weaknesses more so than any other juncture of the season. After taking a 27-26 lead to half-time, UNLV basically took themselves out of the game, and dare I say it, QUIT.
Up next for the Rebels are four very winnable games, with only one coming on the road (Colorado State), before the conference tournament begins at T&M.
Teams on the Bubble
Miami (16-9): The Canes have made easy work of bad ACC teams and had their one shining moment with a win at home against Duke. Miami has lost every other game against ranked opponents. They’ll have a chance to solidify their resume with a win at home against Florida State.
Washington (19-8): They may now be off the bubble with a 12-3 conference record after beating Arizona last Saturday, but it’s still debatable whether the Pac-12 gets one or two teams. With the way they have turned it up lately, they should get an invite even if they don’t win the Pac-12 tournament. The league has gotten a bad rap. If the Huskies make it, they might take some ranked teams down.
Xavier (17-9): They came away with an overtime win over Dayton that helps their cause, but may have to win one or both of their remaining road games at U-Mass and St. Louis to have a shot at getting in.
Northwestern (16-10): While the mid-majors were playing bracket-busters, the Wildcats won 64-53 playing their own version against Minnesota, another bubble team. Their best win was Michigan State, which is now huge considering how well the Spartans are playing.
NC State (18-9): The ACC doesn’t carry the weight it once did and the Wolfpack is now 0-6 against ranked teams. They may have to beat North Carolina this Tuesday to have a shot at an at-large bid.
Illinois (16-11): They’ve now lost five in a row, but have huge wins against Ohio State and Michigan State. That might not be enough in light of their current form. They may have to beat either Ohio State or Wisconsin on the road to have any shot.
UCF (19-7): They may be able to seal their fate with a Feb. 28 win at Memphis. Their only win over a ranked team came in November against Connecticut, No. 4 at the time. It doesn’t look so impressive now.
Minnesota (17-10): The Gophers needed the win against Northwestern and didn’t get there. Despite quality victories over Illinois and at Indiana, their three game losing streak looks to have them NIT bound unless they win out. It’s a tough four-game stretch – Michigan State, Indiana, at Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Oregon (19-8): They needed Thursday’s game at Cal and will now be forced to have to win the Pac-12 tournament to make it.
Colorado State (16-9): They currently sit fourth in the very impressive MWC and come off a win against Wyoming, also a bubble team. Their March future rests in home games against New Mexico and UNLV plus on the road at San Diego State.